Infrastructure expected to survive Guatemalan election

A presidential resignation and the emergence of an unlikely frontrunner in executive elections is no reason to worry about the future of infrastructure development in the country, says the national PPP agency.

Despite recent political turmoil at the executive level, Guatemalan national public-private partnership (PPP: P3) agency ANADIE is confident that remaining presidential contenders will support private investment into infrastructure.

An unlikely frontrunner emerged in the presidential election on Sunday: former comedian Jimmy Morales, who swept up roughly 25 percent of the vote. Favored candidate Manuel Baldizon and Sandra Torres, who is the ex-wife of former President Alvaro Colom, both walked away with roughly 19.5 percent of the vote apiece, though Torres crept slightly ahead of Baldizon in the end, according to polling reports. 

Cecilia Pivaral, assistant director of projects at ANADIE, said the agency remains confident that either candidate would, if elected in October, continue to work towards further developing strategic infrastructure in Guatemala once elected. 

“Both Jimmy Morales and Sandra Torres who will contest in the run-off election in October have knowledge of the Agency's work and are aware of the impact that PPPs have on infrastructure investment. We are very positive with both candidates,” Pivaral said. “They both know that our nation's budget needs private investment in strategic infrastructure to face all the challenges and the lack of public funds to tackle them.”

The surprise election result followed closely on the heels of another surprise announcement from now-former President Otto Perez Molina, who until last week was adamant in declaring that he did not intend to step down from his post until next January, when a newly elected president would take the executive mantle. 

Perez Molina folded late Wednesday night and became the first Guatemalan president to step down from office, a move that was approved by Congress in an emergency session on Friday morning. 

The former President said that his decision to resign was aimed at protecting the institution of the presidency.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ordered the former executive held overnight pending the next phase in his trial for alleged participation in a multimillion dollar customs fraud ring known as La Linea, which involves several businesses paying bribes in order to avoid customs tariffs.

The scandal has already claimed the career of former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whose personal security guard, now a fugitive, has been named as the alleged ringleader of La Linea. Despite her resignation on May 8, Baldetti – who was the country's first female vice president – remains steadfast in her claims of innocence.  

Perez Molina's departure from office on corruption charges stands in contrast to his 2011 campaign for the presidency, during which he promised to crack down on crime and corruption in a country where the overriding perception of citizens is that there are few, if any, in the political class with no strings attached to narcotrafficking cartels.  

Filling the vacant executive seat until a new president is chosen in the ongoing election process will be former conservative judge Alejandro Maldonado, who was sworn in during Friday's emergency session. 

Maldonado has called for resignation of executive officials tied to the Perez Molina administration and promised the Guatemalan people that he stands in solidarity with their call for elimination of political corruption.

“You can't consider your work done,” Maldonado reportedly said in remarks aimed at protestors, who have actively pushed for Perez Molina's resignation since April. “In what is left of this year, there must be a positive response.” 

Electoral officials report that nearly 70 percent of the roughly 7.5 million eligible Guatemalan voters cast ballots in the election, the highest participation in any election in the country's history.  

According to Guatemalan election law, since no candidate was able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election is set to be held on October 25 between leading candidates Morales and Torres. 

Pivaral added that one of the key benefits to come out of the La Linea scandal is that the Guatemalan people are more vocal than ever about their political will. 

“President Perez Molina's resignation has given a new breath to the Guatemalan democracy system,” Pivaral said. “These days have been very, very unusual in our history, but one can tell that citizen participation will be key throughout the next presidential period.”