By Milton Castillo
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - The front-runner in Guatemala's presidential campaign on Monday criticized U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump over his divisive remarks on illegal immigrants, saying Latinos should not put up with "humiliation" for political ends.
Manuel Baldizon is leading opinion polls in the run-up to a first round of voting due on Sept. 6 in the Central American country, which has been one of the biggest exporters of illegal immigrants to the United States in recent years.
Trump, who leads the Republican field for the presidential ticket, has riled Guatemala's neighbor Mexico by accusing it of sending rapists and drug-runners across the border and pledged to make the country pay for a wall to keep immigrants out.
Baldizon dismissed Trump's comments as electoral stunts aimed at attracting votes from the political fringes.
"I know someone who took his clothes off in Colombia, I know another candidate who cut his hair off in Asia, I know another candidate who threw himself off a building. Well, it's a political strategy Mr. Trump is using," he said in an interview.
"However, in my view, I'm completely against these kind of actions which hurt Hispanics. It's important that we Hispanics are clear that we can't be accepting humiliations or negative blows against our culture and dignity," he told Reuters.
Baldizon, who was runner-up in the 2011 Guatemalan election, said North American countries should seek to work together in a common bloc comprising the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and the other six nations that make up Central America.
"I think talking about borders and territorial issues is out of focus in a globalized world where history changes daily and strategic movements, geopolitics and geo-economics are constantly in motion," he said when asked if the United States had been leaning too heavily on Guatemala to battle corruption.
Guatemala's government has dismissed several top cabinet officials in the last three months due to investigations into widespread allegations of public sector corruption.
Those efforts have been spearheaded by a U.N.-backed anti-graft body known as the CICIG, which has robust U.S. support.
Senior officials in Baldizon's Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (Lider) have also become embroiled in the CICIG probes.
(Reporting by Milton Castillo; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner and James Dalgleish)