Menchu to Run for President in Guatemala

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 21, 2007; 10:15 PM

GUATEMALA CITY -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu on Wednesday announced that she will run for the presidency of Guatemala in the country's September elections, a move likely fuel talk about an Indian resurgence in Latin American politics.

Menchu, 48, said she reached an agreement with the smaller Encounter For Guatemala Party, which still must formally ratify her nomination at a March 22 assembly.

"I have accepted the presidential candidacy for 2007, and we expect to bring hope to Guatemala," Menchu told reporters following a meeting with Nineth Montenegro, leader of the Encounter Party.

Earlier this month Menchu said she was forming an Indian-led political movement with an eye toward a possible presidential bid.

But the movement, known as Winaq, does not have time to register itself as a political party before September elections. It could back Menchu's candidacy under the banner of a smaller registered party like Encounter.

The two groups would apparently have to negotiate how many people from each would be included for other posts on Menchu's ticket.

Winaq is a Mayan word signifying "the wholeness of the human being." Menchu, a Guatemalan Quiche Indian, would be the first woman and the first Indian ever to serve as president in this overwhelmingly Indian country.

Bolivian President Evo Morales sparked talk of an Indian resurgence in Latin America after he become the first Indian to win the presidency of his country in 2005.

Menchu won the Peace Prize in 1992 as a lifetime award "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples."

Guatemala's Indian majority were among the main victims of the country's 1960-1996 civil war, in which over 200,000 people, mainly civilians, died.

Menchu said she would not consider running for, or in alliance with, the political party formed by former guerrillas who fought in the civil war.

The country has long been split along racial lines, with a largely white elite and an impoverished Indian majority.

If elected, she would become the second Nobel laureate serving as president in Central America. Oscar Arias, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1997, took office as Costa Rica's president in May.


© 2007 The Associated Press