AP

Álvaro Colom, former president of Guatemala, dies at 71

Jan 23, 2023, 6:52 AM | Updated: 10:15 pm

FILE - Guatemala's President Álvaro Colom addresses a summit on the Millennium Development Goals a...

FILE - Guatemala's President Álvaro Colom addresses a summit on the Millennium Development Goals at United Nations headquarters in New York, Monday, Sept. 20, 2010. Former President Colom, who governed from 2008 to 2012 and supported a United Nations anticorruption mission that later investigated him, died Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, lawmakers from his party announced. He was 71. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Former Guatemala President Álvaro Colom, who governed from 2008 to 2012 and supported a United Nations anti-corruption mission that later investigated him, died Monday, lawmakers from his party announced. He was 71.

“I deeply lament the death of ex-President Colom, a man of profound democratic convictions and great social sensibility,” said Guatemalan lawmaker Orlando Blanco, leader of the center-left National Unity of Hope Party in Congress.

Current President Alejandro Giammattei expressed his condolences to Colom’s family and friends via Twitter. No cause of death was given.

Colom won office in a runoff election in 2007, defeating retired Gen. Otto Pérez Molina. It was his third attempt for the presidency.

An industrial engineer, Colom was Guatemala’s first leftist president in more than 50 years when he took office in January 2008, but said he wanted Guatemala to chart its own path rather than falling in with established leftist leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez at the time.

Colom had success in textiles and Guatemala’s entry into large-scale production through assembly plants known as maquiladoras in Spanish.

He entered office promising to reduce poverty after having worked with civil war refugees in isolated highlands. The war, which ran from 1960 to 1996, displaced hundreds of thousands. He was an ordained Mayan minister and said he would seek guidance from the Mayan Elders National Council, a group of spiritual leaders.

Just weeks before the end of his term, Colom took credit for hiring some 90,000 additional teachers and bringing more than a million children back into the country’s schools. He said his administration had built more schools and health centers. He also applauded Guatemala’s efforts to seize drug shipments moving through the country and arrest drug traffickers.

Colom also supported the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity In Guatemala, better known by its Spanish acronym CICIG. It had started work the year before he took office.

But in 2018, Colom was arrested, along with nearly his entire former Cabinet, in relation to a corruption investigation involving a bus concession.

The case centered on a public bus company known as Transurbano. The government auctioned off 25-year concessions for Guatemala City bus routes, and the private companies that won the contracts were later exempted from taxes. The CICIG worked on the case with Guatemalan prosecutors.

Colom denied any wrongdoing and the case had not gone to trial. In 2021, the U.S. State Department included him in a report to Congress on corrupt actors in the region for the bus scandal.

Pérez Molina, who won office after Colom, was eventually forced from the presidency by another CICIG investigation and sentenced to prison for corruption in December.

Colom had been married to politician Sandra Torres, who planned to contend for the presidency in Guatemala’s national elections June 25. They had divorced.

Late Monday, Torres wrote via Twitter, “May the noble man who always held Guatemala in his heart rest in peace.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: An Alaska Airlines passenger jet approaches to land at the Los Angeles International Airport...

Associated Press

Man accused of stabbing another passenger on a flight from Seattle to Las Vegas charged

A man who witnesses say stabbed another passenger on an airline flight in January told authorities he intended to kill the victim.

2 days ago

Image: Dr. Candice Matthews, left, listens as Texas state Rep. Ron Reynolds, right, with Darryl Geo...

Associated Press

Judge: Texas school legally punished Black student over hairstyle

A Black high school student's punishment by his Texas district for refusing to change his hairstyle doesn't violate state law, a judge said.

2 days ago

The logo for Boeing appears on a screen above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exc...

Associated Press

Boeing ousts head of 737 jetliner program weeks after panel blowout on flight

Boeing said the head of its 737 program is leaving the company in an executive shake-up weeks after a door panel blew out on a flight over Oregon.

3 days ago

Image: The Alabama State Capitol is seen on May 15, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama....

Associated Press

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are ‘children’ under state law

Critics say the Alabama embryo ruling may have sweeping implications for fertility treatments.

4 days ago

Image: People take cover during a shooting at Union Station during the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bow...

Associated Press

Two men charged with murder at Kansas City Chiefs parade

Minutes after Kansas City Chiefs players spoke at a victory celebration Wednesday, multiple people near the parade route were carried away on stretchers.

4 days ago

Image: A sign is on display above an ATM at a Capital One Café in Miami on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. ...

Associated Press

Capital One to buy Discover for $35B in deal combining major US credit card companies

The deal would bring together two of the nation's credit card companies as well as potentially shake up the payments industry.

4 days ago

Álvaro Colom, former president of Guatemala, dies at 71