Guatemala: Otto Perez Molina elected president
November 6, 2011
Right-wing former army general Otto Perez Molina won the presidential run-off election on 6 November and will take office as President in January next year. According to preliminary results published by the Supreme Electoral Court (Tribunal Supremo Electoral), and with almost all valid votes counted the Patriotic Party (Partido Patriota) candidate obtained 54% of the votes. Meanwhile his opponent, businessman Manuel Baldizon, from the Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (LIDER, Libertad Democratica Renovada) captured 46% of the votes. The result was widely expected by private sector analysts, as final opinion polls taken one week before the elections showed that Otto Perez Molina was leading by 10 to 20 points over Baldizon. In a country with more than half of the population living below the poverty line and one of the highest murder rates in Latin America ? a product of organised crime, drug cartels and the legacy of the 1960-1996 civil war ? Perez, the first military leader to be elected president in 25 years, has pledged to boost security spending in order to stem the country's rising tide of violence, promising a firm hand policy against street gangs and drug cartels. Some international organisations fret that a former military general, who commanded troops and served as the head of the military intelligence during the 36-year civil war, will be at the country's helm for the next four years. Nonetheless, Perez promised that he will allow investigations into human rights abuses during his military past. In addition to fighting the increasing presence of organised crime and violence, Guatemala's future president also promised to continue the popular social welfare programs that his predecessor alvaro Colom installed during his presidency. However, he will also need to garner parliamentary support for fiscal reform, as Guatemala suffers from one of the lowest tax revenue levels in the region.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist