Some troubling news in the Second Annual Report

Last Tuesday, the President’s state of the union address was held at the National Theater. The President did his best to spin the data in his favor, but fortunately for him, he didn’t really have to. There has been virtually no reporting done on the report in the last week. That is because it has been overshadowed by an incident that happened as the vice president was exiting the theater.

I was standing about 15 feet away from where the incident happened, a few rows up with a perfect view. As the vice was walking up the aisle to the back of the theater, she stopped to greet someone. From behind, two young women approached and dumped some flour on the vice president. In both the English and Spanish press, they described it as an assault or attack. Anyway, the government now says that it was lime (like limestone) not flour, which would certainly change the story. Depending on the form, lime can burn. The vice has been given two weeks, or maybe a month, to recover. I’m a little skeptical. I was standing there. It smelled like flour immediately. Other people dipped their fingers and concluded it was flour. That is what I saw. I certainly don’t condone it, but a pie in the face, or flour in this case, is part of democracy. Anyway, let’s talk about the actual address because so far I’ve only seen one article that discussed it (and I am going to basically just say what it said).

After the President opened his speech stating that he was specifically speaking to the 60% of Guatemalans who support him, which I found strange for an event ostensibly informing the country of current happenings not some political rally, he jumped into his premiere program against malnutrition. The Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger) program aims to eliminate malnutrition and hunger in Guatemala, which has the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, according to the World Bank. So how is the program going? According to the president there were 17,568 cases of acute malnutrition in 2013. He didn’t give us anything to compare it to. But his first annual report stated that there were 12,295 cases, meaning that cases have increased by 30%. Other than that, most of the data was vague and difficult to compare with past years.

As for homicides, the President mentioned a huge reduction (49%) in zone 18 of the capital. Without data on surrounding areas, it is impossible to say if this reduction was simply a matter of pushing crime to other areas or a real reduction.

2013 started out as the year of transparency. That hasn’t really worked out for this administration. The year closed out with the vice president accusing Transparency International of collaborating with the previous administration. Needless to say, the President made no mention of transparency in his second address.

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