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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 14:07 GMT
Rigoberta Menchu: Profile
Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992
Indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu is hoping to become Guatemala's first president from the Maya community.

She is standing for a coalition of the indigenous party Winaq, which she founded earlier in 2007.

She has earned a reputation as a leading advocate of indigenous rights - in 1992 being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.

More than half of Guatemala's 13 million inhabitants are descendants of the Mayas.


She was born on 9 January 1959 to a farming family in the northern highlands.

She soon became involved in social reform through the Roman Catholic Church and also became a prominent women's rights campaigner.

Her father, Vicente, was imprisoned and tortured for allegedly having taken part in the murder of a local plantation owner.

After his release he joined the Committee of the Peasant Union (CUC) and was soon joined by his daughter.

Rigoberta Menchu's brother, father and mother all died during the Guatemalan civil war, when 200,000 Maya were killed or disappeared.

Their deaths served only to increase her interest in politics and she was prominent in a strike the CUC organised for better conditions for farm workers in 1980.

In 1981 she was forced to flee abroad and became the focus of resistance to oppression in Guatemala and in 1982 she was one of the founder members of the opposition body, The United Representation of the Guatemalan Opposition (RUOG).

If she were to win the election in September, she would be not only the first Maya president but also the first woman to hold the office in Guatemala.

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