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Guatemala's Colom takes office

  • Story Highlights
  • Colom declares "beginning of privileges for the poor, for those without opportunity"
  • Presidents of Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela attend inauguration
  • At least 51 candidates, relatives and political activists killed during campaign
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From Patzy Vasquez
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GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) -- Guatemala's first leftist president in 50 years, Alvaro Colom, took office Monday with a pledge to help the poor.

"Today is the beginning of privileges for the poor, for those without opportunity," said Colom, who represents the center-left National Union of Hope party.

He joins a growing roster of leftist or center-left presidents elected in recent years in Latin America, including the heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Colom took the oath of office in a ceremony attended by numerous heads of state, including the presidents of Honduras, Colombia and Venezuela.

He spoke of his commitment to Guatemala's Mayan community, which remains largely mired in poverty. He said he hopes to help the people, while continuing to encourage private investment and economic development.

His inauguration ends a violent campaign season during which at least 51 candidates, their relatives and political activists were killed.

Colom's election as president in November over retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina of the conservative Patriot Party came after two failed bids.

Perhaps the most well-known leftist president in Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz was forced from office in 1954 after the CIA helped arrange a force that overthrew him. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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