Presidential candidates head to run-off in Guatemala

World Today

A former first lady has topped the polls in Guatemala’s presidential election, but Sandra Torres did not get enough votes to win Sunday’s poll, so she’ll head into an August runoff.

The next president will have to deal with poverty and gang violence so severe that it’s driven tens-of-thousands to the United States this year.

CGTN’s Franc Contreras has details.

Guatemalan electoral officials stayed up all night counting each vote cast in Sunday’s presidential election. Many of the ballots came from remote towns and villages in the countryside.

Late Monday morning, the Central American nation’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that no candidate achieved a clear victory, so a runoff election will held August 11 .

Front-runner Sandra Torres captured more than 25% of the vote, but that was far short of the majority needed to win in the first round.

“We want to invite the people who did not vote for us in the first round to get to know our campaign,” she said. “We hope they’ll share our goals to get closer to the people.  Maybe we were missing that. Obviously we need to work harder in that direction.”

Torres will face conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei in the runoff. Wide-spread discontent over official corruption and impunity appeared to deeply affect voters’ confidence in this election, pushing turn-out below 60%. Even those who voted expressed cynicism.”

“I don’t think any candidate is capable of bringing changes in just four years of office,” said government employee Diego Miranda. “This history will not change because all the candidates have made pacts with corrupt political and economic groups in Guatemala.”

“Hopefully, whoever wins the runoff can help our country change paths,” said voter Daniela Torielo.

The next president of Guatemala will face critical issues that have driven hundreds of thousands of immigrants to flee their country. The challenges  include extreme poverty, drug-related violence and corruption.

Meantime, the U.S. State Department has just announced it’s cutting aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador until those countries take what Washington called, “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming to the U.S. border.”