Pérez Molina Leads Guatemala Election But Faces November Run-Off

September 12, 2011 12:29 pm 0 comments

Guatemalans voting during the last presidential election.

The former military general who promised a tough stance on violent crime took first place in Guatemala’s presidential elections Sunday, but failed to garner over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off in November.

Otto Pérez Molina, a military man who played key roles in the country’s civil war and in negotiating the 1996 peace accords, led the race with 37 percent of the votes after four-fifths of the votes were tallied by Monday morning. Businessman Manuel Baldizón came in second with 23 percent of the vote.

“We are confident that in the next round, the second round on November 6, we will win again and win by a strong margin,” Pérez Molina said.

The two candidates platforms for their run-off will focus of security and combating violence in Guatemala, which were issues that both focused heavily on in their initial campaigns. Guatemala has become a major transit point for drugs coming to the United States from South America.

Between 2008 and 2009, the amount of illegal drugs seized in Guatemala doubled and authorities said that Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel has developed a strong presence in the country, especially near the northern border with Mexico.

Pérez Molina promised an “iron fist” approach to violent crime and fighting drug traffickers, but some analysts said that his failure to win outright suggests that there are concerns about his military past and that his crime-fighting plans may have been underestimated.

For his part, Baldizón has also taken a tough stance toward fighting crime, especially in northern Guatemala where he has built a network of businesses. His campaign pushed for requiring companies to give workers an extra paycheck, expanding Guatemala’s National Guard as well as greater use of the death penalty despite human right’s concerns.

If Pérez Molina were to win the run-off, he would be the first former member of the military to be president since the return of democracy in 1986, after the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s. Human Rights advocates and some Guatemalans worry that there could be a return to extrajudicial killings that were rampant during the civil war.

“We’ve already seen the work the generals do,” said Mauricio Vaquez, who lives in a village near Cotzal, according to The New York Times. “A lot of people say they know the mountains. They know because they pursued us here, and that’s why we don’t want them.”

Other Guatemalans, however, see Pérez Molina’s strict view of crime-fighting as the only way to regain law and order in the country.

“He has the leadership to normalize the crime here,” said Gasper Utuy, from Chajul in the mountainous Ixil region. “I am not scared of the past returning because it can’t return. We had a war because of the guerrillas and now they’re not there. Now we have narcos and the Patriot Party can take care of that.”

Sunday’s election to replace current President Álvaro Colom was the country’s fourth since the return to democracy at the end of the 36-year old civil war. While violence during the election season was down from 2007, dozens of local and legislative candidates and aides were still killed during the campaign.

Spending for campaigns also reached an all-time high, due in large part to an influx of cash to candidates from Mexican drug cartels.

Photo: ERIS @ Flickr

No Comments

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Mexican Troops Executed Victims in June Slayings, Rights Body Finds

    Mexican Troops Executed Victims in June Slayings, Rights Body Finds

    Top Story — Mexican troops executed up to 15 of the 22 suspected gang members killed in June in the small town of San Pedro Limón, according to an investigation by the government’s human rights agency. The account by Raúl Plascencia, president of the commission, contradicted several prior versions of a murky story offered at various stages by the military, the Attorney General’s office and an eyewitness. Plascencia called for prosecutors to investigate a potential cover-up by military officials. At […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean News Briefs North America As World Series Begins, So Does ‘Latin American Pipeline’ to MLB

    As World Series Begins, So Does ‘Latin American Pipeline’ to MLB

    When the opening pitch is thrown Tuesday night in game one of the World Series, a number of Latin American players will be front and center under the bright stadium floodlights. What won’t be on display, however, are some of the darker stories behind how many Latin Americans make it to play in Major League Baseball in the first place. This season, Latin American players made up close to a quarter of all MLB players — a staggering 86 percent of […]

    Read more →
  • Chile Southern Cone Today in Latin America Pinochet Bodyguard and Ex-Mayor Arrested in Santiago

    Pinochet Bodyguard and Ex-Mayor Arrested in Santiago

    Top Story — Chilean authorities have arrested a former aide to Gen. Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of committing various atrocities under the 1973-1990 military dictatorship. A judge on Monday ordered the arrest of retired military colonel Cristian Labbe on charges of “unlawful association” with a group that ultimately became the DINA secret police force. Labbe was allegedly involved in the murder of 13 people under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Those 13 people, investigators found, were tortured and executed at the notorious Tejas […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Cuba Today in Latin America Latin American Ministers Will Meet in Havana to Discuss Ebola Fight

    Latin American Ministers Will Meet in Havana to Discuss Ebola Fight

    Top Story — Top health officials from several Latin American countries are meeting today in Havana, Cuba, to discuss joint efforts to combat Ebola, as fears grow over the virus’ potential to spread to the region. Leaders from the socialist ALBA bloc, which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and several Caribbean countries, will meet to coordinate efforts following unilateral travel bans by several countries in the region. On Saturday, retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro penned a column in the […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazilian Man Confesses to Killing 39 People, Attempts Suicide in Jail

    Brazilian Man Confesses to Killing 39 People, Attempts Suicide in Jail

    Top Story — A Brazilian man confessed to committing at least 39 murders after police arrested him in the city of Goiânia on Thursday after a 70-day investigation. Thiago Henrique Gomes de Rocha, a 26-year-old security guard, seems to have targeted women, homeless people and homosexuals. De Rocha, who committed the murders over three years, approached his victims on a motorcycle before demanding their belongings and then shooting them. Police noted de Rocha’s “coldness” and extreme rage when recounting his […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Falling Oil Prices Raise Worries of Venezuela Default, Crisis

    Falling Oil Prices Raise Worries of Venezuela Default, Crisis

    Top Story — Analysts are worried about a new phase of economic chaos in Venezuela as falling oil prices continue to take their toll. Insurance rates on the country’s debt shot up Wednesday to a new high, more than three times the size of the rate in late June, after a drop in oil prices raised worries the country may fail to pay off its obligations to foreign bondholders. The spike in Venezuela’s bond insurance rates means it costs investors […]

    Read more →
  • Caribbean Haiti North America Today in Latin America U.N. Extends Controversial Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti

    U.N. Extends Controversial Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti

    Top Story — The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) will be renewed for another year, the U.N. Security Council announced on Tuesday. The council, composed of 15 nations, unanimously decided to renew the MINUSTAH mandate, though the number of military personnel in Haiti will be reduced from 5,000 to 2,370. The number of police personnel will remain unchanged. MINUSTAH was initially created in 2004 after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a coup, leading to violence and […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Mexican Radio Host Shot Dead on the Air

    Mexican Radio Host Shot Dead on the Air

    Top Story — Mexican activist and radio host Atilano Roman Tirado was shot on-air during his weekly program Oct. 11 in the state of Sinaloa. Two gunmen forced their way into the radio studio of Fiesta Mexicana where Tirado hosted his Saturday morning program “Así es mi Tierra.” Listeners of the program could hear a shot fired around 10:40 a.m. followed by a co-worker’s voice saying, “he killed him.” Programming on the station did not resume for another 30 minutes. […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Bolivia Dispatches Bolivians in New York Cast Votes for President, Favoring Opposition

    Bolivians in New York Cast Votes for President, Favoring Opposition

    NEW YORK – When Bolivians in New York City cast their votes in a presidential election Sunday, most of them went against the trend that swept President Evo Morales into his third term. While Morales won around 60 percent of the vote in Bolivia, New York voters gave him just over a quarter of their vote, preferring instead the opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina. The remote election in New York was held at a public school in the Latino enclave […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Mexico Arrests Another Drug Cartel Kingpin

    Mexico Arrests Another Drug Cartel Kingpin

    Top Story – Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alleged leader of Mexico’s Juarez cartel, was captured in the Mexican city of Torreon, the Associated Press reports. This is the second arrest in two weeks of a major Mexican cartel leader, following that of Hector Beltrán Leyva, of the Beltran Leyva organization on Oct. 1. Nicknamed “The Viceroy,” or “The General,” Fuentes had a $5 million reward for his arrest in the United States and a $2.2 million reward in Mexico. He took […]

    Read more →