Retired Army General Otto Pérez Molina (photo) won Sunday's runoff presidential election in Guatemala, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation. Pérez led with more than 53 percent of the vote, Guatemala's election authority said. His opponent, businessman Manuel Baldizón, garnered 46 percent of the vote. Both candidates had promised to tackle growing insecurity and the presence of Mexican drug gangs in the country, an area of special concern to the Central American nation, due to its prominence as a key transit point for drugs from South America to the United States.
Pérez, a retired army general who pledged to take a tough stand on crime, was the frontrunner heading into the election. He won the most votes in the first round of voting in September. Low voter turnout was reported in Sunday's election, according to the state-run AGN news agency. The issue of security in Guatemala, which has worsened as Mexican drug cartels have stepped up operations in parts of the country, dominated the vote. In a Vox Latina national survey in July, more than two-thirds of Guatemalans said violence was what concerned them most, far outpacing the combined totals for the economy, unemployment, poverty, and lack of education. In a debate co-hosted by CNN en Español this year, Pérez called for "elite units of the army" to play a larger role in the nation's battle against gangs and drug cartels. The retired general pledged to bring a mano dura — firm hand — to Guatemala's highest office.
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