Quetzaltenango – 7 September 2015
By Richard Brown
Xela’s mayor-elect, Luis Grijalva, appeared in the Central Park this afternoon to thank supporters. Grijalva won a decisive victory, receiving twice the votes of his closest rival. With his party, Encuentro por Guatemala, Grijalva ran a small-budget campaign that, he says, spent only Q50,000 (around $6,500) and was outspent many times over by its rivals. He preferred to hand out flyers and answer questions in markets and public places over holding high-profile, expensive rallies.
His easy victory with an alternative, leftist party was one of the big surprises of the 2015 elections. He will replace Rolando Barreintos Pallecer, who won three four-year terms as Xela’s mayor. In the Central Park, Grijalva and party members gave short speeches that highlighted the central pillars of Grijalva’s campaign: transparency and a commitment to broadening public participation in city politics.
Before Grijalva spoke, a party member challenged voters, asking them to “accompany us with advice, reprimands, and constructive criticism” through the physical and virtual open forums that Encuentro por Guatemala plans to establish using social media platforms like Facebook.
Grijalva later also challenged the crowd, saying, “Don’t expect that the mayor will arrive and fix everything… together we’re going to transform Xela.” He said to voters that after the elections “you have a much bigger responsibility, you must accompany us for the next four years.” He also referred to Encuentro por Guatemala’s unique victory in Xela. He said, “Everyone can read and write, and that’s what made the difference.” He credited the city’s various universities and schools for lifting the public’s consciousness. He said, “The people of Xela think critically about their vote… the people of Xela are thoughtful, the people of Xela are intelligent.”
He also praised the city, its media, and its activists for pressuring for and organizing public debates between candidates and other means of allowing citizens to fairly judge candidates’ platforms. He said to cheers, “In the United States, in Europe, in many other countries around the world, campaigns are won in debates, in forums, in interviews. And today in Xela that’s how they win… Xela is showing the whole country that it’s possible to do real, clean politics.”