El Señor Presidente
El Señor Presidente (sehn-YOHR preh-see-DEHN-teh), a dictator partially modeled on Manuel Estrada Cabrera, a ruler of Guatemala during the author’s lifetime. His government runs on webs of political intrigue and corruption involving rumors, rigged elections, spies, secret police, hired assassins, false imprisonment, and torture. Since childhood, he has enjoyed tormenting weaker beings. Now he takes brutal revenge on all those who oppose or hinder him, including his former associates. He initiates a plot to frame his rival, General Canales, for murder. He at first appears to accept the relationship between Miguel and Camila, but he steadily works against them in secret.
Miguel Cara de Ángel
Miguel Cara de Ángel (mee-GEHL KAH-rah de AHN-hehl), the handsome protagonist, called “as beautiful and as wicked as Satan,” who serves as aide and favorite adviser to the dictator. His character changes when he falls in love with and later marries Camila Canales, whom he had earlier kidnaped while engaged in the dictator’s plot against her father. His efforts to protect her lead him deeper into conflict with the regime and into a web of deception that the dictator suspects and eventually unravels, causing disaster for the young couple. Arrested while supposedly leaving on a foreign mission for the government, Miguel is tricked, betrayed, tortured, and finally thrown into prison, where he eventually dies in anonymity and despair after hearing lies about his wife’s involvement with the dictator.
(The entire section is 720 words.)