GUATEMALA CITY – Alvaro Colom, a center-left businessman, won Guatemala’s presidential election Sunday in a vote that in many ways was a referendum on this country’s fragile democracy.
Colom, 56, defeated former army general Otto Perez Molina, a high-ranking officer during Guatemala’s years of bloody dictatorship and counterinsurgency warfare in the 1980s.
With 93 percent of the vote tallied, Colom led Perez Molina by 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent. Nearly all of the uncounted votes were in Colom’s provincial strongholds.
Perez Molina, also 56, promised to crack down on crime with a “Firm Hand,” (mano dura in Spanish), a phrase commonly associated in Latin America with authoritarian government. Campaign posters showed him with a raised fist and stern expression.
Colom, a former industrial engineer with a long government resume, sought to make Guatemala’s poverty the focal point of his campaign.
“I voted against injustice, with the poor,” said Max Perez, a 34-year-old painter in the colonial city of Antigua. “I voted for these people who live in misery, for the people who are hungry. I voted for the engineer Alvaro Colom.”
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