clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Visitor to Utah is vying for top Guatemala seat

He may be running for president of Guatemala, but right now he's spending time in his daughter's Taylorsville home.

Next year's presidential ballot in the Central American country probably will have about 20 candidates. And though Jose Antonio Ruano isn't tenured in politics, he does have military and teaching experience and the endorsement of a national group.Ruano remembers "patria" pride calling him and 120 other young cadets to battle.

Ruano was only 18 when a brigade of mercenaries laid siege to Guatemala City during a 1954 coup d'etat.

"The politicians left running, the army wouldn't fight, but we fought," he recalled. "We (cadets) didn't have tactics or military strategies, we only had valor . . . but we gave honor and glory to our country."

Ruano, a frequent visitor to Utah, where several of his 10 children live, doesn't use words such as honor and glory when talking of today's Guatemala.

"Now 80 percent of my fellow Guatemalans live in absolute misery," he said.

The recent assault on several American college students, Ruano said, is typical of the violence plaguing the country.

"The only reason you heard about those attacks is because they involved Americans," he said.

Memories of past glories amid present-day woes now prompts Ruano's candidacy.

Today's Guatemala is governed by lies and "a system used to kill, exploit and exercise unjust dominion over others," Ruano said.

Ruano points to his years as an artisan and teacher as evidence of a life of public service.

And don't tell the 61-year-old Ruano the election is out of his reach.

About 20 candidates generally appear on the presidential ballot, affording Guatemalan voters a wide range of choices.

Already, Ruano has secured the nod of Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional, a group organized in honor of the 1954 cadets who fought for Guatemala.

A deeply spiritual man, Ruano said his wife and children are an invaluable support and testimony of his leadership ability.

"All are well-studied, educated and cared for," he said.

Ruano envisions a Guatemala patterned after his 30-year-old service organization that teaches impoverished people literacy and self-sufficiency.

The volunteer program, titled Trabajo-Amor-Servicio (work, love and service), is dedicated to helping Guatemalans prosper by working with the country's natural materials, Ruano said.

"The goal of my political party is to help every Guatemalan, not just a certain group or sect," he said.