Former Evangelical Dictator Files for Guatemalan Presidency
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Efrain Rios Montt, the former dictator whose rule featured born-again Christian homilies and bloody counterinsurgency, was among 13 candidates who filed for the presidency in time for Thursday’s deadline.
Rios Montt, who is appealing rulings that the Constitution bars him from the executive office, was allowed to register under a temporary injunction issued Wednesday by the Supreme Court.
The court still must decide on his eligibility to run in the Nov. 11 race. If it upholds electoral officials’ refusal to register his candidacy, Rios Montt could appeal to the Court of Constitutionality, the highest authority in the case.
The 1986 Constitution prohibits anyone who came to power in a coup from running for president. Rios Montt, a former general who has the support of three small parties, led a military junta installed after a March 23, 1982, coup and declared himself president the following year.
In August 1983, he was overthrown by Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who in 1986 turned over power to the elected government of President Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo, a Christian Democrat.
Rios Montt, 64, is an evangelical Christian who gave televised homilies each Sunday while in office. He also violently crushed a thriving guerrilla insurgency and is running as a law-and-order candidate, promising to halt corruption and crime.
Leaders among the dozen other presidential candidates who are registered include Alfonso Cabrera, the Christian Democratic candidate; Rene de Leon Schlotter, a defector from the Christian Democrats who is running for the Democratic Socialist and Popular Alliance-5 parties; and Jorge Carpio Nicolle, of the Union of the National Center.
De Leon Schlotter’s running mate, dentist Aracely Mercedes Conde, was the only woman to register.
In addition to Rios Montt, two other candidates with military careers will run for the 5-year term. They are Rios Montt’s brother-in-law, retired Col. Luis Enrique Sosa Avila, who registered on the far-right National Liberation Movement ticket, and retired Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia, the former army chief of staff under the 1978-82 administration of his brother, Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia.
Tens of thousands of Indians and other Guatemalans were killed during anti- guerrilla campaigns under the Lucas Garcia and Rios Montt administrations. The 28-year-old insurgency continues to attack sporadically, mainly in the western part of the country.
Guatemala has 19 political parties. Approximately 3 million of its 8 million inhabitants are registered to vote.
If none of the 13 candidates wins a simple majority of the votes in November, a runoff between the two top vote-getters is scheduled for Jan. 6. The inauguration is scheduled for Jan. 14.