“From the first day on, Guatemalans are going to see they've got a president committed to defending the lives and safety of all Guatemalans.”
These are the words of the next president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina of the Patriot Party, who easily won a run-off election in Guatemala yesterday with his "iron fist" platform. His easy victory speaks to the perceptions of insecurity in the nation.
It is also a turning point for Guatemalans. Mr. Pérez Molina is a retired general, the first military official to take helm of the country since the return to democracy 25 years ago.
Guatemalans had been wary of links to the military since dictatorship and extrajudicial killings by security mar the nation's history.
But, in the context of a high murder rate and a country feeling that local street gangs and Mexican drug trafficking organizations are taking away their sense of peace, many were attracted to his security platform.
Voters have repeated that over and over, as we reported here ahead of first round elections. "I'll vote for Otto Pérez Molina. For the last four years we've suffered from worse and worse security," says Luis Fernando Cashaj, a young resident of La Antigua, one of Guatemala's safest cities, who was recently robbed at knifepoint. "I think he's a sincere person and a military man. If we had better security, many of the smaller problems would go away."
Pérez Molina says he will dedicate 60 percent of resources on security, boosting troops by 2,500 and the police by 10,000. It is not unlike what Mexico is itself doing.
Human rights groups have expressed concern over Pérez Molina’s role in the country's civil war, and guest blogger Mike Allison has argued that the security situation is being exaggerated to a certain point. Read his interesting pre-election coverage here.
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