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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 22:21 GMT 23:21 UK
EU alarm at Guatemala violence
By Emilio San Pedro
BBC News

Map of Guatemala
International election monitors in Guatemala have said they are deeply concerned over the murders of political candidates and activists.

The Central American country will hold congressional and presidential elections on 9 September.

At least 42 people have been killed in what has been described as election-related violence this year.

However, prosecutors warn that it is not entirely clear if the killings have all been politically motivated.

The deputy head of the team of European Union election monitors in Guatemala, Spain's Jose Antonio de Gabriel, said his delegation was concerned that the violence would have a detrimental effect on the election and could tarnish the final result.

He also pointed out that the number of political murders in this election campaign in Guatemala had surpassed the total number of killings during the 2003 campaign.

Violent climate

Twenty-eight people were killed in that campaign in what were described as politically-motivated killings.

Jose Antonio de Gabriel, deputy head of the EU observer mission
Mr de Gabriel is worried about the level of political violence

This time the number has increased by 50% and Mr de Gabriel said he was worried that the number could rise even further - as the first round of the presidential election is still more than two weeks away.

His comments follow the killing earlier this week of the teenage daughter of a Congressional candidate.

Prosecutors said they found the 14 year old girl's body in the trunk of an abandoned car, along with the bodies of two other people.

Her father, Hector Montenegro of the National Union of Hope Party, the favourite to win the election, described the killing as a political attack but vowed not to abandon his campaign.

However, the Guatemalan Prosecutor General, Juan Luis Florido, said that given the violent climate in Guatemala, where about 16 are killed on average every day, it was still difficult to confirm that the killings were indeed politically-motivated.

He said his office was still investigating the murders. So far no-one has been arrested in connection with the killings, which have not been aimed exclusively at any of the leading political parties.

Guatemala campaign deaths mount
14 Aug 07 |  Americas
Crime dominates Guatemala campaign
10 May 07 |  Americas
Guatemala urged to act on murders
18 Jul 06 |  Americas
Guatemala's epidemic of killing
09 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
16 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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