Photo of Guatemalan president-elect Otto Perez Molina by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.
A high murder rate and drug gang violence drove Guatemalans to vote Sunday for a former military official who has vowed to put the army back on the streets.
Retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina of the right-wing Patriotic Party secured 54 percent of the vote in Sunday’s run-off election, compared to businessman and former congressman Manuel Baldizon’s 46 percent, with most of the votes counted, according to Reuters.
With his “iron fist” message, Perez Molina vowed to devote at least 60 percent of his time on security, deploy troops on the streets and increase the size of the police force.
“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,” he said late Sunday, the news agency reported.
Perez Molina’s former military status worried some international groups, but many in Guatemala’s young population don’t remember his involvement in the country’s 36-year civil war, according to the Associated Press.
“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,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.
That voter sentiment propelled Perez Molina to take the lead after first-round elections held in September.
Watch Ray Suarez’s report about violence in Guatemala, particularly against women:
Related Resource: BBC profile of Otto Perez Molina