Friday, September 25, 2015

Jimmy Morales: the Comedic Actor Who Could Become President of Guatemala

Jimmy Morales, a comic actor who once starred in a slapstick comedy as a cowboy who ran for president, is the surprise winner of the Guatemalan elections held on Sept. 6.
Morales, of the minuscule Frente de Convergencia Nacional (FCN), is running for office in the midst of the greatest political crisis in the country’s recent history and has successfully portrayed himself as an outsider. However, his critics have warned that most of his party members are right-wing Army veterans and that, given the country’s recent history of authoritarian military regimes, Guatemala could be heading for a repeat episode.  from NotiCen, September 24, 2015
 By Jake Sandler
The string of protests that have consumed Guatemala in the aftermath of the scandals involving ex-President Otto Pérez Molina and his former vice president Roxana Baldetti includ what  some journalists and academics have called it ‘the Guatemalan Spring and the emergence of  a fascinating political leader, comedic actor Jimmy Morales. Morales is famous for playing a bumbling cowboy who accidentally becomes president. Well, after Morales garnered 24% of the votes cast in the recent Sept. 6 national election, his famous comedic interpretation in Presidente de a sombrero (“President in a Cowboy Hat”) may become real life, just without the cowboy hat. Here is a trailer.

Born James Ernesto Morales Cabrera in the capital city of Guatemala in 1969. Morales spent his earl school years at the Evangelical Institute of Latin America. If elected president, Morales would become the third Evangelical President of Guatemala. Before beginning his career in television and film, Morales went on to earn various degrees, including a bachelor’s in Business Administration and Theology, and a master’s and doctorate the University of San Carlos in Strategic Security, focusing on security and defense.

Morales entered the entertainment industry alongside his brother, Sammy Morales, with the still popular television series Moralejas (“Morals”), a comedic show that centers on satire of society and government. In addition to this series for which he is best known, Morales has appeared in seven Guatemalan films, including Manzana güena en noche buena, La misteriosa herencia, Detectives por error, “Ve que vivos, una aventura en el más allá, Repechaje, Gerardi, and Un presidente de a sombrero. He has also starred in the movie Fe as a morally bound priest, directed by renowned Guatemalan director Alejo Crisóstomo.

The 2011 casting of Morales to this role as priest-protagonist displays the artistic reach of his acting, which goes beyond comedic satire into the profound and dramatic nuance of Crisóstomo’s internationally awarded films. That same year he changed his name to Jimmy Morales and ran for mayor of Mixco as the candidate for the Acción de Desarrollo Nacional (AND) political party. Two years later in 2013, Morales was elected as Secretary General of the Frente de Convergencia Nacional (FCN) party, a post he currently holds.

Jimmy Morales’ emergence as a political leader and serious frontrunner in Guatemala’s presidential race places the actor, writer, director, producer and politician in a group of memorable moments throughout recent history – when democracy crosses the paths of popularity with professional entertainers and artists. Here is his campaign Web site.

Morales joins list of entertainers running for office
Earlier this year we published a blog post on the story of Haiti’s pop music icon and President Michael Martelly, who has led the Haitian government since 2011. In 2010, popular Haitian-American hiphop artist Wyclef Jean had attempted to join the fray of presidential hopefuls, but was turned down by the national election committee.

Elsewhere, we have seen actors make their way into the top offices of government: Eva Peron, although never president, maintained a great degree of power and popularity in Argentina; actresses Silvia Pinal and María Rojo both became senators in the Mexican National Congress. However, India and the Philippines top the list with famous actors turned politicians. The United States is a  close third. We all know about Ronald Raegan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Jerry Springer (mayor of Cincinnati) and Sonny Bono (US representative in California). In the current election cycle, Donald Trump has emerged as political player. Trump might claim to be more of a businessman than an entertainer, although many would disagree.

Some US news outlets have begun to dub Morales “The Donald Trump of Guatemala," but there are stark differences between the two politicians, namely: money. A first-round win by Morales was a remarkable achievement considering his party spent around US$480,000 for the campaign through July, according to electoral records. In contrast, Manuel Baldizón, of Libertad Democrática Renovada (LIDER), who came in third, spent US$5.3 million.

Part of Morales' appeal is that he has centered his campaign on convincing the electorate that he is not part of the elitist political establishment. His slogan, “neither corrupt nor a thief” could earn him some support in the runoff election. However, his conservative views on social issues, including his anti-abortion stance, could alienate voters who lean left, and especially the youth student movement, which is looking for a change. His primary opponent is Sandra Torres, ex-wife of former center-left  President Álvaro Colom (2007-2011).

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