Guatemalans Choose New President

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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Guatemalan election officials say a retired army general looks set to win a first-round presidential vote in the impoverished country hard-hit by crime.

Authorities said Monday Otto Perez has about one-third of the votes with around 20 percent of the ballots counted.

Pre-election opinion polls in Guatemala favored 61-year-old Perez of the Patriotic Party as the leading candidate in Sunday's election, but with far less than the 50-percent support needed to avoid a runoff in November.

Perez will likely face conservative businessman Manuel Baldizon in a second round. Election officials said Monday Baldizon has won about one-quarter of the votes.

Perez would be the first former military leader elected in the Central American nation since the end of its military dictatorships.

The campaigns have focused on who will do the best job in controlling Guatemala's out-of-control crime, primarily linked to drug trafficking.

The winner will take over in January, replacing President Alvaro Colom, who is barred by law from running for re-election.