Alejandro Giammattei Wins Guatemala's Presidency

Sandra Torres has twice before failed in her bid to become Guatemala's first female president

Sandra Torres has twice before failed in her bid to become Guatemala's first female president

Conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei declared victory in the presidential election in Guatemala, holding a major lead with the results from more than 90 per cent of polling stations counted.

Once inaugurated, Giammattei has the power to nullify the deal, which has been blocked from implementation by the country's highest court with a provisional injunction.

Guatemala's incoming president Alejandro Giammattei has vowed to seek better terms for his country from an unpopular migration deal agreed with Washington last month, but any room for maneuver is seen as likely to be hampered by weakness in the national Congress.

The victor of the runoff vote will take office on January 14. However, a turnout of 40% suggests disillusionment.

But the 63-year-old, a doctor by profession, scored well on voter concerns such as the economy, corruption and security, according to Risa Grais-Targow of the Eurasia Group. Investigative site Nomada branded Giammattei "impulsive. despotic, tyrannical. capricious, vindictive" - and worse.

Torres had previously run a textile and apparel company. She also proposed an anti-corruption program, but her Unity for Hope party came under fire because some of its mayoral candidates were accused of receiving contributions from drug traffickers for their campaigns.

"We need both Mexico and Guatemala to continue doing what they're doing", referring to Mexico's own campaign to block migrants from crossing its border with the United States. Trump's election has changed everything.

Concepcion Bautista from Guatemala cradles her newborn son in the same migrant shelter.

Giammattei will have to decide whether to nullify, honor or seek changes in the deal, which could potentially ease the crush of migrants arriving at the USA border.

Central American immigrants turn to Mexico A mere transit country?

Under the agreement, migrants passing through Guatemala en route to the United States would have to apply for asylum in the former rather than in the US. The measures are already having another effect.

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"They are looking for asylum in the United States", he said."I don't think there are a lot of people from El Salvador and Honduras who want to seek asylum in Guatemala, especially if they are fleeing poverty".

Migrants from Central America play football in the migrant shelter in Tenosique. Migrants sit below a mural in Mexico with the words: "Our demand is minimal: justice". "We've gone north several times, but every time it's got harder", says one man, who was deported from the United States in December.

The father of three will have to balance the interests of the country with those of the United States, where three million Guatemalans live and work, many of them illegally.

Many Guatemalans are fed up with the political class after investigations by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations -backed anti-corruption body, led to the arrest of then-President Otto Perez in 2015, and then threatened to unseat his successor Morales, a former TV comedian. In a poll by Prodatos for the Prensa Libre newspaper, 82% of respondents opposed the deal.

Giammattei has been critical of Guatemala and its leaders for lacking vision on how to encourage development and fight poverty, unemployment and the lawlessness that fuels migration.

Nearly 60% of Guatemala's 17.7 million citizens live in poverty, and the country has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Remittances from Guatemalans in the USA are a crucial part of the economy, reaching a record $9.3 billion a year ago.

According to the World Bank, remittances account for 12 percent of the country's GDP.

Analysts do not expect Giammattei to reverse the decision by Morales to expel the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, which helped to launch a massive anti-corruption drive and bring down President Otto Perez Molina in 2015.

Morales, who ordered the termination of the CICIG's mandate as of September, was barred by law from standing again.

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