By Sofia Menchu and Adriana Barrera
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemalans on Sunday will vote for a brand new president, who will face the problem of curbing drug gang violence that has convulsed the nation and helped spur unlawful immigration to the USA, fueling tensions with President Donald Trump.
Nineteen candidates will compete within the election, which is predicted to yield no outright winner, forcing the highest two vote getters to face off in a second spherical on Aug. 11.
Former first woman Sandra Torres, of the center-left UNE occasion, has led the race to succeed President Jimmy Morales, a conservative former tv host whose time period has been blighted by accusations of corruption made by U.N.-backed investigators.
Torres, who has promised to ship troops onto the streets to combat drug gangs, and to sort out poverty with welfare applications, has help of round 20 p.c of the voters, in keeping with polls.
Her closest rivals, trailing by just a few proportion factors, are conservatives Alejandro Giammattei, who’s operating in his fourth marketing campaign, and Edmond Mulet, a former United Nations official whose candidacy has more and more gained traction within the run-up to the vote.
“I need to see schooling enhancing, extra jobs and for safety to get higher, as a result of we stay in a really unsafe nation. And for politicians and lawmakers to cease stealing,” mentioned John Estrada, 24, a tattoo artist in Guatemala Metropolis.
Rampant violence and widespread discontent over corruption and impunity within the nation of 17 million have prompted increasingly Guatemalans to flee for the USA.
The surge of exits has undermined Trump’s pledge to curb unlawful immigration, and the U.S. president has responded by threatening to chop U.S. help to Central America.
That prospect has triggered alarm in Guatemala, the place the legacy of the bloody 1960-1996 civil battle continues to solid a protracted shadow over the nation’s growth.
To keep away from a run-off, one of many candidates would want to win greater than 50 p.c of the vote, a consequence pollsters deem unlikely. The result of the election will possible rely upon candidates’ skill to construct a coalition for the second spherical.
In analysis report on Friday, Eurasia Group mentioned Torres would wrestle to win a run-off, given her excessive rejection charge and the flexibility of her possible opponent to unify the conservative vote and safe the help of the nation’s highly effective elites.
Morales, who’s barred by legislation from in search of re-election, took workplace in 2016 vowing to root out corruption after his predecessor was introduced down by a probe led by the U.N.-backed Worldwide Fee in opposition to Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
As an alternative, Morales himself turned a goal of a CICIG probe into allegations of marketing campaign finance wrongdoing and was topic to impeachment proceedings in 2017. He survived the try to oust him, after which engaged in a bitter dispute with the CICIG earlier than lastly terminating its mandate, efficient from September.
Questions of legitimacy have dogged the 2019 contest since two of the front-runners had been pressured out within the remaining weeks, together with Thelma Aldana, a former lawyer normal who tried to question Morales with the CICIG. The federal government accused Aldana of corruption, resulting in her exclusion final month.
Allegations of shady dealings have permeated the election, which has been fought out amid intensifying efforts by Trump to show Mexico and Guatemala into buffer zones to maintain undocumented migrants out of the USA.
Presidential hopeful Mario Estrada and congressional candidate Julio Jose Rosales had been arrested in the course of the marketing campaign and charged with having hyperlinks to Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.
Drug traffickers allegedly financed their campaigns in return for assist transporting cocaine and heroin to the USA.