As candidates square-off in Guatemala’s presidential election, a broader political battle is transpiring away from the campaign signs and populist rhetoric: the old oligarchy is fighting to maintain its privileged position against an increasingly powerful "narco elite".Será que isto pode ser considerado como uma versão moderna dos conflitos (na Europa dos séculos XVIII e XIX) entre a nobreza e burguesia?
The old elite, or oligarchs, usually come from a feudal-style landowning class linked to coffee exports, cattle ranching and some heavy industry, such as cement production. The new narcos deal in cocaine, marijuana and assassinations.
"Members of the new elite might buy a Hummer from a Mexican singer and everyone will know they are corrupt," said Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, director of Plaza Publica, an investigative journalism project based in Guatemala City, the capital. "The traditional elite are more subtle, they just [get elected into office] and give huge contracts to their friends.
"There is strong competition between the oligarchy, the new elite [linked to trade and international business] and the new drug elite," he told Al Jazeera.
Comprised of a small group of light-skinned families in a country with a large, marginalised indigenous population, the old elite managed power since their European descendants arrived in the Americas. Now, with more money and a greater capacity for violence, the narcos are challenging them in politics, traditional business and power relations.
As in Colombia, when drug violence pushed the country to the brink of total collapse in the 1980s and 1990s, traffickers in Guatemala often invest their illicit profits in ranches. These provide useful territory, giving them space to operate and an opportunity for money laundering, but the acquisitions sometimes lead them into the territory of traditional oligarchs.
Neither cartels, nor traditional oligarchs, want higher taxes. At 11 per cent of GDP, Guatemala’s taxes are among the lowest in the Latin America, The Economist reported.
This point of agreement on taxes, however, might be changing, as some traditional elites are starting to view a stronger state as a defence against their illicit competitors. Without revenue, the state has an almost impossible task ahead if it intends to build infrastructure, invest in education or hire enough security forces to battle cartels.
"Now, the traditional elite is saying 'perhaps we need a stronger institutional state' which can protect us as citizens," Pellecer said.
Given what Avila called "a history of racism" among the old elite, she said it seems unlikely they will devote resources to the rural, poor and primarily indigenous areas which are most lawless.
"Inequality is huge – there are whole towns that have been abandoned by the state for years and drug lords are arriving and providing schools and healthcare," Avila told Al Jazeera. "We have cases where the authorities try to arrest one of these drug lords and the population defends him. They are more loyal to the dealers than the state." That could spell trouble for the old elite.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:37