Guatemala youth hope election will bring change: Hope returns to Guatemala – Times of India

GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemala’s youth are daring to hope that Sunday’s presidential election will change their fortunes in a country where poverty, violence and corruption have pushed hundreds of thousands to flee to the United States.

“As young people we hope that the country will change, and new opportunities will arise, and that every youth without a job will have one because of the new government,” said nursing student Wilson Itzep, from the town of Chinique in the west of the Central American country.
Like many young people, he is supporting Bernardo Arevalo, who pulled off an upset in the first round and advanced to the run-off, with his anti-corruption message firing up voters.

Opinion polls just days ahead of Sunday’s election showed Arevalo — the son of reformist president Juan Jose Arevalo (1945-1951) — dominating his rival, former first lady Sandra Torres.
The election campaign has been tense, with Arevalo accusing authorities of political persecution, after prosecutors tried to suspend his Semilla (Seed) party and ordered raids against his party offices.
Raids were also carried out at offices of the electoral tribunal after it failed to follow orders to disqualify Semilla.
The 64-year-old sociologist told AFP in an interview in June that his priority would be fighting corruption, to give the country “the future it deserves, and not the swamp they have kept us in for the last 20 years.”
Torres, 67, is the ex-wife of deceased leftist president Alvaro Colom, arrested for fraud in a case that never went to trial. She is taking her fourth shot at the presidency — and her focus has been on high levels of violent crime, a major voter concern — as well as tackling poverty.
Either way, with two social democrat candidates, Guatemala will have its first leftist leader in almost a decade.
– ‘Order and justice’ The foreign ministry estimates more than 2.8 million Guatemalans reside in the United States, around half a million legally.
“Yes, I have felt the need to emigrate due to the lack of work, and poverty. But if Semilla wins, maybe I will stay,” said Itzep, who sees Arevalo as “someone who is going to bring order and justice.”
Young people between 18 and 25 make up 16 percent of voters in Guatemala.
The Central American nation has some of the worst poverty, malnutrition and child mortality rates in Latin America, according to the World Bank.
The murder rate is one of the highest in the world, with many killings attributed to gang violence related to drug trafficking.
Both candidates oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage and elective abortion in the staunchly Catholic country.
Carlos Leon, 25, a water delivery man from the western city of Zacapa, said he will vote for Torres as he believes she will protect the family values he holds dear.
She “will create more jobs, training” and give money to families so that “children don’t abandon school.”
However, kindergarten teacher Dulce Chitic, 21, from the northeastern town of Jocotenango believes a Torres victory will leave Guatemala “worse off than it is now,” citing her previous legal woes.
Torres was detained in 2019 on charges of illicit campaign funding, but the case was dropped last year.
“I have friends who have left because they believe that going to another country is better. They believe that they will grow as people, the economy will be better, but I think that if we change our perspective, we can do it here too,” said Chitic.