Otto Pérez Molina

Elected at the end of 2011, General Otto Pérez Molina was inaugurated as President of Guatemala in early 2012. After training at Guatemala’s National Military Academy, the School of the Americas and the Inter-American Defence College, Pérez Molina served in the Guatemalan army’s special forces known as the Kaibiles which are described by Wikipedia as “notoriously brutal”[1] and by the Commission for Historical Clarification (Comisión para el Esclaracimiento Histórico, CEH) as “a killing machine”.[2]

He later became director of military intelligence and inspector-general of the army, but during the 1978 – 1982 period of slaughter in the Guatemalan countryside he served as a major in the Ixil Triangle in the El Quiché department of Guatemala. It was here that acts of genocide were routinely committed against local Mayan populations. These acts were documented by the United Nations sponsored Truth Commission[3] which reported on war crimes and acts of genocide committed during the 35 years of internal conflict and which found that the military had been responsible for 93 per cent of the 660 massacres which took place during the conflict. Over a half of all the massacres took place in El Quiché department and many of these took place in the Ixil Triangle where Pérez Molina was in charge of counter-insurgency at a time when 80 – 90 per cent of the villages were razed.[4]

The Truth Commission was unable to name individuals involved in the slaughter, but a letter of allegation sent in July 2011 by three human rights defenders[5] to the United Nations accused Pérez of involvement in genocide and torture committed in El Quiché during the Guatemalan war.[6] Pérez has always denied any wrongdoing during the war and is proud of his record, particularly his involvement in the peace process negotiations. Despite this involvement in the peace process, investigative reporter Allan Nairn has demonstrated the links between the operations of the Guatemalan death squads at the same time (1994) as the G-2 Intelligence Unit was headed by Pérez Molina.[7] Prosecutors, however, have declined to pursue actions against him on the grounds that the evidence is believed to be slim.[8]

In his election campaign, Pérez tried to reach out to indigenous groups and to emphasise his progressive and reforming side, despite his promises to crack down on violent crime and drug traffickers with an ‘iron fist’.

[1] Wikipedia entry for Otto Pérez Molina (19 March 2012) (accessed 23.03.12).
[2] Commission for Historical Clarification (February 1999) ‘Guatemala: Memory of Silence’, available at: (accessed 14.04.12).
[3] Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) (1999) ‘Memoria de Silencio’, United Nations.
[4] Mica Rosenberg and Mike McDonald (11 November 2011) ‘New Guatemala leader faces questions about past’, (accessed 1 April 2012).
[5] Annie Bird, Co-Director, Rights Action; Jennifer K. Harbury, human rights attorney; and Kelsey Alford-Jones, Director, Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA.
[6] Europa Press (20 July 2011) ‘Denuncian a Pérez Molina por genocidio y tortura de indígenas en Guatemala’, (accessed 1 April 2012).
[7] Allan Nairn (17 April 1995) ‘CIA Death Squads’, available at: (accessed 19.04.12).
[8] Op.cit. (Rosenberg and McDonald).