On January 14, former General Otto Pérez Molina assumed office as the next president of Guatemala, promising change.  Pérez Molina has sworn that his administration will produce results within 6 months by implementing new iron-fist measures to curb soaring violence and organized crime.

Pérez Molina’s administration’s first acts include removing the indigenous peoples’ flag from the National Palace, citing that the flag represents division, and implementing a number of policies that will further militarize the state. Police-military task forces were almost immediately formed to combat extortions, murders, robbery, femicides and kidnappings, military patrols were deployed throughout the country and Pérez Molina has stated that he will seek the full re-instatement of U.S. military aid, restricted for decades due to the Guatemalan military’s involvement in brutal human rights violations during the war.

The Patriot Party’s governance plan is full of language reminiscent of military plans of the 1980s and in his inauguration speech Pérez Molina alluded to groups that refuse to let go of the past, but “rather appear to making a living off of it and continue to receive international support in some cases.”  Human rights groups have long expressed concern about how this administration will respond to cases seeking justice for crimes committed during the war.

Press conference about the genocide case.  Photo by Kevin Hayes

Pérez Molina has also vowed to stimulate rural development by creating a new ministry, passing a rural development law proposed by a coalition of campesino groups, expanding the electrical grid and mining licenses, and raising royalties for mining companies.  The Guatemalan press reported that Canadian mining giant Goldcorp has negotiated an increase in royalties from 1% to 3%.  The CEO of Goldcorp is among Canada’s 100 wealthiest CEOs.

Right-wing technocrats and military intelligence officials dominate Pérez Molina’s cabinet.  It remains to be seen how the emerging security apparatus and those in charge of implementing development plans will respond to social movements, land occupations and human rights defenders that challenge the administration in any way.

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