Otto Pérez Molina

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Otto Pérez Molina
Otto Perez Molina at World Economic Forum 2013-cropped.jpg
36th President of Guatemala
In office
14 January 2012 – 3 September 2015
Vice President Roxana Baldetti (2012–2015)
Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre (2015)
Preceded by Álvaro Colom
Succeeded by Alejandro Maldonado (acting)
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
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Pérez and the second or maternal family name is Molina.

Otto Fernando Pérez Molina (born 1 December 1950)[1] is a Guatemalan politician, retired military officer, and the President of Guatemala from 2012 to 2015. 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] On being elected President, he called for the legalization of drugs.[4]

On 2 September 2015, beset by corruption allegations and having been stripped of his immunity by Congress the day earlier, Pérez presented his resignation.[5][6] He was arrested on 3 September 2015.[7]

Military career[edit]

Pérez is a graduate of Guatemala's National Military Academy (Escuela Politécnica),[8] the School of the Americas[9] and of the Inter-American Defense College.[10]

He has served as Guatemala's Director of Military Intelligence[11] and as inspector-general of the army.[12] 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.[13]

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 Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia). (See 1993 Guatemalan constitutional crisis.)[14]

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,[15] Pérez represented the military in the negotiations with guerrilla forces. They achieved the 1996 Peace Accords.[16]

Between 1998 and 2000, Pérez represented Guatemala on the Inter-American Defense Board.[12]

Political career[edit]

In February 2001, he founded the Patriotic Party.[17] In the general election of 9 November 2003, Pérez was elected to Congress.[18]

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 9 September, he lost the election to Álvaro Colom of the National Unity of Hope in the second round on 4 November 2007.[19]

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 an assistant to Pérez.[20][21]


Pérez was finally elected in the November 2011 presidential election with 54% of the vote, and took office on 14 January 2012.[22] Pérez was the first former military official to be elected to the presidency since Guatemala's return to democratic elections in 1986.[23]

He proposed the legalisation of drugs when he first became president while attending the United Nations General Assembly,[24] as he said that the War on Drugs has proven to be a failure.[4]

Corruption charges and arrest[edit]

In April 2015, international prosecutors, with help from the UN, presented evidence of a customs corruption ring ("La Línea") in which discounted tariffs were exchanged for bribes from importers; prosecutors learned of the ring through wiretaps and financial statements.[25] Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned on 8 May, and was arrested for her involvement on 21 August.[26] On 21 August, Guatemalan prosecutors presented evidence of Pérez's involvement in the corruption ring.[5] Congress, in a 132–0 vote,[5] stripped Pérez Molina of prosecutorial immunity on 1 September 2015, and, on 2 September, he presented his resignation from the Presidency.[25]

On 3 September, after a court hearing in which charges and evidence against him were presented, he was arrested and sent to the Matamoros prison in Guatemala City.[25] Vice President Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre was appointed to serve the remainder of Pérez's 4-year term in office (due to end on 14 January 2016).[27]

Accusations of human rights abuses[edit]

Civil war misconduct[edit]

In 2011 reports were made, based on United States' National Security Archives, that Pérez was involved in the scorched earth campaigns of the 1980s under the military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.[28] Pérez commanded a counterinsurgency team in the Ixil Community in 1982-3 and is accused of ordering the mass murder of civilians, destruction of villages and resettlement of the remaining population in army-controlled areas.[29][30] Investigative journalist Allan Nairn interviewed Pérez Molina in Ixil in 1982, and reported that Pérez Molina had been involved in the torture and murder of four suspected guerrillas.[31][32]

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.[33][34][35] 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]."[36]

Pérez has denied any involvement in atrocities. Declassified US documents support this, presenting him as one of the most progressive Guatemalan military officers, who had a hand in the downfall of General Ríos Montt.[29][37]

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

In 1992, the guerrilla leader Efraín Bámaca Velásquez disappeared. His wife, American lawyer Jennifer Harbury, has presented evidence that Pérez, who was Director of Military Intelligence at the time, probably issued the orders to detain and torture the commandante.[38][39][40]

In 2011, he became the subject of a new investigation into the disappearance of Bámaca.[41]

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 argues 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.[42] Prosecutors in the subsequent trial said that Pérez and the other two men were there to supervise the assassination.[43] Gerardi was murdered two days after the release of a human rights report he helped prepare for the United Nations' Historical Clarification Commission.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Pérez is married to Rosa María Leal.

On 21 February 2000, shortly before Pérez planned to launch his new political party, his daughter Lissette was attacked by a gunman.[45] The same day, a woman named Patricia Castellanos Fuentes de Aguilar was shot and killed after meeting with Pérez's wife, Rosa María Leal.[45] On 11 November 2000, Pérez's son, Otto Pérez Leal, was attacked while driving; Pérez Leal's wife and infant daughter were also in the vehicle.[45] Human rights groups[which?] said that the attacks were politically motivated.[45][46]


  1. ^ Otto Pérez Molina. (in Spanish)
  2. ^ "Ex-General Elected President In Guatemala". NPR. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2011. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b "The summit of muted intentions". Al Jazeera. 31 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Malkin, Elisabeth; Ahmed, Azam (1 September 2015). "President Otto Pérez Molina Is Stripped of Immunity in Guatemala". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ "Guatemala President Resigns Amid Corruption Probe". The New York Times. Associated Press. 3 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Romo, Rafael; Botelho, Greg (3 September 2015). "Otto Pérez Molina out as Guatemala's President, jailed". CNN. 
  8. ^ Otto Pérez Molina at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2010).
  9. ^ "Notorious Guatemalan School of the Americas Graduates". Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "Apoyo Crónica Guatemala.- Otto Pérez Molina, el general retirado que apuesta por "mano dura" para resolver los problemas." (in Spanish). 8 September 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "ALLEGATION LETTER". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "Otto Perez Molina". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  13. ^ "Guatemala profile - Leaders". BBC News. 27 August 2015. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Jorge Serrano Elias". CIDOB. 
  15. ^ CERIGUA Weekly Briefs, Feb. 21, 1994
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "Otto Perez, Guatemala's fallen crime-fighter". Yahoo! News. 3 September 2015. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  18. ^ "Praise for Guatemala’s President". The New York Times. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  19. ^ "Guatemala heads for run-off vote". BBC News. 10 September 2007. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Matan a secretaria de Pérez Molina y a guardia de la SAAS | elPeriódico de Guatemala. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  21. ^ The New York Times. International Herald Tribune (29 March 2009). Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  22. ^ "Ex-general wins Guatemalan presidential election". CBS News. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Profile: Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina". BBC News. 15 January 2012. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  24. ^ Bryan Llenas. "Guatemalan President Argues Drug Legalization and Calls Out US Anti-Drug Effort". Fox News Latino. 
  25. ^ a b c Malkin, Elisabeth (3 September 2015). "President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala Resigns Amid Scandal". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ "Guatemala: ex-Vice-President Baldetti held on fraud charges". BBC. 21 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Miller, Michael E. (3 September 2015). "Guatemalan president resigns after judge orders him to face corruption charges". The Washington Post. 
  28. ^ Emily Willard (14 November 2011). "Otto Pérez Molina, Guatemalan President-Elect, with "Blood on his hands"". The National Security Archives. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  29. ^ a b Mica Rosenberg and Mike McDonald (11 November 2011). "New Guatemala leader faces questions about past". Reuters. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  30. ^ "Guatemala Human Rights Commission". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. 27 September 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  31. ^ "Exclusive: Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres". Democracy Now!. 19 April 2013. 
  32. ^ Louisa Reynolds (May 22, 2013). "The witness who would have accused the US and Pérez Molina". Plaza Publica. Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  33. ^ "Allegation Letter sent to UN". Guatemala Human Rights Commission. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  34. ^ Ian Bremmer (21 July 2011). "In Guatemala, troubles ahead and troubles behind". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  35. ^ "Denuncian a Pérez Molina por genocidio y tortura de indígenas en Guatemala" (in Spanish). Europa Press. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  36. ^ Asier Andrés (7 July 2011). "Harbury pide a relator de ONU que investigue a Pérez". El Periodico de Guatemala. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  38. ^ Interactive graphic (5 November 2011). "Portrait of a General: Timeline of General Otto Perez Molina". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  39. ^ Democracy Now! (17 September 2011). "Youtube interview with Jennifer Harbury". YouTube. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  40. ^ Amy Goodman (17 September 2011). "Genocide-Linked General Otto Pérez Molina Poised to Become Guatemala’s Next President". Democracy Now!. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  41. ^ Nicolas Casey (5 November 2011). "Raging Drug War Boosts Controversial Ex-General". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  42. ^ Goldman, Francisco. The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?. p. 306. 
  43. ^ Goldman, Francisco. The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?. p. 243. 
  44. ^ Nathaniel Popper (7 July 2008). "The Novelist and the Murderers". The Nation. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  45. ^ a b c d U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 4 March 2002 Guatemala. (4 March 2002). Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  46. ^ Guatemala. (31 March 2003). Retrieved 15 January 2012.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Álvaro Colom
President of Guatemala
Succeeded by
Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre