In our inaugural podcast, we look at Guatemala’s putrid campaign finance system through the story of Obdulio Solórzano, a political fixer for the UNE party who was assassinated in 2010, after helping Álvaro Colom reached the presidency.
Solórzano was, in many ways, a typical fixer. He was a businessman who could connect other businessmen with the politicians, very often through government contracts. In return, he got a commission.
His networks expanded when he was elected to Congress for the nascent party, the National Unity for Hope (Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza – UNE) in 2003. And for the presidential elections of 2007, he was named the head of the campaign for several key northern states, including Alta Verapaz.
There, Solórzano worked his contacts for funding, among them the Zetas, a powerful, ambitious and violent criminal group from Mexico. The Zetas would later claim to give $11.5 million to UNE’s candidate Colom through Solórzano.
For his work, Solórzano was at first rewarded with a post as the head of a state development agency that allowed him to continue his fixing, as well as his collecting commissions. Meanwhile, the Zetas visited the presidential palace.
But later Solórzano would fall out of favor with the president and his party, and along with the Zetas, would become the target of investigations into corruption and drug trafficking.
What happens next is part tragedy, part divine justice, and completely Guatemalan.
Hosted by Héctor Silva Ávalos and Steven Dudley. Edited by María Paola Martínez.
Listen to the podcast here: