Last Updated September 5, 2023.
El Señor Presidente by Miguel Ángel Asturias explores the effects of a military dictatorship on the people living under it by showing the rise and fall of both a person who was in favor with the president and one who wasn't. They lose their standing in society—and eventually their lives.
The two characters who experience the most dramatic falls are General Canales and Miguel Angel Face. General Canales is a rival of the president whom the president frames for murder at the beginning of the novel. Rather than arrest and execute him, the president sends Angel Face to warn Canales to flee.
Canales goes on a journey to escape arrest and imprisonment. He sees the effect of the dictatorship on the poor people living in smaller towns without access to the things that people in favor in the cities have. As he explores the way that the president and his government make life harder for the people of the country, he comes to realize how deeply awful the corruption is. He plans to overthrow the president.
Angel Face, on the other hand, is close to the president and is the one who helps him carry out his plan to frame Canales for murder. Staying in line essentially gives Angel Face a guarantee of a good life. However, he falls in love with the daughter of General Canales when he kidnaps her and is appalled when he realizes that no one will take her in because of the accusations against her father. They're too worried about offending the president.
Angel Face struggles with his life as an advisor to the president, his feelings for the general's daughter, whom he marries, and the sense that things he's doing for the president aren't right. Ultimately he chooses Camila, is betrayed by people he works with and the president, and dies in prison. Even someone deeply embedded in the system isn't safe.
General Canales also dies after he finds out—falsely—that the president attended the wedding of Camila to Angel Face.
The fates of other people connected with the president also show how a dictatorship isn't a safe environment for anyone. Lucio Vasquez is an ally of Angel Face and the president and still ends up in jail under the regime. His counterpart, Genaro Rodas, loses his wife and child. His wife is taken in for questioning about the general's escape. She's tortured, and, as a result, her child is unable to feed from her breasts and dies.
Under the president's dictatorship, no one is safe—even if they hold a high position and favor. That type of government causes people to live with anxiety and fear. It causes the downfall of not only a country but the people who make up the country. El Señor Presidente shows this downfall on every level, from Angel Face to the villagers the general meets during his escape.