How are the bearers of authority and power portrayed in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and to what extent do they exercise their power?
Even though the townspeople and authority figures in Chronicle of a Death Foretold predict Santiago Nasar's death, they do little to prevent it. The figures of authority and power in the novel are portrayed as corrupt and uncaring, and they exercise their power to a great extent but only to help themselves.
Colonel Aponte, the mayor of the town, represents its civil authority. While Colonel Aponte is warned that the Vicario twins want to kill Santiago Nasar, he thinks that they are merely bragging and does little to stop it, save take the twins' knives away from them (and the twins quickly acquire new knives). Even after Nasar's death, his autopsy is carried out in a hapless and uncaring fashion. Father Carmen Amador is forced to carry out the autopsy on the body, and, years later, he says, "It was as if we killed him all over again after he was dead" (page 72). The priest performs the autopsy at the orders of the mayor, who was "too conceited to ask anyone who knew where he should begin" (page 73). The mayor is too distracted and disinterested in stopping the twins' premeditated murder of Santiago Nasar, and after Nasar's death, the mayor orders an autopsy that butchers Nasar's body. These actions show total disregard for Nasar. Later, the courts agree to the Vicario brothers' claim that their murder was an honor killing, showing that the legal authorities in the town exercise their power only to help the privileged and not to protect Santiago Nasar, a man who was on the margins of society because his family is Arab.
The religious authorities in the town are little better. The supposed impending arrival of the bishop distracts the townspeople from the twins' plans to murder Santiago Nasar. The narrator of the novel says, "the people of the town were too excited about the bishop's visit to worry about any other news" (page 21). While the twins are planning and carrying out the murder, the townspeople are busy bringing food and flowers to the bishop, who is passing by on the river. Symbolically, the bishop never stops in the town, and he passes by on the river. His slight of the townspeople, despite their attentions to him, shows the general disregard religious figures have for the people and for the victim of the murder in the book's title.