Manual Baldizón: a real class act

I know that running for political office is more about selling an image than debating the merits of your ideas, but I guess I was a surprised by how explicit Manuel Baldizón is in explaining himself that way. Baldizón was the runner-up in the last election and today, two years before the next election, his face is already plastered all over every billboard in the country. In an interview at PlazaPublica, he talks about his trademark black glasses (which I think he stole from El Salvador’s Funes), he refers to himself (almost always, apparently) in the third person, and proudly states the they are in the business of ¨neuromarketing.¨ Basically, the interview is sort of a study in audacity or gall on the part of a politician who will do anything to get elected (I know, that is pretty much every politician). Baldizón has a pretty seedy reputation. He had a monument erected of himself in Flores. He filled in 2600 square meters of Lake Peten Itza to construct a mall. He has an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Bircham, an unaccredited, most-likely fraudulent diploma mill and so naturally, he insists that people call him doctor switched parties twice. In forming his new party in the most recent elections, according to a leaked wikileaks cable, he paid $61,000 each to 24 congress members to join his party. As the president of the finance committee in 2007, he openly admitted to assigning funds to certain districts not based on need but in order to win loyalty.

According to the article, he is anti-mining but he wants investment from mining companies, he is an environmentalists but he approved of a controversial license to an oil company in the Petén, and best of all he is pro-people (a favor del pueblo) but his economic plan calls for regressive taxation. The author sees the irony in this.

Maybe you can give the guy credit for being honest. He is under no illusion that a campaign is about ideas or policies or any of that frivolous crap.

About his glasses: ¨a lot has been invested in that image.¨

About his choice of language: ¨usted papá, usted mamᨠemployed by Rios Montt.

When asked whether or not his strategy was to appeal to the emotions of the people: ¨Totally.¨

And as for how he found his message, according to this interview: They attached sensors to volunteers and saw what messages created the most emotions. Maybe that’s how you get a message such as, ¨I’m against mining, but I’m for mining.¨

And he doesn’t stray: if a certain subject doesn’t have carry electoral weight, it doesn’t make sense, nor is it worth, thinking about it.

In trying to convince the Center for Socioeconomic Studies (CEES) that his flat tax plan was good, he first says that people don’t understand what it is. He references Steve Forbes’s book. Only Baldizón goes further than even Forbes would go: he wants a 5% flat tax for all industries. Then when confronted with the fact that it is a regressive tax that doesn’t square with his image he brushes it aside. ¨I’m not a leftist,¨ he says.

The article continues in that vein for another 1500 words so I will leave it at that. Overall, an interesting insight into the vapidity of this guy who as of now is the front-runner in the 2015 elections.

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