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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 04:09 GMT
Centrist claims win in Guatemala
Alvaro Colom
Colom claimed victory with almost all the votes counted
Centre-left candidate Alvaro Colom has declared victory in Guatemala's presidential election with the count nearly complete.

With results from 95% of polling stations counted, Mr Colom had a lead of 5% over his right-wing rival Otto Perez Molina.

Mr Colom says he will try to tackle the country's high crime and murder rate by lifting people out of poverty.

Mr Perez Molina, a retired general, had favoured a tough approach.

The election, which has been marred by violence throughout the campaign, is the sixth since 1986.

Guatemalan society is still dominated by the aftermath of the country's bitter and deadly civil war, which raged for 36 years until 1996.

The violent paramilitary forces which fought the civil war were never disbanded but simply recycled and put to use by drug traffickers and money launderers, says the BBC's Latin American analyst James Painter.

The country's murder rate currently stands at about 5,000 per year, making it one of the most violent in Latin America.

Differing styles

Some 30,000 Guatemalan police were on duty on polling day, with another 20,000 international observers in the country to ward against malpractice, the Associated Press reports.

Otto Perez Molina
Otto Perez Molina wanted to get tough on crime

The contest between Mr Perez Molina, of the Patriotic Party, and Mr Colom, representing the National Unity of Hope (UNE), was close throughout the campaign.

In the first round of voting in September, Mr Colom won 28% of the vote, less than four points ahead of his rival.

Mr Perez Molina, 56, had pledged to take a tough line against street gangs, drug dealers and other criminals.

He wanted to deploy the army, double the number of police and bring back the death penalty to combat street violence.

Critics rounded on his approach, dubbed mano dura - or strong hand - but Mr Perez Molina insisted he would "put up a fight" against the culture of impunity in Guatemala.

Mr Colom, standing for the presidency for the third time, has said the country's corrupt police force needs cleaning up and deep social problems must be addressed.

"If you don't know the root of the problem, it is hard to solve it," Mr Colom said.

Shadows haunt Guatemalan election
03 Nov 07 |  Americas
Guatemala heads for run-off vote
10 Sep 07 |  Americas
Amnesty pleads for Guatemala calm
30 Aug 07 |  Americas
Guatemala campaign deaths mount
14 Aug 07 |  Americas
Crime dominates Guatemala campaign
10 May 07 |  Americas
Guatemala's epidemic of killing
09 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
25 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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