Otto Pérez Molina
|Otto Pérez Molina|
|36th President of Guatemala|
14 January 2012
|Vice President||Roxana Baldetti|
|Preceded by||Álvaro Colom|
1 December 1950 |
Guatemala City, Guatemala
|Political party||Patriotic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Rosa Leal de Pérez|
|Alma mater||School of the Americas
Inter-American Defense College
|Years of service||1966 - 2000|
Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (born 1 December 1950) 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. 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. During his presidency, amongst his activities was a controversial call for the legalisation of drugs.
Military career 
Pérez is a graduate of Guatemala's National Military Academy (Escuela Politécnica), the School of the Americas and of the Inter-American Defense College. 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, Perez represented the military in the negotiations with guerrilla forces that led to the 1996 Peace Accords. 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. 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.
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.
In November 2011, he was elected president with 54% of the vote. Pérez is the first former military official to be elected to the presidency since Guatemala's return to democratic elections in 1986.
Accusations of human rights abuses 
Genocide and torture suspicions 
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. 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. 
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. 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]."
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. 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.
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. 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.
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, along with 2 other high officials, a few blocks from the murder of Juan José Gerardi Conedera, a Roman Catholic bishop and human rights defender; and alleges that this group was there to supervise the assassination. Gerardi was murdered two days after the release of a human rights report he helped prepare for the United Nation's Historical Clarification Commission. 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.
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.
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- Guatemala (1983 documentary) Parts 1
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- 4 5
|President of Guatemala