Americas - Issue 100 - Magazine | Monocle

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Me and my motorcade no. 66

Stand-up guy

Guatemala [Jimmy Morales]

The US isn’t alone when it comes to so-called outsiders sweeping to power. Back in October 2015, Guatemalan Jimmy Morales, representing the right-wing National Convergence Front, won a landslide victory in presidential elections, gaining 67 per cent in second-round voting. About as far from the establishment as it’s possible to get – a former banana seller-turned-TV comedian – he campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket after a graft scandal brought down the previous government amid massive popular protests.

His man-in-the-street image also informs his choice of presidential transport. Guatemala doesn’t have a state plane and, while his predecessors rented private jets, Morales insists on flying economy with commercial airlines. Andres Quezada, analyst and co-founder of Guatemala City-based political-activist group Justicia Ya, believes this is a way of distancing himself from the excesses of the political elite. “Morales sold himself as an alternative to traditional politics and travelling on commercial flights is one way of playing this role,” he says.

Yet the president’s image has been tainted by family members: both his son and his brother are under investigation by a UN-backed anti-corruption body.

At home Morales uses a Bell 412 helicopter and Beechcraft twin-prop planes for internal flights, as well as a heavily armoured Chevrolet Suburban SUV in Guatemala City. Security is paramount among politicians, given the country’s murder rate was 29.5 per 100,000 in 2015, among the highest in the world. He may be a man of the people but Morales still goes to great lengths to protect himself from the public, with heavily armed security personnel defending his vehicle at all times.

One for all

Argentina [Equality]

Is this the end of the traditional carnival beauty queen? Argentina’s carnival capital Gualeguaychú – 230km north of Buenos Aires, along the border with Uruguay – has scrapped the traditional beauty pageant to avoid objectifying women. The decision is part of the fight against gender violence and sexist culture under the slogan “Ni una menos” (not one less). The feminist movement in Argentina has gathered momentum over the past year due to a wave of violent crime – including murders – against women.

Though beauty pageants are an enduring tradition across South America, there is growing pressure to ban them. In 2014 the Argentine town of Chivilcoy decided to stop holding them altogether. Gualeguaychú has now followed suit, choosing to instead grant a cultural award during carnival – and winners can be either male or female.

In the doghouse


Taking its cue from Ontario and cities across the country, Quebec City has imposed a ban on all pitbulls beginning in 2017. Charities in eastern Canada have launched programmes to adopt the banned pets.

Election watch


A Correa comes to an end

Date: 19 February
Type: Presidential, parliamentary
Candidates: Presiden Rafael Correa is stepping down after 10 years; his designated successor is the former vice-president, Lenín Moreno. Their pais party dominates the National Assembly; this is unlikely to change.

Issues: Ecuador has been hit hard by falling oil prices and there is discontent among indigenous Ecuadorians over land and water rights.

Monocle comment: If Moreno wins he will join an exclusive club of people who have risen to the top of government despite visible disability: he has been paraplegic since being shot during a mugging in 1998.

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