Ex-general to face leftist in Guatemala runoff

A former general who wants the army to tackle rampant crime will face a center-left businessman in Guatemala's presidential runoff in November after a close first-round vote, results showed on Monday.

 Ex-general to face leftist in Guatemala runoff
A former general who wants the army to tackle rampant crime will face a center-left businessman in Guatemala's presidential runoff in November after a close first-round vote, results showed on Monday.

Alvaro Colom led ex-Gen. Otto Perez Molina with votes from 94 percent of polling stations counted. None of the candidates earned more than half the votes in Sunday's election, so a second round of voting will be held on November 4.

Colom won 28 percent compared to 24 percent for Perez Molina, the former head of army intelligence.

Guatemala, a crossroads for Colombian cocaine on its way to the United States, has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with almost 6,000 people killed in the country of 13 million last year.

The rise of Perez Molina brought back memories of decades of military rule and a particularly nasty civil war that killed 250,000 people and only ended in 1996.

Colom promises to fight poverty if elected. His National Unity for Hope party has struggled to rid its ranks of drug gangs and organized crime groups.

The silver-haired Perez Molina, 56, vows a strong hand against crime and corruption and his Patriotic Party's symbol is a clenched fist.

He wants to send soldiers to patrol the streets and to declare states of emergency in areas overrun by drug traffickers and tattooed street gang members known as "mareros," who have beheaded rivals and shot children.

"Obviously, the issue of crime is what interests Guatemalans and they see Otto Perez Molina as the person capable of solving that problem," said the rightist's campaign manager, Alejandro Sinibaldi.

Some opinion polls have given Perez Molina a good chance of winning a second round, but much will depend on his ability to pick up votes that went to Sunday's third-placed candidate, Alejandro Giammattei.

Reuters
Last Mod: 11 Eylül 2007, 12:10
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