In 1974 the DCG formed part of the coalition that backed General Efraín Ríos Montt for President. Amidst allegations of fraud Ríos Montt lost to Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García. Cerezo was elected a deputy in the National Congress where the DCG, with 14 seats, became the largest party within the opposition.
In 1978 General Ricardo Peralta Méndez, the DCG candidate came second to Fernando Romeo Lucas García. During the Lucas García era 150 members of the DCG were murdered. The three surviving members of the Congress and the party were forced into hiding, not because of a ban but in fear of their lives. Yet Cerezo appeared at the March 1982 elections to support the opposition candidate Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre who lost out to the official candidate Ángel Aníbal Guevara Rodríguez. Suspecting fraud Maldonado and Cerezo and their followers launched a campaign denouncing the result. The result became academic when Efraín Ríos Montt took power in a coup, which the DCG and Cerezo initially supported. When it became clear that the repression in the countryside was becoming more indiscriminate, and, perhaps more importantly, that Ríos Montt was fanatically preaching an evangelical, messianic born again type of Christianity, Cerezo withdrew his support for the regime and demanded new elections. In 1983 General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores took power in another coup, which Cerezo cautiously supported. The DCG gained 21.2% of the vote in the 1984 National Congress elections, and with 20 of the 88 seats was the largest party. With this success behind them the DCG decided to postulate Cerezo for the 1985 presidential election. He began to promote the idea of talking to the United Guatemalan National Revolutionaries (URNG), an umbrella group containing the main three guerrilla groups.
On September 11 1987 he established the National Commission for Reconciliation (CNR), and on October 7 negotiations between the URNG and the government began. When they failed two days later, with the government refusing to accept the URNG's terms, Cerezo asked the United States of America for more military aid to further the counter insurgency efforts of the armed forces. On October 28 Congress passed a general political amnesty. Amidst rumors of plots and possible assassination attempts against Cerezo many also began to consider him as powerless and ineffective. After a farcical attempt by 2 colonels to take power on May 11 1988 on May 19 an Air force unit made a series of demands of the government, including breaking ties with pro-USSR countries and stopping any contacts with the URNG, as well as more money for better equipment and the removal of many local politicians. Cerezo admitted that he had had to submit to some of the military's demands in order to avoid a coup taking place. In August there was a three-week general strike in protest against the liberalization of petrol and other sources of fuel.
1989 saw a worsening of the political situation, with 1600 assassinations and 800 kidnappings or disappearances in the first half of the year. These were attributed to the political violence and the covert war between suspected extrajudicial right-wing forces and the URNG. On May 9 another attempted coup failed, and though the perpetrators were sentenced to long terms in jail that November, they were released on appeal the following January. On August 1 Danilo Barillas, the Secretary General of the DCG was assassinated, but on August 25 Cerezo came back with a new promise to renovate the public administration by consolidating democracy within 500 days (the time he had left in power); which he managed to achieve as we see democracy still stands to this day on Guatemala.
In 1990 during a thaw in diplomatic relations Cerezo invited the noted Russian linguist and epigrapher Yuri Knorozov to Guatemala to present him with a medal. Knorozov had been instrumental in the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphics, and this was the first opportunity for the scholar to visit the lands and sites of the former Maya civilization.
In May 1990 an important agreement was signed in Madrid with the URNG in which they promised not to disturb the forthcoming elections. With this success behind him Cerezo felt able to give a positive recapitulation of his presidency, and he was able to hand power over to his successor Jorge Serrano Elías in the first democratic transition of power since 1951. In this process the DCG did very badly, with its candidate, Alfonso Cabrera Hidalgo, not getting past the first round, but they still won 27 seats in the National Congress.
Then on December 1 a troop of soldiers massacred 24 campesinos in Santiago Atitlán in the department of Sololá. In the resulting outcry the US suspended military aid to Guatemala. President Cerezo was the one that stopped the massacre, this is portrayed in a monument in the central park of Santiago Atitlán.
In the 1999 elections, the first for which the DCG did not offer a presidential candidate, Cerezo won one of the two National Congress seats gained by his party. He was re-elected to Congress for the 2004-08 period in the November 2003 election, this time as the DCG's sole deputy.
At the 2007 election Cerezo lost his seat in Congress and his party gained no seats. His son, also named Vinicio Cerezo, ran for President but received less than 1% of the vote.
Vinicio Cerezo is currently building a ONG named Esquipulas after Esquipulas Procedure for a firm and lasting peace and a new Esquipulas conference called Esquipulas III (to follow the previous Esquipulas I & II) to further the integration of central America. He also is a political consultant.
Former Presidents of Costa Rica and Guatemala Oscar Arias and Vinicio Cerezo Participate in Debate at the OAS on 25 Years of Peace in Central America
Aug 09, 2012; WASHINGTON, DC -- The following information was released by the Organization of American States: The former President of Costa...