Álvaro Colom Takes Charge in Guatemala: New Optimism for a Troubled Neighbor

On January 14, Álvaro Colom, leader of the center-left National Unity for Hope Party (UNE), became president of Guatemala. The inauguration drew several Latin American leaders to Guatemala, including Presidents Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia. Behind the pomp and protocol, there will unfold a battle for Colom’s political soul. Will the new president take a populist, anti-American track as Chávez will likely urge, or will he follow a more pragmatic, free-market course similar to Presidents Calderón or Uribe? The answer–of great importance given Guatemala’s strategic significance–may depend on U.S. engagement in the weeks and months ahead.

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