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Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Defense Minister Williams Mansilla reviewing troops, Guatemala City, Jan. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Moises Castillo).

Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Fight Goes On, Despite Morales’ Flaws

Monday, Aug. 8, 2016

On Jan. 14, comedian Jimmy Morales was inaugurated as president of Guatemala, unexpectedly sweeping to power after successfully tapping into the public’s repudiation of the political establishment to win the country’s election last fall. Running under the slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief,” Morales was able to appeal to a citizenry that, following revelations of massive corruption scandals, had taken to the streets to demand greater government accountability and forced the resignation of then-President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Voters were willing to overlook Morales’ lack of concrete policy proposals, handing him a landslide victory over former First Lady Sandra Torres with nearly 70 percent of the popular vote in the second-round runoff in October, the largest margin of victory in a Guatemalan presidential election since 1999.

But six months into his presidency, Morales’ lack of political experience and leadership have raised questions about his ability to deliver on his campaign promises to break from the corruption and clientelism that have long characterized Guatemalan politics. His close ties with ex-military officers, in particular, have many Guatemalans wondering if he can guide the political transformation that people are demanding. ...

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