2 Guatemala candidates shot before vote

Two candidates from Nobel Laureate and presidential hopeful Rigoberta Menchu's political party were shot dead Wednesday amid a wave of campaign-related violence that has claimed about 50 lives.

2 Guatemala candidates shot before vote
Two candidates from Nobel Laureate and presidential hopeful Rigoberta Menchu's political party were shot dead Wednesday amid a wave of campaign-related violence that has claimed about 50 lives.

Wenceslao Ayapan, 35, and Esmeralda Uyun, 26, of the Encuentro Por Guatemala Party were killed by assailants with automatic weapons, said party official Armando Sanchez, who is running for a seat in congress.

The victims were running for municipal council seats in San Raymundo, 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Guatemala City.

This has been the most violent campaign in Guatemala's recent history. About 50 politicians, activists and their relatives have been killed during the past four months of campaigning to replace the president, federal lawmakers and local officials in the election Sunday.

In the 2003 election campaign, 25 people were killed.

Menchu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work on behalf of indigenous people, is the first Mayan woman ever to run for president in Guatemala, where nearly half of the population is Mayan.

But she has gained little support and is a distant sixth with 3.1 percent support, according to a poll conducted by Vox Latina for the newspaper Prensa Libre that was published Wednesday.

The survey found that Otto Perez, a retired general with the Patriotic Party who promises to be tough on crime, had 31.8 percent compared to 31.7 percent for Alvaro Colom of the centrist National Unity of Hope party.

Ruling party candidate Alejandro Giammatei was third with 14.6 percent, followed by 10 other candidates.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two advance to a runoff.

The poll surveyed 1,200 registered voters by asking them to fill out sample ballots between Aug. 29 and Sept. 3. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Political analyst Gustavo Porras said the killings are not ideologically motivated as they were in the 1980s, during Guatemala's civil war, but instead are related to organized crime members trying to intimidate parties into giving them spots on the ballot.

Some of the attacks, for example, are aimed at eliminating the challengers to politicians linked to drug traffickers, he said.

AP
Last Mod: 06 Eylül 2007, 12:38
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