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Guatemala to elect president amid tensions over violence, migration

Guatemala to elect president amid tensions over violence, migration
Guatemala: Guatemalans on Sunday will vote for a new president, who will face the challenge of curbing drug gang violence that has convulsed the country and helped spur illegal immigration to the United States, fueling tensions with President Donald Trump.

Nineteen candidates will compete in the election, which is expected to yield no outright winner, forcing the top two vote getters to face off in a second round on Aug. 11.

Former first lady Sandra Torres, of the center-left UNE party, has led the race to succeed President Jimmy Morales, a conservative former television host whose term has been blighted by accusations of corruption made by U.N.-backed investigators.

Torres, who has promised to send troops onto the streets to fight drug gangs, and to tackle poverty with welfare programs, has support of around 20 percent of the electorate, according to polls.

Her closest rivals, trailing by a few percentage points, are conservatives Alejandro Giammattei, who is running in his fourth campaign, and Edmond Mulet, a former United Nations official whose candidacy has increasingly gained traction in the run-up to the vote.

“I want to see education improving, more jobs and for security to get better, because we live in a very unsafe country. And for politicians and lawmakers to stop stealing,” said John Estrada, 24, a tattoo artist in Guatemala City.

Rampant violence and widespread discontent over corruption and impunity in the country of 17 million have prompted more and more Guatemalans to flee for the United States.

The surge of departures has undermined Trump’s pledge to curb illegal immigration, and the U.S. president has responded by threatening to cut U.S. aid to Central America.

That prospect has caused alarm in Guatemala, where the legacy of the bloody 1960-1996 civil war continues to cast a long shadow over the country’s development.