In her third bid for the presidency of Guatemala, Sandra Torres, a presidential candidate, is veering towards the right on the political spectrum. She has chosen an evangelical pastor as her running mate and is emphasizing her commitment to keeping abortion and same-sex marriage illegal in the country. Her opponent, Bernardo Arévalo, has also expressed support for maintaining the abortion ban but has not taken a stance on same-sex marriage. Torres, during her campaign stops, has stressed her desire for the government to respect life from conception and has vowed to never accept same-sex marriage, while also insisting that she is not homophobic.
Torres, the leader of the National Unity of Hope party, was once considered the country’s social democratic party. However, she has shifted towards the right along with her party. Despite this shift, Torres promises numerous social programs to benefit the country’s poorest citizens. She has significant government experience from her time leading social programs during her ex-husband’s administration. This, along with her previous campaign experiences, gives her a long history of attempting to appeal to voters across Guatemala.
In the first round of this year’s presidential election, Torres emerged as the leading vote-getter, securing her position in the runoff. However, her opponent, Arévalo, was a surprise contender. Arévalo, who campaigned on combating corruption, initially had low poll numbers but gained enough support in the first round to secure a spot in the runoff. This has shifted the political conversation in Guatemala, presenting voters with a choice between conservative and progressive proposals.
Torres’ current campaign, which heavily emphasizes conservative social values, reflects a broader trend in the region of incorporating religion into elections. However, she did not initially have the support of the country’s evangelical churches, as they were closely associated with the outgoing president’s administration. If Arévalo were to win, the churches could face unwanted scrutiny of their finances and the loss of their close relationship with the government.
Torres’ running mate, Pastor Romeo Guerra, was initially challenged on constitutional grounds due to a ban on clergy running for office. However, he was allowed to proceed by the nation’s top court. Guerra has made limited public appearances during Torres’ campaign, but he recently met with other evangelical pastors alongside her. Evangelical pastors in Guatemala have a history of opposing leftist candidates and have been emphasizing issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, aligning with Torres’ campaign.
Torres’ campaign is unabashedly populist, promising numerous benefits for impoverished communities. She pledges to distribute one million computers to schoolchildren, cover school costs with scholarships, and deliver monthly bags of basic foodstuffs to families’ doorsteps. Many families recall receiving similar food bags during Torres’ time as first lady, which has garnered her support. However, some voters express skepticism, believing that politicians often make promises during elections but fail to follow through once in office.
In conclusion, Sandra Torres’ campaign for the presidency of Guatemala showcases her shift towards the right on the political spectrum and her emphasis on conservative social values. Her opponent, Bernardo Arévalo, provides a progressive alternative. The incorporation of religion into the campaign reflects a broader trend in the region. Torres’ promises of social programs and benefits for the poor have resonated with some voters, although others remain skeptical of these campaign pledges.