San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rigoberta Menchú Announces Presidential Candidacy

GUATEMALA CITY – Backed by a recently formed indigenous political movement, community leader and Nobel peace laureate Rigoberta Menchú last week announced her decision to run for President of Guatemala.

“In the political history of Guatemala, we the indigenous people have exercised our right to elect, but not to be elected, and the time has now come to do so,” Menchú said during a press conference at her home in the Guatemalan capital.

Menchú’s announcement has already been celebrated by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who sent the Guatemalan indigenous leader a letter of encouragement.

Indigenous Guatemalans represent 42% of the country’s population of 13 million, with mestizos constituting the next-biggest segment.

Menchú said she still has not decided which party’s banner she will carry in the presidential race, but stressed she will only affiliate with an organization willing to embrace the agenda of the indigenous movement.

Her candidacy for the presidency,Menchú explained, is backed to start off with by the Winaq political movement, an indigenous political organization that bills itself as “a choice that is different from the traditional political parties.”

Should her electoral plans proceed, Menchú will become the first indigenous woman in the political history of this Central American country to seek the presidency.

Menchú explained that Winaq in the K’iche language means “balance and integrity,” and is a “newly formed political organization, a reflection of the dreams of change on the part of many indigenous who have spent their lives longing for a full and active participation” in the country’s political life.

Though Menchú said that Winaq as a party will not be “exclusively indigenous, but a multicultural, multilingual grouping,” most of its leaders are heads of indigenous communities and organizations around the country.

Winaq is not yet represented on the ballot. Menchú, therefore, has been having talks with several leftist parties that have proposed that she be their candidate for President in the next elections.

“We will continue negotiating with these and other parties, and we will define our participation on the acceptance of the integration and nomination of our movement, not just mine personally,” said the recipient of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.

Center-left candidate Alvaro Colom is the current front-runner in the presidential contest, according to the results of a poll released earlier this month.

The nationwide survey, conducted in the last week of January by the CID-Gallup polling firm, showed Colom with 43% of voter preference.

The standard-bearer of the conservative Patriot Party, retired Gen. Otto Pérez, was in second place with 18% of voter support, while the ruling center-right Grand National Alliance’s candidate, Alejandro Giammattei, was in third with 5%.

Guatemala’s general elections will be held in September.


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