San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Candidate Blames Ex-Military for Electoral Violence

GUATEMALA CITY – Social democrat Alvaro Colom, the front-runner in Guatemala’s presidential race, claims that former military intelligence operatives are conspiring to rob him of victory in the Sept. 9 vote.

During a meeting with the foreign press, Colom said that at least 14 of the 18 murders of members of his National Hope Party (UNE) during the campaign have been committed “without doubt” by gunmen with links to a now-defunct army intelligence unit.

“Only they (the members of military intelligence) could do these things; they’re the only ones with the ability to attack in that way,” Colom said.

More than 40 candidates, party activists and relatives have been killed since the campaign formally got under way in May.

Due to a lack of evidence, Colom abstained from directly accusing his main opponent, retired Gen. Otto Pérez, a candidate of the right-wing Patriot Party (PP) who was head of military intelligence in the 1990s.

But the front-runner did point out that the PP is supported by other erstwhile military brass who, Colom alleged, “are the ones responsible for the smear campaign against me,” as well as promoting a climate of insecurity in the country … using the same methods that they applied in the 1980s.”

The army intelligence directorate has been cited as primarily responsible for the cases of kidnapping, torture and killings of political opponents during the bloodiest period of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.

“These people can’t be allowed to return to power; it’s necessary for these people to lose power,”Colom said, warning that otherwise Guatemala would revert to the dark period in which “order was imposed by beatings and gunshots.”

In a separate event last week, six Colom supporters were arrested for allegedly defacing campaign posters of Pérez, in what has become an escalation in dirty campaigning.

Though Colom leads in the polls, it appears he will not get a majority on Sept. 9 and that he and Pérez will face each other in a runoff.

If such a scenario unfolds, said Colom, “it will give us the opportunity to break the vicious circle and put an end to impunity” by defeating Pérez at the polls.


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