September 10, 2011
Source: Huffington Post
By Michael Deibert
Guatemalans will go to the polls in the fourth presidential election since 1996 peace accords ended that country's 30-year civil war, a conflict that claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, mostly indigenous campesinos caught in the struggle between a militarily-weak leftist insurgency and the ruthless scorched-earth tactics of a national army.
The likely winner of the election will be the man who represented that army during those accords, 60 year-old retired general Otto Pérez Molina. A recent poll by the Guatemala firm Borge y Asociados gave Pérez Molina 48.9 percent of the vote, nearly enough to avoid a November runoff ballot.
Pérez Molina's rise in Guatemalan politics says much about the unfulfilled promise of those 15 year-old accords, and about the vexing problems that still confront Central America's most populous country.
A 1973 graduate of Guatemala's military academy, Pérez Molina came of age in a country ruled by military dictators and where the military itself was divided between those who advocated a take-no-prisoners approach to prosecuting Guatemala's civil war and others who others who advocated a strategy of pacification and stabilization, combining development projects and military objectives while killing only as many rebels and suspected sympathizers as "needed" to be killed.
This is what passed for enlightenment during the civil war, and, though Pérez Molina allied himself with the latter camp, enlightenment proved to be a relative term.
By the summer of 1982, the country was under the rule of Efraín Ríos Montt, a former general turned born-again evangelical Christian who had seized power after the chaotic four-year reign of General Fernando Romeo Lucas García.