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Violent Crime Key Issue Ahead of Sunday's Election in Guatemala


Voters in Guatemala go to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, parliament and local leaders.

A recent wave of political violence that has left almost 50 people dead, including politicians, is dominating the election campaign.

The killings, along with other deadly violence, could help a retired general win the presidential vote. Otto Perez Molina has been gaining popularity with promises to crack down on criminals and street gangs who terrorize Guatemalans. But he is controversial because of his role as head of military intelligence during Guatemala's civil war, and he has been accused of executing government opponents.

Molina is running even against social-democrat and businessman Alvaro Colom.

Neither of the leading candidates among 14 running for president is expected to win the absolute majority needed to avoid a runoff on November 4.

Colom says he wants to overhaul the justice system and bring social change to Guatemala, where 80 percent of the people live in poverty.

Forty-nine people have been killed in the four-month political campaign, making it the most violent since the 36-year civil war ended in 1996.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.