Retired military general Otto Pérez Molina has been sworn in as Guatemala’s new president. Pérez is the first former military official to win the Guatemalan presidency since the end of the military dictatorship in 1986.
Otto Pérez Molina: “Everyone rise and fly the blue and white flag in our hearts and work for change. We will have security, if we all work for it. We will have development, if we all make an effort. We will have peace, if everyone does their part, because Guatemala belongs to all of us, regardless of social or economic conditions.”
Otto Pérez Molina ran for office in Guatemala largely on a platform of using “an iron fist” to crack down on drug cartels. On his first day in office, Pérez called on the military to help “neutralize” organized crime in Guatemala. Pérez, who was trained at the U.S. military school formerly known as the School of the Americas, is also seeking an end to a U.S. ban on military aid to Guatemala. Human rights groups have accused Pérez of being directly involved in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide in Guatemala in the 1980s.
Jennifer Harbury, human rights attorney appearing on Democracy Now! last year: “Well, we’re all extremely concerned, given his background in human rights violations in Guatemala. He’s always declared that he was not involved in the genocidal campaign of 1982 in the Quiché Highlands, but in fact a video showing [journalist] Allan Nairn interviewing him, precisely as he stands over several battered corpses, has been making the rounds in Guatemala. He was a major at the time. And this, of course, was the year when 70 to 90 percent of the villages in the Ixil Triangle were razed.”