Guatemala profile

President: Otto Perez Molina

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina

President Perez Molina promised to govern with an iron fist

Former army general Otto Perez Molina was elected in November 2011. He is the first former military leader to become president in Guatemala after the end of the regimes of the 1970s and '80s.

He defeated populist businessman Manuel Baldizon, winning nearly 54% of the vote.

After his election, Mr Perez promised to govern with an iron fist to reduce to half the homicide rate in a country living under the threat of gangs, organised crime and international drug traffickers.

He also announced plans to rejig the country's fiscal system to reduce tax avoidance and boost government revenues.

However, with his right-wing Patriotic Party controlling only 54 of 158 in Congress (parliament), his administration was expected to face tough negotiations to have legislation passed.

Intelligence officer

Born in 1950 in Guatemala City, Mr Perez was educated at Guatemala's National Military Academy and the US School of the Americas, before going on to a career as a military intelligence officer.

He was one of the group of army officers who backed the 1983 coup of Defence Minister Oscar Mejia against military ruler Efrain Rios Montt, whose regime was accused by a UN report of having committed atrocities during the civil war.

Mr Perez himself has denied any involvement in rights abuses during his time as army general.

As head of the army's powerful intelligence service, he played a key role in instigating the 1993 departure of then President Jorge Serrano, who had sought to acquire extraordinary powers by dissolving Congress and appointing new members to the Supreme Court.

Mr Perez represented the military at peace talks that ended the 36-year-old civil war in 1996. He founded the Patriotic Party in 2001, was elected to Congress in 2001 and came second to Alvaro Colom in the 2007 presidential election.

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