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Election Date Set; Country To Sell Gold

February 22, 1985

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Guatemalans will elect a civilian president and members of Congress on Oct. 24, and the nation’s military chiefs will hand over power Jan. 14, 1986, the government announced Friday.

In a separate announcement, the government-run Bank of Guatamala said it will sell one-fifth of the country’s gold reserves, worth an estimated $30 million, in the first such sale since the bank was founded in 1945.

Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, Guatemala’s chief of state, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the National Constituent Assembly announced the election plan in a joint statement. The balloting also will be for city mayors, and they and the elected members of Congress will take office Dec. 15.

The communique set a May 31 deadline for the Constituent Assembly to complete the new constitution and election law. If the assembly decides on a two-round system of runoff elections, the second round would be held Nov. 24.

The Constituent Assembly, elected July 1, has approved 85 articles for the constitution since it began work in August.

Mejia Victores has held power since Aug. 8, 1983, heading the latest in a 30-year chain of conservative military or military-dominated governments.

Four men are seeking the presidency: Mario Sandoval Alarcon of the National Liberation Movement; Vinicio Cerezo of the Christian Democrat Party; Jorge Carpio Nicolle of the Union of the National Center, and Jorge Serrano Elias of the Democratic Party of National Cooperation.

The Bank of Guatemala said it will sell 100,000 troy ounces of gold for an expected $30 million. It did not give a timetable for the sale.

Bank President Oscar Alvarez Marroquin said the money would be used to help establish a third foreign exchange market. The quetzal, the local currency, officially has been on par with the U.S. dollar since 1926.

The rate on a parallel market for non-essential purchases fluctuates between 1.50 and 1.70 to the dollar, but buyers complain of a shortage of foreign currency in the banks.

During the past week, the quetzal rose to 1.90 to the dollar on the black market. It had held at 1.45 for several weeks.

The new market will be used to attempt to hold down devaluation on the parallel and black markets. The bank said its rate will be set later.

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