In this week’s podcast, we finish our series on illegal campaign financing in Guatemala, focusing on current President Jimmy Morales.
Morales won by saying he was “not corrupt or a thief.” However, prosecutors paint a different picture — one of a capable student who learned from his predecessor’s transgressions in the most curious of ways.
Jimmy, as he is affectionately known in Guatemala, entered politics through the back door. He was a television comedian, and his only political experience was a humiliating defeat in a mayoral campaign of a populous suburb of the capital.
But Jimmy turned this lack of experience into an advantage. He was appealing precisely because he was not a career politician. He also got lucky.
The country was in tumult during 2015, the year of the campaign. Prosecutors were bearing down on President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who were on the verge of resigning, getting indicted, and being jailed for corruption.
And the alternative did not look any better. One of Jimmy’s rivals was linked to drug traffickers and dodgy financiers. The other was from one of the country’s oldest political parties, entrenched in Guatemalan politics and the corruption that surrounded it.
Together with the National Convergence Front (FCN-Nación) — a party formed by evangelicals and ex-military officials who sought to upend efforts to prosecute them for war crimes — Jimmy developed an appealing platform.
“I’m not corrupt or a thief,” he repeated. And repeated.
But like outgoing President Pérez Molina, Jimmy and his party, FCN-Nación, were not registering the large contributions they were receiving. In fact, Jimmy seemed to be following largely the same playbook as Pérez Molina, even as he took advantage of his predecessor’s precipitous fall.
Still, Jimmy differs in one important respect: He has no plans on going to jail anytime soon.
Hosted by Steven Dudley and Héctor Silva Ávalos. Edited by María Paola Martínez. Produced by Steven Dudley.
Listen to the Podcast here: