Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Second Indigenous President in "Latin America"?


GUATEMALA : President Menchú?
Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist faces challenges from friends and foes.

Louisa Reynolds. May 30, 2007

"Rigoberta Menchú’s decision to run for president is regarded as a milestone in Guatemalan political history and has led to heated debates on both sides of the political spectrum. If elected, she will become the first woman to hold the office and the first indigenous president .

"The activist was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work in defense of indigenous rights. Menchú drew attention to abuses during the Guatemalan civil war during which her parents were murdered by the Guatemalan army....

"The indigenous activist now represents a coalition of the indigenous party Winaq and the fledgling center-left Encuentro por Guatemala, or EG, party. Congresswoman Nineth Montenegro, who heads EG, is Menchú’s running mate.

"According to political analyst José Carlos Sanabria, one of Menchú’s biggest challenges will be overcoming the racist and sexist prejudices that are still deeply embedded in Guatemalan society. The experiment, he says, will allow Guatemala to assess whether any progress has been made to eradicate racial prejudice since the Peace Accords were signed in 1996."

In a related article by AScribe titled, "Study Says Many Guatemalan Women Don't Vote", the following details seem to place a question mark on the likelihood of an easy victory for Menchú:

"NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 31 (AScribe Newswire) -- A comparative study shows that Guatemalan women tend not to vote. This is especially true of those who lack education and live in rural areas. The study was presented in Guatemala City on May 31, only a few months before the September presidential elections. It offers useful information while Rigoberta Menchú, the 1992 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the only indigenous women candidate since the Central American independence, is running for president. Guatemala has among the lowest levels of voter turnout in Latin America (56.5 percent), notes a survey conducted by the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP). The nonparticipation rate among uneducated women is the highest, reaching almost 70 percent in rural areas and almost 64 percent in urban areas. Among the women with some primary education, almost 55 percent do not vote. Even among women with some university education, the abstention rate is higher than among men with a university education. The data shows that, in 2006, only 69.2 percent of Guatemala's indigenous peoples indicated that they were registered to vote, compared to 78.2 percent of ladino (racially mixed) respondents. Moreover, 60.4 percent of the ladino population said they voted, while only 55.8 percent of indigenous respondents did. Almost one fourth (23.6 percent) of all registered respondents said that they lacked the motivation to vote. Regarding Guatemalans' political self-identification, the majority (around 51 percent) consider themselves near the center, about 22 percent left or center-left, and 26 percent right or center-right. A third of all respondents (31 percent) found it difficult to differentiate between the political right and left."

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