Otto Pérez Molina

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Otto Pérez Molina
Otto Perez Molina at World Economic Forum 2013-cropped.jpg
36th President of Guatemala
Assumed office
14 January 2012
Vice President Roxana Baldetti (2012-2015)
Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre (2015-Present)
Preceded by Álvaro Colom
Personal details
Born Otto Fernando Pérez Molina
(1950-12-01) 1 December 1950 (age 64)
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Political party Patriotic Party
Spouse(s) Rosa Leal
Children 2
Alma mater School of the Americas
Inter-American Defense College
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance  Guatemala
Service/branch Guatemalan Army
Years of service 1966–2000
Rank Brigade General

Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (born 1 December 1950)[1] is a Guatemalan politician and retired military officer who has been President of Guatemala since 14 January 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 León Carpio, and as chief representative of the military for the Guatemalan Peace Accords.[3] During his presidency, amongst his activities was a controversial call for the legalization of drugs.[4] On 1 September 2015, President Molina lost his immunity by unanimous decision of the Guatemalan Congress.

Military career[edit]

Pérez is a graduate of Guatemala's National Military Academy (Escuela Politécnica),[5] the School of the Americas[6] and of the Inter-American Defense College.[7]

During his time in the Guatemalan Army he served in the special forces (known as the Kaibiles), which had a reputation for brutality; as Director of Military Intelligence; and as 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. The president had attempted a "self-coup" by dissolving Congress and appointing new members to the Guatemalan Supreme Court.

In the wake of that event, Guatemala's human rights ombudsman, Ramiro de León Carpio, succeeded as president, according to the constitution. He 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 Guatemalan Civil War,[8] Pérez represented the military in the negotiations with guerrilla forces. They achieved the 1996 Peace Accords.[9]

Between 1998 and 2000, Pérez represented Guatemala on the Inter-American Defense Board. General Pérez retired from active military duty in January 2000.

Political career[edit]

On 24 February 2001, he founded the Patriotic Party.[citation needed] In the general election of 9 November 2003, the Patriotic Party aligned itself with two other parties in the Grand National Alliance. 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 crime in the country. After receiving the second-largest number of votes in the initial contest on September 9, he lost the election to Álvaro Colom of the National Unity of Hope in the second round on 4 November 2007.[10]

Pérez was finally elected in the November 2011 presidential election with 54% of the vote.[11] Pérez is the first former military official to be elected to the presidency since Guatemala's return to democratic elections in 1986.

He proposed the legalisation of drugs when he first became president while attending the United Nations,[12] as he said that the War on Drugs has been proved a failure, [4] yet there has been no change in this war as his four-year term nears completion.

Accusations of human rights abuses[edit]

Genocide involvement, deportations and torture participation[edit]

In 2011 reports were made, based on United States' National Security Archives, that Pérez carried out the scorched earth campaigns of the 1980s under the military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. At that time, up to 250,000 indigenous Mayan peasants were killed in a 16 months period by the Guatemalan military. Widespread genocidal rape and mass sexual violence as well as cultural destruction were common.[13] Pérez commanded a counterinsurgency team in the Ixil Community in 1982-3, and razed 80-90% of the villages. At least 184 civilians were killed or disappeared under his authority.[14][15][16]

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 civil war.[17][18][19] Among other evidence, they cited a 1982 documentary in which a military officer whom they claim is Pérez is seen near four dead bodies. In the following scene, a subordinate says that those four were captured alive and taken "to the Major" (allegedly Pérez) 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]."[20]

Pérez denied his involvement in any atrocities. "I have nothing to hide," he told Reuters. He said he was proud of his role in the civil war.[14] Pérez has never been charged with any human rights violations. In 2011, he became the subject of a new investigation into the disappearance in 1992 of the guerrilla commander Efraín Bámaca, an effort led by Guatemala's top prosecutor.[21]

Allegations of involvement in the killing of Efraín Bámaca[edit]

In 1992 the guerrilla leader Efraín Bámaca Velásquez disappeared. Investigations led by his wife, American lawyer Jennifer Harbury, suggest that Pérez, who was Director of Military Intelligence at the time, probably issued the orders to detain and torture the commandante.[22][23][24]

Hearings held by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights revealed that on 12 March 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.[25][26]

Allegations of involvement in the murder of catholic Bishop Gerardi[edit]

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 two other high officials, a few blocks from the April 1998 murder of Juan José Gerardi Conedera, a Roman Catholic bishop and human rights defender. He said Pérez and the other two men were there to supervise the assassination. Gerardi was murdered two days after the release of a human rights report he helped prepare for the United Nations' Historical Clarification Commission.[27] Gerardi served as bishop of Quiché from 1980 to 1983.

Attacks on Pérez's family and associates[edit]

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.[28][29]

During the 2007 presidential campaign, several members of the Patriotic Party were killed by armed assailants. Victims included Aura Marina Salazar Cutzal, an indigenous woman who was secretary to the party's congressional delegation and assistant to Pérez.[30][31]


  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. ^ a b "The summit of muted intentions". 2013-03-31. 
  5. ^ Otto Pérez Molina at the Wayback Machine (archived November 7, 2010).
  6. ^ "Notorious Guatemalan School of the Americas Graduates". Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ CERIGUA Weekly Briefs, Feb. 21, 1994
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ "Guatemala heads for run-off vote". BBC News. 2007-09-10. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  11. ^ "Ex-general wins Guatemalan presidential election". CBS News. 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2011-11-06. 
  12. ^ Guatemalan President Argues Drug Legalization and Calls Out US Anti-Drug Effort
  13. ^ Emily Willard (November 14, 2011). "Otto Pérez Molina, Guatemalan President-Elect, with "Blood on his hands"". The National Security Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Mica Rosenberg and Mike McDonald (November 11, 2011). "New Guatemala leader faces questions about past". Reuters. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  15. ^ "Guatemala Human Rights Commission". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. September 27, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  16. ^ "Exclusive: Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres". Democracy Now!. April 19, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Allegation Letter sent to UN". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. July 6, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Ian Bremmer (July 21, 2011). "In Guatemala, troubles ahead and troubles behind". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  19. ^ "Denuncian a Pérez Molina por genocidio y tortura de indígenas en Guatemala" (in Spanish). Europa Press. July 20, 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  20. ^ Asier Andrés (July 7, 2011). "Harbury pide a relator de ONU que investigue a Pérez". El Periodico de Guatemala. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  21. ^ Nicolas Casey (November 5, 2011). "Raging Drug War Boosts Controversial Ex-General". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  22. ^ Interactive graphic (November 5, 2011). "Portrait of a General: Timeline of General Otto Perez Molina". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  23. ^ Democracy Now! (September 17, 2011). "Youtube interview with Jennifer Harbury". Youtube. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  24. ^ Amy Goodman (September 17, 2011). "Genocide-Linked General Otto Pérez Molina Poised to Become Guatemala’s Next President". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ 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.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  27. ^ Nathaniel Popper (July 7, 2008). "The Novelist and the Murderers". The Nation magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  28. ^ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, March 4, 2002 Guatemala. (2002-03-04). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  29. ^ Guatemala. (2003-03-31). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  30. ^ Matan a secretaria de Pérez Molina y a guardia de la SAAS | elPeriódico de Guatemala. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  31. ^ The New York Times. International Herald Tribune (2009-03-29). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Álvaro Colom
President of Guatemala