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Profiles: Guatemala's two leading presidential candidates
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12:29, September 09, 2007

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Guatemala holds presidential elections on Sunday, with a total of fourteen candidates competing for the presidency. Following are profiles of Alvaro Colom and Otto Perez Molina, who are in first and second place in the opinion polls respectively.

-- Alvaro Colom Caballeros, candidate of the center-left National Unity of Hope (UNE), leads the polls with 34.7 percent.

Colom was born in Guatemala City on June 15,1951. After gaining a degree as an industrial engineer at the University of San Carlos in just three years, Colom became a textile entrepreneur and a leader of export associations from 1977-1990.

In 1991, he was named Vice Minister of Economy and later became Director of the National Peace Fund (Fonapaz), which administrated international aid to end the internal violence in Guatemala.

Under the leadership of Colom, Fonapaz has helped repatriate and resettle at least 40,000 Guatemalan refugees who had fled to Mexico to escape Guatemala's political violence.

Colom is married to entrepreneur Sandra Torres. They have three children.

This will be Colom's third consecutive attempt to win the Central American country's presidency. In the 1999 elections, Colom obtained third place as the candidate for the Guatemalan Revolutionary Unity party (UNG).

In 2003, representing the UNE, he came second in the elections, losing to Oscar Berger.

Colom has promised to increase social spending to fight poverty and to overhaul the judicial system.

-- Otto Perez Molina, a retired general and candidate of the Patriot Party, is in second place in opinion polls with 26.8 percent of voter intentions.

Born on January 12, 1950, Perez Molina gained a master's degree in Political Science from Guatemala's Francisco University. He has also studied in the Inter-American Defense College in Washington and in the Central American Economic Studies Institute (INCAE) in Costa Rica.

He was head of the Military Intelligence Department from 1991 to 1993 and became head of the Presidential General Staff (EMP) in 1993.

He was appointed Inspector General of the Army in 1996, and served as government representative at peace talks with the guerrillas.

On February 24, 2001, Perez Molina formed the Patriot Party (PP), which formed a coalition in 2003 with the Reform Movement and the National Solidarity Party, called the Great National Alliance (GANA).

Perez Molina once served as commissioner for defense and security in the government of outgoing President Oscar Berger, but left the post amid differences with Berger.

Perez Molina has hoped to boost foreign investment in Guatemala, which he said will generate jobs and reduce poverty affecting 51 percent of the 13.3 million Guatemalans.

He also promised to reinforce the fight against crime and violence, saying that he would push for the death penalty to be instituted and use the military to crack down on criminals.

Source: Xinhua



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