Indigenous Candidates Gain Ground in Guatemala

September 21, 2007

GUATEMALA CITY – Candidates from among the indigenous peoples who together make up 42% of Guatemala’s 13 million citizens won 129 of the 332 mayoral races in last weekend’s general election, for a pickup of six seats from the 2003 elections.

The relatively good results contrasted sharply with those obtained by Nobel Peace Prize recipient and indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú, who was running for President and finished in 7th position with around 3% of the vote in the Sept. 8 elections.

The provinces in which indigenous candidates won the most mayorships were Huehuetenango, with 22, Solola, with 17, and San Marcos, Quiche and Quetzaltenango, each with 14 – all in the country’s western highlands.

According to the coordinator of the indigenous office-holders group, Carlos Guarquez, little by little the political parties are gaining importance and participation in the popular elections to the country’s indigenous peoples.

There are 22 Mayan peoples in Guatemala constituting 42% of the population, while another 45% are of mestizo ancestry.

Of the 332 mayors elected earlier this month, only eight were women, according to the results provided by the

Supreme Electoral Court

.

In the presidential contest, none of the 14 candidates secured an absolute majority, so the two top ranking candidates, social democrat Alvaro Colom and right-wing retired Gen. Otto Pérez Molina, will face off in a Nov. 9 runoff (NT, Sept. 14).

 

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