Conservative former army Gen. Otto Pérez Molina easily won a four-year term as Guatemala´s president in a second round of voting on Nov. 6. Pérez Molina, candidate of the right-wing Patriotic Party, captured close to 54 percent of the vote, topping his rival, Manuel Baldizón, a businessman with the LIDER party, who won just over 46 percent of the vote, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Pérez Molina cruised to victory promising to stamp out corruption and crime, particularly gang violence tied to the Mexican drug cartels, which have increased their power and influence in Central America in a bid to control trafficking routes.
Pérez Molina, 60, is the first military official to lead Guatemala since the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s.
“Guatemala … the most it has become is to be used for storage and transit,” Pérez Molina told Mexican newspaper El Universal. “Here, they’re looking not for land but for routes, and they change constantly. We have to fight them head-on, I say.” He told the newspaper that he would consider using special army units to fight the cartels.
The issue is sensitive for Guatemala, which ended a three-decade civil war in 1996. Some human rights groups blame Pérez Molina, who headed an elite unit of the army known as Kaibil, for some of the deaths of some 200,000 people, many of them brutally massacred during the military´s so-called “scorched earth” campaign.