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New Guatemalan leader promises 'drastic' action to combat graft

Jimmy Morales acknowledges after being sworn-in as Guatemala's president in Guatemala City, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala’s new president pledged “drastic” measures against corrupt officials as he was sworn into office on Thursday, following an election campaign last fall dominated Jimmy Morales by anti-graft fervor.

A former TV comedian who has never held office, swept to power in presidential election last October after capitalizing on anger over a corruption scandal that led to the resignation and arrest of former president Otto Perez.

“We will be drastic toward those who in blind madness dare to steal the public’s money,” said Morales, paraphrasing a line from the country’s national anthem.

Morales landslide victory was attributed to widespread discontent with Guatemala’s political class and compounded by a U.N.-backed investigation into a multi-million dollar customs racket that reached deep into the previous administration.

But the new president’s ability to approve new anti-graft laws will require reaching agreement with the country’s more established political parties as Morales’ center-right National Convergence Front (FCN) party controls just 11 out of 158 seats in the new Congress.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Editing by Sandra Maler