After nearly five years of civilian rule most candidates in the November presidential election are rightists, some of them former members of earlier repressive governments.
President Vinicio Cerezo's inability to control drug trafficking, stop rightist killings and improve the sagging economy has hampered the chances of Alfonso Cabrera Hidalgo, candidate of the governing Christian Democrats.Cerezo, who by law cannot run again, was the first civilian president in 16 years. The military had ruled or dominated Guatemalan politics for more than 30 years.
Most of the candidates in the Nov. 11 election are pledging to increase security in the face of rising crime, crack down on corruption, end unpopular austerity measures and create more jobs.
Opinion polls give the edge to conservative publisher Jorge Carpio Nicolle, who founded the National Center Union party seven years ago. Right-winger Jose Efrain Rios Montt, ranked second in most polls, is a former president seeking a new term.
Rios Montt, a born-again Christian, ruled from 1982 to 1983 after a military takeover.
The election also comes at a time of strain between the United States and Guatemala over human rights abuses allegedly committed by the military in its pursuit of leftist guerrillas, whose insurgency dates back nearly 30 years.