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Guatemala's retired general Perez wins presidential run-off

11-07-2011 15:35 BJT

by Maja Wallengren

GUATEMALA CITY/MEXICO CITY, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Guatemala's retired general Otto Perez Molina of the Patriot Party (PP) has won Sunday's presidential run-off in this Central American country.

In the latest results released Sunday by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal with more than 90 percent of the votes counted, Perez was ahead with 54.27 percent of the votes, while his rival Manuel Baldizon of the Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (Lider) trailed behind with 45.73 percent.

"For all the Guatemalans who have put their trust in me, I thank you very much. To those Guatemalans who did not vote for Otto Perez, I make a call to unite and to work together in the next four years, leaving aside party colors," Perez told his supporters.

The voting process was reported to have proceeded smoothly across Guatemala, with no election-related violence, but the two candidates, independent observers and election authorities said there was a noticeable reduction in voter participation.

Perez served in the army during the country's 36-year civil war and retired in 2000. He has pledged to end the country's rising violence by using tough measures.

Born on Dec. 1, 1950, Perez obtained a master's degree in political science from Guatemala's Francisco University.

He was head of the Military Intelligence Department from 1991 to 1993 and became head of the Presidential General Staff in 1993.

He was appointed Inspector General of the Army in 1996, and served as government representative at peace talks with the guerrillas.

On Feb. 24, 2001, Perez founded the PP, which formed the Great National Alliance in 2003 with the Reform Movement and the National Solidarity Party.

He once served as commissioner for defense and security in the government of former President Oscar Berger, but left the post over differences with Berger.

It is Perez's second bid for the presidency after losing to President Alvaro Colom in 2007.

Both Perez and Baldizon cast their votes soon after Guatemala's 16,000 voting centers opened at 7 a.m. (1300 GMT). The voting centers closed at 6 p.m.(0000 GMT).

"Guatemalans will make the correct decision when voting today," Perez told reporters after casting his vote in the capital Guatemala City.

During the campaign, Perez has promised that he will rule the country "with an iron fist" to curb the massive surge in gang violence and organized crime that in recent years have made Guatemala one of the world's most dangerous countries.

Guatemala now has the fourth highest per capita murder rate in the world, and many areas are more violent today than during the country's 1960-1996 civil war.

Perez also promised to promote development and create better living conditions for all Guatemalans.

But after winning the election, he will face a difficult financial situation, as the country's fiscal deficit has surpassed 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), forcing the government to increase its external and domestic debt to more than 15 billion U.S. dollars, or 20 percent of GDP.

Perez said he would boost tax collection to 14 percent of GDP in the next four years by cracking down on tax evasion.

For his part, Baldizon said the voting process had proceeded in a "normal way" without any incidents of fraud or other irregularities.

Octavio Bordon, head of the team of observers from the Organization of American States (OAS), said all 86 OAS observers monitoring Sunday's electoral process had reported the voting process was violence-free and transparent.

Over 32,400 security officers from both the army and police were deployed to ensure security during the voting process.

A total of 7.3 million Guatemalans, a little more than half of the country's 14 million population, were eligible to vote in Sunday's run-off.

The winner is expected to take over office from Colom in January for the 2012-2016 term.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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