Serrano pledges commitment to “God and the people”
GUATEMALA CITY (NNI) – Latin America’s first freely-elected Protestant evangelical President has won Guatemala’s January 6 presidential election. Final voter tallies indicated that Jorge Serrano Elias, the former President of the Council of State in the 1982-83 administration of Army General Efrain Rios Montt, won with 68 percent of the vote.
Speaking to supporters soon after the polls closed, Serrano said, “We have won the election with the support of the people and God. I have no commitment to any political power base; my only commitment is to God, to whom I’ve committed myself to govern the best I can, and to the sovereign will of the Guatemalan people who elected me.”
Serrano also affirmed that his priorities as President will lie in upholding human rights, bringing a peaceful resolution to the on-going guerilla conflict, and economic development.
Serrano’s running mate and Vice-President-elect, Gustavo Espina, also an evangelical, said he believed the new administration would enjoy continued support from the Protestant community, emphasizing that its support is needed “now more than ever.”
Newspaper publisher Jorge Carpio Nicolle, who trailed Serrano in the election with 32 percent of the vote, conceded that the evangelical vote as well as the endorsement of several political parties had been crucial to Serrano’s victory.
Less than six months ago, Serrano trailed in a field of 12 candidates. According to press reports, Serrano said he had entered the presidential race in case his mentor General Rios Montt was disqualified. Rios Montt, a fervent and outspoken Christian, was favored to win the elections in the first round but was disqualified under a law barring him from holding a nationally-elected office.
Evangelical Christians now make between 30 to 40 percent of the Guatemalan population, following the tremendous Christian revival of the past two decades. Serrano’s victory is as much an indication of the sovereign will of the people as it is of the sovereignty of God.
Virgilio Zapata, former president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Latin America said that he believed Serrano was elected “because of his professionalism and honesty in dealing with the issues and problems facing Guatemala today.”