Conservative Alejandro Giammattei Wins Guatemala's Presidential Runoff

Sandra Torres has twice before failed in her bid to become Guatemala's first female president

Sandra Torres has twice before failed in her bid to become Guatemala's first female president

Conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei won Guatemala's presidential runoff on Sunday with a decisive lead over his rival, according to preliminary results from the Supreme Electoral Court (STE).

With preliminary results from over 95% of the polling stations counted, the electoral tribunal declared Giammattei the victor with nearly 59% of the vote, ahead of his center-left rival, former first lady Sandra Torres, back on 41%.

Former first lady turned presidential candidate Sandra Torres shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote.

Shortly before being elected, Mr Giammattei said he wanted to change a controversial United States migration deal.

Giammattei will succeed corruption-tainted outgoing President Jimmy Morales, who leaves office in January.

Prior to the accord president Morales signed, Guatemala's Constitutional Court said Congress, which is in recess, needed to be consulted on any safe third country deal. "Today I become the first public servant of the nation and together with the whole country we will work to make the government that you deserve".

One man from Guatemala says the prices charged by people smugglers have risen sharply since Trump took office, now hovering around $10,000 (9,100 euros), up from about $6,000 a few years ago.

In the first round, which was held on 16 June, the situation was quite the opposite. She married and divorced former President Alvaro Colom who was Guatemala's president from 2008 to 2012. Investigative site Nomada branded Giammattei "impulsive. despotic, tyrannical. capricious, vindictive" - and worse.

However, he now faces "a lose-lose scenario" regarding the migration pact, Grais-Targow said.

"I hope that during this transition the doors will open to get more information so we can see what, from a diplomatic point of view, we can do to remove from this deal the things that are not right for us, or how we can come to an agreement with the United States", Giammattei, 63, told Reuters in an interview.

Mexican asylum data and testimony from migrants in Tenosique suggest that although fewer Central Americans are trying to enter the United States, plenty are still fleeing their poor, violent home countries, with many deciding to stay longer in Mexico, which has traditionally been a transit country.

In a poll by Prodatos for the Prensa Libre newspaper, 82 percent of respondents opposed it.

Remittances from Guatemalans in the U.S. are a crucial part of the economy, reaching a record $9.3 billion past year. According to the World Bank, remittances account for 12% of the country's gross domestic product. All three are under heavy pressure from the Trump administration to stem the flow of migrants heading to the United States.

Guatemala has a poverty rate of 60%, and the homicide rate remains high.

The safe third country agreement is deeply unpopular in Guatemala.

Around half the killings are blamed d on drug trafficking and extortion operations carried out by powerful gangs.

"Whichever of the two wins, they should focus on combatting corruption, because this administration [of current President Jimmy Morales] has been robbing us", he said.

He urged his replacement to reduce undocumented migration, improve education and tackle chronic malnutrition in the under-fives, which affects 46 per cent of infants.

Guatemalans aren't subject to Trump's proposed migrant measures, but given that poverty in some indigenous areas reaches 80 per cent, many embark on the journey in search of the "American dream" despite the dangers.

Since December, at least five Guatemalan children have died in U.S. custody after crossing into the country from Mexico.

And in June, a woman and three children died from heat and dehydration in Texas.

"We will focus on the construction of a different Guatemala", he said Sunday while proclaiming himself president-elect, the Washington Post reported.

More than 250,000 Guatemalans were detained between October 2018 and July this year for trying to enter the U.S. illegally, Washington's embassy said.