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Guatemalan Elections Narrow Field to Two

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And as Pakistanis prepare for their election, Guatemala has finished its first round of voting. At least 50 people were killed in political violence before this vote. But then the election went smoothly over the weekend for the Central American nation. Fourteen candidates were narrowed down to two. Next, a former general will face the center-left candidate in a second round in November.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a polling center in the colonial city of Antigua, about an hour outside of the capital, indigenous women with babies tied papoose-style on their backs lined up next to men with crew cuts and dark glasses. This country is facing innumerable problems - chronic poverty, drug trafficking and violence that leaves thousands of people dead each year. These issues have literally infiltrated the selection.

Many voters believe that Guatemala's political class is indifferent and corrupt; worse, the warlords are now trying to get elected. Suspected drug dealers are running for office in several parts of the country. Guatemalan law provides immunity for political candidates and elected officials. Miguel Angel Gonzales(ph) is a carpenter in the city of Antigua.

Mr. MIGUEL ANGEL GONZALES (Carpenter): (Through translator) I wish the candidates were disinterested in personal and material affairs, and capable enough to make this country better. But I don't see that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Whoever wins will lead a country that some analysts already described as a failed state.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Antigua, Guatemala. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.