Guatemalan veterans back candidate who vows to increase their benefits

Guatemala City, Aug 15 (EFE).- Presidential candidate Sandra Torres secured the endorsement Tuesday of the largest group representing Guatemalan military veterans after promising to increase their benefits if she wins the Aug. 20 runoff.

Torres, a former first lady making her third consecutive bid for the presidency on the ticket of the center-right UNE, offered the commitment at a gathering of Avemilgua members in Guatemala City.

She urged the veterans to persuade their families and neighbors to vote for her so as “to defend the country from the agenda” of her opponent, social democrat Bernardo Arevalo de Leon, whose program Torres described as “foreign and in favor of sexual diversity.”

In a show of support, the veterans prayed for Torres’ victory next Sunday.

Avemilgua was founded by people who served in Guatemala’s armed forces during the 1960-1996 civil war, which left some 250,000 people dead, most of them indigenous peasants massacred by government forces.

Some former high-ranking officers who belong to Avemilgua have been accused of committing crimes against humanity during the war.

Political analysts see Torres as the standard-bearer for Guatemala’s political establishment in its fight to preserve the status quo that has prevailed under right-wing President Alejandro Giammattei, who was barred from re-election by the constitution’s one-term limit.

That status quo is under threat from Arevalo’s Movimiento Semilla, which grew out of massive anti-corruption protests in 2015.

In the first round of voting on June 25, Semilla won 23 seats in Congress and Arevalo, who had been running eighth in the polls, finished second to qualify for the runoff.

Giammattei’s administration went on the attack against Semilla within days of the first round, trying to outlaw the party and remove Arevalo from the ballot for the second round.

And while the Constitutional Court has ruled that Semilla cannot be banned in the middle of the election process, prosecutors have carried out searches of the party’s headquarters and issued arrest warrants for party officials.

Parties ranging from center-right to right have been in power since the restoration of democracy in 1986 and this year marks the first time in nearly 70 years that the left has a chance at power in the Central American nation.

Arevalo is the son of Guatemala’s first democratically elected president, Juan Jose Arevalo (1904-1990).

EFE dte/dr

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