Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, center, his Vice
Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, center, his Vice

Retired general Otto Perez has been sworn in as Guatemala's new president. 

In his inaugural address Saturday in Guatemala City before a crowd that included more than a dozen heads-of-state, Perez appealed to Mexico and the United States to help Guatemala fight drug trafficking.

Drug cartels from neighboring Mexico have occupied large sections of Guatemala, bringing with them a surge of violence that has pushed the country's murder rate to one of the highest in the world.

President Perez told the crowd Saturday "change has begun" and said that he and his administration "are committed to peace and integral security."                                                                                                                              
He succeeds Alvaro Colom and inherits a government tough financial straits.

Perez is the first military officer to lead the Central American country since the military turned the government over to civilians 25 years ago.

Perez  won over voters in part because of his tough stance against corruption, drugs and crime.

President Perez was reminded of the challenges ahead when a prospective member of his administration, a congressman, Valentin Leal Caal, was gunned down outside the campaign headquarters of the ruling party on Friday.

Police have not announced an arrest in the murder.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.