GUATEMALA CITY -- President Ramiro de Leon Carpio -- elected by Congress to replace ousted leader Jorge Serrano -- said he would seek unity in Guatemala and set the country back on the road to democracy.
De Leon, 51, was elected with 106 out of 115 congressional votes late Saturday to replace Serrano, who was ousted a week after adopting rule by decree. De Leon will complete the remainder of Serrano's term, which ends in January, 1996.
'I am convinced that my presidential term is sufficient time to create the conditions that will permit a deepening of the democratic process,' De Leon said in an acceptance speech.
'I cannot hide my great satisfaction...but at the same time I feel a great responsibility. I feel satisfied not so much at being president of the republic, but at being the man they chose to bring about Guatemalan unity and avoid a violent outbreak,' the former human rights ombudsman said.
Organization of American States Secretary-General Joao Clemente Baena Soares said Sunday he was confident the military would support de Leon, a vocal defender of human rights who has been critical of the armed forces.
'I believe we are going to have a consolidation of the constitutional process,' Baena Soares said before leaving for Managua, where he was to attend a meeting of OAS foreign ministers.
'I think (de Leon's election) was a demonstration of the Guatemalan people's will to live in democracy,' he told United Press International.
'In my report I am going to indicate my satisfaction with the process carried out by the Guatemalans to establish institutional democracy,' Baena Soares added. 'I will also request OAS member countries to contribute by lending their support to Guatemalan democracy.'
Over the past three years De Leon has won the respect of many Guatemalans by standing up to the country's armed forces through his aggressive advocacy of respect for human rights.
His appointment was expected to end almost two weeks of political turmoil unleashed by Serrano's move May 25 to dissolve Congress, fire the Supreme Court and rule the nation by presidential decree.
De Leon promised to guard constitutional order and to fight the corruption, impunity and drug traffickers that plague Guatemala. He asked the international community to lift sanctions imposed after Serrano's bid to assume unconstitutional powers.
De Leon, a consensus candidate with broad mandate for reform, said Guatemala had 'a great, new opportunity -- perhaps the last of the present century -- to set the correct course so that we can all construct a new nation.'
Serrano fled Wednesday to neighboring El Salvador after he was forced out of office by the Guatemalan military amid mounting domestic and international condemnation of his so-called 'self-imposed' coup.
De Leon's election came after the congress rejected efforts by Serrano's vice president, Gustavo Espina, to don the presidential sash, which he claimed was his constitutional right.
On Friday, a judge asked the Foreign Ministry to begin extradition proceedings against Serrano, who along with Espina faces criminal charges.
Espina's bid was initially supported by Defense Minister Jose Garcia Samayoa, but the Constitutional Court ruled that Espina's support for Serrano's coup made him ineligible.
The court ordered Congress to appoint a new president within 24 hours.
Electoral Tribunal President Arturo Herbruger, 81, dropped out after the first round of voting in which he and de Leon were close contenders. Former Foreign Minister Mario Quinonez Amezquita was also a candidate, but his nomination was not seconded in the Congress.