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Jun 16-17, 2019: Guatemalans vote and future of anti-corruption body in balance

GUATEMALA - The Central American country described by the World Bank as one of the strongest economic performers in the region holds a general election that provides an opportunity to change its reputation for corruption or entrench it. The list, when it is finally published, could be the signpost to the country’s direction.

The election for a new president, Congress and local authorities is expected to focus on the economy and the corruption issue. With no obvious frontrunners, as many as 18 parties will be vying for seats in the unicameral Congress.

The World Bank attributes the growth to “prudent macroeconomic management,” potentially a strong campaigning slogan for candidates and parties allied with the conservative National Convergence Front (FCN) of President Jimmy Morales. He is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a second term. There are early indications that Estuardo Ernesto Galdámez Juárez will be the party’s candidate.

There have been protests against the Morales government’s efforts to kill the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Morales supported the United Nations-appointed body, which brought down the government of his predecessor, President Otto Pérez Molina of the Patriotic Party and other prominent Guatemalans, until it began probing his own financial affairs. Morales and his allies are opposing presidential and congressional candidates who support CICIG and the continuation of its investigation and prosecution of government corruption. Americas Quarterly points out that Morales loses immunity once he leaves office.

Former top prosecutor Thelma Aldana was knocked out of the race in May. The anti-corruption crusader sent former president Otto Perez Molina and others to prison.

Zury Ríos, daughter of the late dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who seized power in a military coup, was planning to make a second run for the presidency. She also has been knocked out of the race.

Sandra Torres of the National Unity of Hope, a center-left former first lady who lost in a landslide to Morales in the 2015, was still on the list in mid May, and Americas Quarterly describes her as the candidate to beat. She is making her third run at the presidency, but is implicated in an illicit campaign-financing scheme that might stymie her bid. She denies wrongdoing.

The publication also sees Alejandro Giammattei of the Let’s Go party, a doctor and former executive, as a strong contender. Rounding out the still unconfirmed list are José Guillermo Alfredo Cabrera of the Everybody party and businessman Mauricio Radford, who heads the Strength coalition.

#22970 Updated: 05/19/2019 WRITE THROUGH UPDATE MAY 19 TO REFLECT DEVELOPMENTS

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