Otto Pérez Molina

Otto Fernando Pérez Molina is a Guatemalan politician and retired military officer who has been President of Guatemala since January 14, 2012.

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Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (born 1 December 1950)[1] is a Guatemalan politician and retired military officer who has been President of Guatemala since January 14, 2012. Standing as the Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota) candidate, he lost the 2007 presidential election but prevailed in the 2011 presidential election.[2] During the 1990s, before entering politics, he served as Director of Military Intelligence, Presidential Chief of Staff under President Ramiro de Leon Carpio, and as chief representative of the military for the Guatemalan Peace Accords.[3] During his presidency, amongst his activites was a controversial call for the legalisation of drugs.

Military career

Pérez is a graduate of Guatemala's National Military Academy (Escuela Politécnica),[4] the School of the Americas[5] and of the Inter-American Defense College.[6] During his time in the army he served in the notoriously brutal special forces (known as the Kaibiles), as director of military intelligence, and inspector-general of the army. In 1983 he was a member of the group of army officers who backed Defence Minister Óscar Mejía's coup d'état against de facto president Efraín Ríos Montt. While serving as chief of military intelligence in 1993, he was instrumental in forcing the departure of President Jorge Serrano after Serrano attempted a "self-coup" by dissolving Congress and appointing new members to the Guatemalan Supreme Court. In the wake of that incident, Guatemala's human rights ombudsman, Ramiro de León Carpio, became president and appointed Pérez as his presidential chief of staff, a position he held until 1995. Considered a leader of the Guatemalan Army faction that favored a negotiated resolution of the 30-year-long Civil War,[7] Perez represented the military in the negotiations with guerrilla forces that led to the 1996 Peace Accords.[8] Between 1998 and 2000 he represented Guatemala on the Inter-American Defense Board.

General Pérez retired from active military duty in January 2000.

Political career

On 24 February 2001, he founded the Patriotic Party.[citation needed] In the general election of 9 November 2003, the PP aligned itself with two other parties in the Grand National Alliance and Pérez was elected to Congress as a national-list congressman.[citation needed]


He was the candidate of the Patriotic Party in the 2007 presidential election, campaigning under the slogan "Mano dura, cabeza y corazón" ("Firm hand, head and heart"), advocating a hard-line approach to rising criminality in the country. After receiving the second-largest number of votes in the initial contest on September 9, he ultimately lost the election to Álvaro Colom of the National Unity of Hope in the second round on 4 November 2007.[9]

In November 2011, he was elected president with 54% of the vote.[10] Pérez is the first former military official to be elected to the presidency since Guatemala's return to democratic elections in 1986.

He also controversially proposed the legalisation of drugs as opposed to War on Drugs that is widely perceived as a failure.[11]

Accusations of human rights abuses

Genocide and torture allegations

United States' National Security Archives provide evidence of Pérez Molina's involvement in the military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt's scorched earth campaigns of the 1980s.[12] He was put in charge of counterinsurgency in the Ixil Community in 1982-3, when 80-90% of the villages were razed. At least 184 civilians were killed or disappeared during his deployment. [13] [14]

In July 2011, the indigenous organization Waqib Kej presented a letter to the United Nations accusing Pérez of involvement in genocide and torture committed in Quiché during the Guatemalan Civil War.[15] [16][17] Among other evidence, they cited a 1982 documentary in which a military officer whom they claim is Pérez is seen near 4 dead bodies. In the following scene, a subordinate says that those 4 were captured alive and taken "to the Major" (allegedly Pérez Molina) and that "they wouldn't talk, not when we asked nicely and not when we were mean [ni por las buenas ni por las malas]."[18]

Pérez denies his involvement in any atrocities. "I have nothing to hide," he told Reuters and said he was proud of his role in the civil war.[13] Pérez has never been charged with any human rights violations; however, he is the subject of a new investigation into the disappearance of Efraín Bámaca led by Guatemala's top prosecutor. [19]

Allegations of involvement in the killing of Efraín Bámaca

In 1992 the guerrilla leader Efraín Bámaca Velásquez disappeared. Investigations led by his wife, American lawyer Jennifer Harbury, suggest that Pérez, who was head of Guatemalan Military Intelligence at the time, probably issued the orders to detain and torture her husband.[20] [21] [22] Hearings held by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights revealed that on March 12, 1992, the local Guatemalan army captured Efraín Bámaca alive; that the army had secretly detained and tortured Bámaca for over a year before killing him in September 1993 without trial; and that his torturers and killers were paid CIA informants. [23] [24]

Allegations of involvement in the murder of Bishop Gerardi

In his book The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?, American journalist Francisco Goldman gives evidence that Pérez Molina may have been present a few blocks from the murder of Juan José Gerardi Conedera, a Roman Catholic bishop and human rights defender. Gerardi was murdered two days after the release of a human rights report he helped prepare for the United Nation's Historical Clarification Commission.[25] Gerardi served as bishop of Quiché from 1980-1983.

Attacks on Pérez's family and associates

On 11 November 2000, Pérez's son, Otto Pérez Leal, was attacked by gunmen while driving with his wife and infant daughter. On 21 February 2001, three days before Pérez was scheduled to launch his new political party, masked gunmen attacked and wounded his daughter Lissette. The same day, masked gunmen shot and killed Patricia Castellanos Fuentes de Aguilar, who had just departed her house after meeting with Pérez's wife, Rosa María Leal. Human rights groups claimed that the attacks were politically motivated.[26][27]

During the 2007 presidential campaign, several members of the Patriotic Party were killed by armed assailants, including a 33-year-old indigenous woman, Aura Marina Salazar Cutzal, who was secretary to the party's congressional delegation and assistant to Pérez.[28][29]


  1. Otto Pérez Molina. (in Spanish)
  2. "Ex-General Elected President In Guatemala". National Public Radio. 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  3. [1]
  4. Otto Pérez Molina.
  5. "Notorious Guatemalan School of the Americas Graduates". Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  6. "Apoyo Crónica Guatemala.- Otto Pérez Molina, el general retirado que apuesta por "mano dura" para resolver los problemas." (in Spanish). 2007-09-08. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  7. CERIGUA Weekly Briefs, Feb. 21, 1994 [2]
  8. [3]
  9. "Guatemala heads for run-off vote". BBC News. 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  10. "Ex-general wins Guatemalan presidential election". CBS News. 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  12. Emily Willard (November 14, 2011). "Otto Pérez Molina, Guatemalan President-Elect, with “Blood on his hands”". The National Security Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  13. Mica Rosenberg and Mike McDonald (November 11, 2011). "New Guatemala leader faces questions about past". Reuters. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  14. "Guatemala Human Rights Commission". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. September 27, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  15. "Allegation Letter sent to UN". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. July 6, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  16. Ian Bremmer (July 21, 2011). "In Guatemala, troubles ahead and troubles behind". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  17. "Denuncian a Pérez Molina por genocidio y tortura de indígenas en Guatemala" (in Spanish). Europa Press. July 20, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  18. Asier Andrés (July 7, 2011). "Harbury pide a relator de ONU que investigue a Pérez". El Periodico de Guatemala. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  19. Nicolas Casey (November 5, 2011). "Raging Drug War Boosts Controversial Ex-General". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  20. Interactive graphic (November 5, 2011). "Portrait of a General: Timeline of General Otto Perez Molina". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  21. Democracy Now! (September 17, 2011). "Youtube interview with Jennifer Harbury". Youtube. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  22. Amy Goodman (September 17, 2011). "Genocide-Linked General Otto Pérez Molina Poised to Become Guatemala’s Next President". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  23. Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (June 8, 2010). "The Bamaca Case - an 18-year Struggle for Justice". Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  24. Megan Hagler and Francisco Rivera (Human Rights Brief 9 (3). 2002.). [ "Bámaca Velásquez V. Guatemala: An Expansion of the Inter-American System's Jurisprudence on Reparations"]. American University, Washington College of Law. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  25. Nathaniel Popper (July 7, 2008). "The Novelist and the Murderers". The Nation magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  26. U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, March 4, 2002 Guatemala. (2002-03-04). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  27. Guatemala. (2003-03-31). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  28. Matan a secretaria de Pérez Molina y a guardia de la SAAS | elPeriódico de Guatemala. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  29. Search – Global Edition – The New York Times. International Herald Tribune (2009-03-29). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.