updated 10/8/2007 8:37:42 PM ET 2007-10-09T00:37:42

A presidential security guard and the secretary of Guatemala’s leading presidential candidate were shot and killed Monday, extending a plague of election-related violence as the country prepares for a runoff vote.

The candidate, Otto Perez, blamed organized crime for killing guard Valerio Castanon and secretary Aura Salazar.

Both victims were sitting in a car parked a block from Congress in Guatemala City when they were killed. It was unclear why Castanon was with Salazar.

“Drug traffickers who have squandered their money in politics for the last 10 years see that the results are unfavorable, and that they can’t stop us,” Perez said at the scene of the crime. “That’s why they do things like this. We know this is a political act of intimidation.”

More than 50 people have been killed in election-related violence this year. Police said they had no suspects in Monday’s killings.

Perez has promised to launch a crackdown on crime and drug trafficking, while his rival in the Nov. 4 runoff election, Alvaro Colom, has said he will focus on creating jobs and other anti-poverty programs.

On Monday, a poll published in the newspaper Siglo XXI gave Perez a lead of 8 percentage points — 54 percent to 46 percent — over Colom, a businessman making his third run for the presidency. The poll, carried out by the Costa Rican firm Demoscopia, surveyed 1,200 people from Sept. 22 to 28 and had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

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