Guatemala’s next president will be elected in a second-round run-off between a right-wing retired former general who has promised to use an “iron fist” against violent crime and drug gangs, and a conservative businessman.
Otto Pérez Molina, of the Patriotic Party, captured close to 36 percent of the Sept. 11 vote, trailed by Manuel Baldizón, of the Renewed Democratic Liberty, who won more than 23 percent in a field of 10 candidates. The two candidates will face off in a second-round of voting on Nov. 6, since neither received more than 50 percent of the vote.
The results highlight growing concerns among Guatemalans over crime. Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, and drug violence from neighboring Mexico has spilled over the border into Guatemala, especially in the northern Petén region, where the Zetas cartel largely operates.
If elected, Pérez Molina, whom current President Álvaro Colom defeated in 2007, would become the first military officer to lead the country since the 1970s and 80s military dictatorship. Human rights groups have blamed Pérez Molina for abuses stemming from the country’s three-decade civil war that ended in 1996, after more than 200,000 people had been killed, but he has not been charged.
Rigoberta Menchú, Nobel Peace Prize winner, who ran for president for the second time, this time with the left-wing coalition Frente Amplio, received only 2 percent of the vote.