Self-confessed killer leads poll in Guatemala

GUATEMALAN OPPOSITION leader Alfonso Portillo looked set yesterday to win the Central American country's first election since peace accords ended a 36 year civil war three years ago.

Mr Portillo, who was considered the front-runner in a field of 11 candidates in Sunday's election, stunned voters by confessing to a double murder in Mexico, but kept his loyal following.

With 65 per cent of votes counted, he won 48 per cent of the ballots, compared to 32 per cent for his rival, conservative businessman Oscar Berger, the former mayor of Guatemala City. However, it remained unclear last night whether he had captured enough votes to avoid a run off vote on Boxing Day.

Mr Portillo, 48, ran away with the lead after a day of suspense, during which results were delayed by an unprecedented high voter turn out.

Early returns showed that Mr Portillo's law and order opposition party, the Republican Front, was outpolled by less than 1 per cent by Mr Berger, candidate for the ruling National Advancement Party. Mr Portillo's camp blamed the results delay on the incumbent party.

The charismatic leader worries about human rights activists like 1992 Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu, who sees him as a stand-in for the the former military dictator, Efrain Rios Montt, and a catalyst for violence in the interior.

Yet Mr Portillo considers himself a populist in the mold of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and apes the "Third Way" by offering a mix of welfare, state and free market policies to tackle Guatemalan class inequalities, inflation, and rising crime.

Known as "the Hoarse Chicken" for his speaking style, Mr Portillo turned his admission of shooting two Mexicans in self-defense in 1982 into a political advantage, proving candour and decisiveness. Detractors charged that Mr Portillo had not slain two attackers, as he claimed, but that he had gunned down unarmed students in a bar brawl. He was never prosecuted for the incident, and the case was declared inactive in 1995 by a Mexican judge.

Election day was free from the heavy military presence that overshadowed past polls, though hundreds of international monitors oversaw the voting in a "climate of fear", according to United Nations spokesman Bertrand de la Grange. UN officials also urged parties to abstain from violence "before, during and after the vote," though several disturbances in the rural interior marred peaceful elections.

The candidate of the former leftist guerrillas, Alvaro Colom, was expected to get less than 7 per cent of the vote, but the rebels' support in an alliance could secure a win for Mr Berger in December.

Mr Portillo, who has repeatedly described himself as a social democrat and an admirer of guerrilla icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, has pledged his commitment to the UN-brokered peace accords.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DARTFORD

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Geography Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Science Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week