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A reported blog on happenings around Latin America.

Right-wing general poised to win Guatemalan presidency

With the former first lady out of the picture, ex-general Otto Perez holds a commanding lead.
Guatemala election perez 2011 08 22Enlarge
Electoral billboards advertise various political parties in Guatemala City on Aug. 7, 2011. (Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)

Former general Otto Perez looks poised to become Guatemala's next president, but may not win outright in the first round, according to a poll released today by local press.

It was the first poll conducted since his closest rival, former First Lady Sandra Torres, was officially banned from running. 

Torres divorced her husband, President Alvaro Colom, to try to circumvent a provision that prohibits spouses or relatives of the outgoing leader from running for the presidency. But the Constitutional Court struck down her candidacy.

Perez now leads with almost 40 percent of the votes, followed by businessman Manuel Baldizon with 18.5 percent and academic Eduardo Suger with 11.3 percent.

Perez would need to gain 50 percent support to avoid a second-round runoff. The first round is scheduled for Sept. 11.

A victory for Perez — who served in the army until 1998 and whom human rights groups accuse of wartime abuses — would put the military establishment back in control of Guatemala just as probes into the country's brutal civil war are beginning, Reuters reports.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua's presidential campaign season officially kicked off on Saturday with President Daniel Ortega looking to win a second consecutive five-year term.

Ortega first came to power in Nicaragua in 1979 and ruled until 1990. He spent the next 16 years trying to regain power, before winning the presidency in 2006. The Supreme Court overturned a ban that would have prevented him from running again, a move called illegal by legal scholars and opposition candidates.

Like Perez, Ortega is facing a fragmented opposition. A recent CID-Gallup poll showed Ortega with 41 percent of the vote, reports Americas Quarterly. His nearest opponent, Fabio Gadea, stands at 34 percent.

To win outright, Ortega needs 40 percent or at least 35 percent a 5-point lead over the runner-up.

The former Marxist guerrilla has been highlighting his Christianity in his re-election bid, reports the AP. His slogan is "Christian, Socialist and In Solidarity."

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Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

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