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Guatemala Elects Comedian as President

  • VOA News

Jimmy Morales, the National Front of Convergence party presidential candidate, talks with reporters upon his arrival to the Electoral Supreme Court headquarters in Guatemala City, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015.

Jimmy Morales, the National Front of Convergence party presidential candidate, talks with reporters upon his arrival to the Electoral Supreme Court headquarters in Guatemala City, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015.

A former television comedian with no political experience was the victor in Sunday's election for Guatemala's next president.

Jimmy Morales easily won the country's top office after a corruption scandal toppled the country's last leader and fueled voter outrage with the political establishment.

The conservative Morales started the race with just 0.5 percent support back in April.

Playing up his outsider status and promising clean government, Morales surged in opinion polls after a probe into a multi-million dollar customs racket led to the resignation and arrest of President Otto Perez, who is awaiting trial on corruption charges.

With 94 percent of the polling stations reporting, Morales won 69 percent of the votes against 31 percent for former first lady Sandra Torres who also vowed to tackle corruption, but was seen by many as part of the old political order.

Perez is accused of masterminding a corrupt network of politicians and customs officials that allowed businesses to pay bribes to get illegal discounts on import duties.

Prosecutors and United Nations investigators say the network collected $3.8 million in bribes between May 2014 and April 2015 - including $800,000 each to Perez and jailed ex-vice president Roxana Baldetti.

The scandal, the worst in a string of recent corruption cases, has created an unprecedented climate of outrage in Guatemala, an impoverished Central American country torn by gang violence and still recovering from a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

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