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Former general leads polls for Guatemala president

 Guatemalan soldiers patrol the streets on the eve of the country's presidential runoff election, in Guatemala City, Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. Voters wil...
 A private security guard smiles next to campaign signs of Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party,  left, and Manuel Baldizo...
 Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina outside his home on the eve of his country's runoff presidential election...
 Baby clothes hang out to dry back dropped by two campaign billboards depicting Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, righ...
 A damaged campaign sign of Manuel Baldizon, presidential candidate of the Democratic Freedom Revival party, is seen in Guatemala City, Saturday, Nov....
 A man gestures as he walks through 'La Terminal' central market , past a phrase that reads in Spanish: 'The power to choose' in Guatemala City, Satur...
 A private security guard stands in front of campaign signs of Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, center, and Manuel Ba...
 Campaign signs depicting Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, left, and Manuel Baldizon, presidential candidate of the D...
 Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina during an interview with journalists inside his home on the eve of his co...
 Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, Otto Perez Molina, holds up his ballot before casting his vote in the presidential runoff ...
 Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina holds up his ballot before casting his vote in the presidential runoff el...
 A man walks next to a mural depicting the army's repression during the country's civil war in San Juan Comala, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Guatem...
 A young girl snacks on an orange as she waits for her mother to vote in the presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov...
 Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, Otto Perez Molina, casts his vote in the presidential runoff election, in Guatemala City, ...
 A woman inks her finger after casting her vote in the presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Polls showe...
 A copy of Nuestro Diario featuring presidential runoff candidates Manuel Baldizon, left, and Otto Perez Molina, right, lies on a street market table ...
 A woman casts her vote in Guatemala's presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Polls showed Otto Perez Mol...

Guatemala Election

Guatemalan soldiers patrol the streets on the eve of the country's presidential runoff election, in Guatemala City, Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. Voters wil...

Guatemala Election

A private security guard smiles next to campaign signs of Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, left, and Manuel Baldizo...

Guatemala Election

Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina outside his home on the eve of his country's runoff presidential election...

APTOPIX Guatemala Election

Baby clothes hang out to dry back dropped by two campaign billboards depicting Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, righ...

Guatemala Election

A damaged campaign sign of Manuel Baldizon, presidential candidate of the Democratic Freedom Revival party, is seen in Guatemala City, Saturday, Nov....

APTOPIX Guatemala Election

A man gestures as he walks through 'La Terminal' central market , past a phrase that reads in Spanish: 'The power to choose' in Guatemala City, Satur...

Guatemala Election

A private security guard stands in front of campaign signs of Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, center, and Manuel Ba...

Guatemala Election

Campaign signs depicting Otto Perez Molina, presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, left, and Manuel Baldizon, presidential candidate of the D...

Guatemala Election

Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina during an interview with journalists inside his home on the eve of his co...

Guatemala Election

Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, Otto Perez Molina, holds up his ballot before casting his vote in the presidential runoff ...

Guatemala Election

Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party Otto Perez Molina holds up his ballot before casting his vote in the presidential runoff el...

Guatemala Election

A man walks next to a mural depicting the army's repression during the country's civil war in San Juan Comala, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Guatem...

Guatemala Election

A young girl snacks on an orange as she waits for her mother to vote in the presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov...

Guatemala Election

Guatemala's presidential candidate of the Patriotic Party, Otto Perez Molina, casts his vote in the presidential runoff election, in Guatemala City, ...

Guatemala Election

A woman inks her finger after casting her vote in the presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Polls showe...

APTOPIX Guatemala Election

A copy of Nuestro Diario featuring presidential runoff candidates Manuel Baldizon, left, and Otto Perez Molina, right, lies on a street market table ...

APTOPIX Guatemala Election

A woman casts her vote in Guatemala's presidential runoff election, in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, Sunday Nov. 6, 2011. Polls showed Otto Perez Mol...

Guatemalans rattled by soaring violence choose Sunday between two right-leaning presidential candidates: a former general who promises law and order and a tycoon-turned-political populist whose proposals include more social programs and zero tolerance on crime.
Polls show Otto Perez Molina, 61, a retired general and former military intelligence director running for the right-wing Patriotic Party, at least 10 to 15 points ahead of Manuel Baldizon, 41, of the Democratic Freedom Revival party.
Perez and Baldizon are in a runoff after gaining the most votes in the Sept. 11 presidential election, which Perez also won, but not by the required outright majority to for a first-round victory.
But some analysts say there's a disconnect between polls, believed to favor the establishment candidate Perez, and what is really a tight race.
"The polling methods are inadequate," said former Foreign Minister Edgar Gutierrez, who runs a think tank in Guatemala. "They've failed to capture how between 25 and 30 percent of the people intend to vote."
Baldizon barely registered in the polls when campaigning began six months ago and has risen dramatically since. The businessman has made many promises that some considered outlandish, including that he would take Guatemala's soccer team to the World Cup. But other promises are appealing in a country with rampant poverty and crime, including giving workers an extra month's salary a year, reinstating the death penalty and televising executions.
More than half of Guatemalans live in poverty in a nation 14 million overrun by organized crime and Mexican drug cartels. President Alvaro Colom has had to send troops to retake some provinces from the Zetas drug gang, including Baldizon's home state of Peten bordering Mexico.
Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, a product of gang and cartel violence, along with the legacy of its 1960-1996 civil war in which the army, police and paramilitary are blamed for killed the vast majority of 200,000 victims _ most of whom were Mayan.
Perez would be the first former military leader elected president in Guatemala 25 years after the end of brutal military rule. While that concerns some international groups, Guatemala has a young population and many don't remember the war.
Witnesses say hundreds of villages were obliterated by the army's scorched-earth policy. Perez has said there were no massacres or genocide.
He has never been charged with any atrocities and was one of the army's chief representatives in negotiating the 1996 peace accords.
Perez's campaigning focused on fighting the street gangs and cartels. Both candidates lean to the right after the center-left party of Colom failed to field a candidate. Colom cannot run for re-election.
Perez narrowly lost four years ago to Colom, a leftist who promised to fight crime with social programs, but whom many considered weak. Guatemalans have a history of electing the runner-up in the next presidential election since democracy was restored in 1986, and many feel that it is now Perez's turn after his previous defeat.
The wild card has been the sudden popularity of Baldizon, who the traditional ruling class in Guatemala has painted as inept.
One of his more surprising supporters is the left-leaning Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, who ran for president but barely had a showing. She urged her supporters, mainly Guatemala's indigenous and poor, to vote for Baldizon. Many say the rural poor will simply choose not to vote, and a low turnout favors Perez.
"No vote is a vote for the past," she said.


Updated : 2021-07-24 01:26 GMT+08:00