Ex-first lady, conservative contend for Guatemala presidency
GUATEMALA CITY — A runoff presidential election Sunday in Guatemala pits former first lady Sandra Torres against conservative Alejandro Giammattei, the top two vote-getters in the first round of voting in a country where the main challenges are widespread poverty and joblessness that have led tens of thousands of Guatemalans to emigrate.
Recent polls have given Giammattei a modest lead in a race between two unpopular candidates.
He received only 14% of the votes in the first round of the election, which had 19 candidates, while the center-left Torres got about 26%. Election authorities had barred some of the more popular candidates from running.
Here’s a look at the two candidates:
Torres was married to — and later divorced — then President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012), but she has a record of her own as a businesswoman, having run a textile and apparel company.
Her campaign platform focused on social problems such as improving education, health care, job creation and economic development. She also has proposed an anti-corruption program, but her Unity for Hope party has been under fire because some of its mayoral candidates have been accused of receiving contributions from drug traffickers for their campaigns.
The 62-year-old Torres also has been accused of failing to report campaign donations to her party in 2015, and her former vice presidential running mate is being sought in the case. She denies any wrongdoing, but doubts have also been raised by her association with a former mayor who is now wanted in the U.S. on drug charges.
Because legislative seats were decided in the first round, Torres’ party is already assured of having far more seats in congress than Giammattei’s Vamos (“Let’s Go”) party.
Giammattei is a medical doctor by training and uses crutches to get around because he has multiple sclerosis.
Making his fourth run for the presidency, Giammattei is socially conservative but liberal on economic policy. He stridently opposes gay marriage and abortion and endorses family values.
Giammattei, 63, has own closet of skeletons, in the form of former military officers accused of war crimes who have joined his party.
When he headed the country’s prison system, he was known for a get-tough approach. In 2006, he ordered a raid to end inmate control of one prison, which resulted in the deaths of several inmates.
He proposes jump-starting the economy by building a “Maya Train” that would carry freight and tourists.