Jimmy Morales

Luis Soto / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

In the 28 years I’ve covered Latin America, I never thought I’d write the sentence I’m about to type. But here goes:

Guatemala is a model for the U.S.

You read that right. For the moment, at least, Guatemala – a Central American country whose so-called democracy my colleagues and I have long disparaged as a dark banana-republic farce – is the beacon of the Americas. The exemplar of constitutional rule of law. One of the hemisphere’s separation-of-powers life boats.

Gaston de Cardenas / El Nuevo Herald

Guatemala is full of sublime volcanic geography, rich Maya culture – and some of the world’s most sinister politics.

Politically motivated murder is so commonplace in Guatemala that a foreign diplomat once quipped that even drunks watch what they say about the issues.

What happened Sunday, though, is no joke: By a landslide, Guatemalans chucked their political establishment and elected a TV comedian – Jimmy Morales – as their next president.

Luis Soto / AP via Miami Herald

After Sunday’s first round of voting, the leading candidate in Guatemala’s presidential run-off election next month will be a former comedian. But the anti-corruption wave sweeping Central America is no joke – and has been spreading next door to Honduras.

Guatemalan actor Jimmy Morales has never held elected office. But it’s not surprising that an outsider candidate like him got the most votes. Guatemalans are so angry about corruption that last week President Otto Pérez was forced to resign and faces charges in a major scandal.