February 23, 2001

Ex-general won't leave Guatemala despite attacks on family

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- A retired general who helped end Guatemala's civil
                  war said recent attacks on his family won't force him to flee the country and that
                  he plans to form his own political party.

                  "We are not going anywhere," retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina told reporters
                  Thursday night. "I will stay here with my family. We are not altering any of our

                  Molina also said he plans to announce the formation of a new "populist" military
                  party, which he will head. But he stopped short of saying whether it would give
                  him a platform to mount a 2004 presidential campaign, as widely speculated on
                  Guatemalan radio and television.

                  On Wednesday, men wielding shotguns and automatic weapons opened fire on
                  Molina's daughter as she pulled out of the driveway of her home in a posh
                  Guatemala City neighborhood.

                  Lizeth Perez, 27, suffered gunshot wounds to her arms, shoulders and back and
                  was listed in stable condition late Thursday.

                  At the same time, a contingent shot at Molina's wife, Rosita de Perez, while she
                  was driving through a shopping mall parking lot. Perez escaped unharmed, but
                  gunfire killed a woman driving a car in front of her.

                  With Wednesday's daytime attacks, gunmen now have attacked Molina's family
                  three times in less than four months. In November, attackers shot up the car of
                  the general's son, injuring the son's wife.

                  No one has been arrested for any of the attacks, but Government Minister Byron
                  Barrientos said Wednesday night that authorities suspect a band of car thieves
                  may be involved.

                  Molina disputed that, saying he believes the attacks were politically motivated.

                  Molina critical of president

                  Molina was a lead negotiator in peace talks that ended Guatemala's 36-year civil
                  war. He has sharply criticized President Alfonso Portillo and former dictator
                  Efrain Rios Montt in his weekly column for Prensa Libre, a Guatemala City daily.

                  Guatemala's Constitution bars Portillo from running again, and recent public
                  opinion polls put the president's approval rating at only about 30 percent.

                  Portillo's plummeting popularity has prompted his party, which enjoys a majority
                  in Guatemala's unicameral Congress, to hint it may call a constitutional
                  referendum that could allow Rios Montt to seek the party's presidential

                  Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala with an iron first for 18 months between 1982
                  and 1983, was elected president of Congress in 1999. He said last autumn he
                  was considering retiring from Congress soon -- a move which would give him
                  time to cultivate a presidential campaign of his own.

                  Portillo said on Thursday that the president might ask the U.S. State Department
                  for help in investigating the latest round of attacks.

                  Molina served as defense minister between 1995 and 1997 and retired from the
                  army earlier this year.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.