A centre-left businessman and a hardline former army general are in the lead as counting continues in Guatemala’s presidential election. Social Democrat Alvaro Colom is making his third stab at the presidency, and campaigned on a tough line on crime. Exit polls suggested he had done well, and with more than 70 percent of the votes counted, he seems to have confirmed that. He will also focus on easing Guatemala’s grinding poverty if elected president.
His opponent in November’s run-off, Otto Perez Molina, also talked tough, promising to put the army back on the streets. He hoped to capitalize on an election campaign marred by violence and murder, with a so-called “strong fist” message. He wants to declare a state of emergency in areas overrun by drug traffickers.
Violence is rife in Guatemala; death squads from the civil war have simply been re-cycled as enforcers for the drugs’ barons.
Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu was making her political debut, after always refusing to get involved. She trailed in fourth, her presidential hopes in ruins.
Her bid to become Latin America’s first indigenous woman president was also hit by violence, with two sympathisers shot dead while distributing leaflets for her campaign.