Controversial Guatemalan Presidential Front-Runner Banned from Campaign Spending

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Guatemala’s election authority ordered the Partido Patriota, whose presidential candidate is leading the polls, to stop campaign spending before the September 11 elections, after ruling that it had exceeded the spending cap.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal found that Partido Patriota (PP) had spent 58 million quetzeles ($7.3 million) on campaigning, exceeding the spending cap of Q48 million.

However, in mid-August a coalition of Guatemalan non-profits published a report alleging that the PP had spent Q88.7 million, almost double the legal limit. The report also accused UNE-GANA of breaking the legal limit — this coalition was left without a presidential candidate after its choice, the president’s ex-wife, was banned from standing.

The ruling, issued just three days before voting takes place, will be difficult to enforce because the tribunal does not have mechanisms to enforce compliance. The PP’s campaign chairman said he would seek clarification before deciding whether to appeal the ruling.

Perez is currently leading the polls with 42.6 percent of the vote. This would not be enough to win the election outright — if no party gains more than 50 percent the two leading candidates will go through to a second round of voting in November.

Perez, a former army general, has been accused of responsibility human rights abuses committed against Guatemala’s indigenous population during the civil war, which ended in the 1990s. Below is archive video report, from the documentary “Titular de Hoy: Guatemala,” showing Perez, during the war, explaining to a reporter that “the civil population is to the guerrilla as water is to the fish … the guerrilla couldn’t exist without the support and collaboration of the population.”

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