Colom Caballeros, Álvaro (Guatemala)

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Álvaro Colom was elected president on 4 Nov. 2007, the first social democrat to hold the office since 1954. Colom replaced Oscar Berger of the Gran Alianza Nacional and served until Jan. 2012.

Early Life

Colom was born into a politically active family in June 1951 in Guatemala City. He studied at the Liceo Guatemala, a private Catholic school, and then the state University of San Carlos (USAC). After graduating in 1974 as an industrial engineer, he entered the textile industry, becoming a leading representative in the 1980s.

In 1990 President Jorge Serrano Elias—a fellow alumnus of both Liceo Guatemala and USAC—appointed Colom vice minister for the economy and director of the Fund for Peace (FONAPAZ). After the 1997 peace accords ended decades of civil war, Colom worked in land conflict resolution and the promotion of reconciliation.

In 1999 he unsuccessfully ran for president for the centre-left ANN party. In 2003 he ran again, this time for the social democratic UNE, but was defeated by Oscar Berger in the second round. Nonetheless, it was the best left-wing showing in an election for almost 50 years though critics accused him of illegal campaign financing.

Career Peak

Colom’s 2007 campaign centred on his ‘Plan de la Esperanza’, extending to 2032. As well as pledging to fight poverty and improve health, education and public security, he promised to create 700,000 new jobs, build 200,000 new homes and increase GDP growth to 6%. In May 2009 the government denied any complicity in the murder of a prominent lawyer who had claimed that Colom was seeking to kill him. Following presidential elections in 2011, Colom was succeeded by Otto Pérez Molina of the Partido Patriota in Jan. 2012.

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