Thursday, September 3

Guatemala president resigns amid corruption scandal


Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina on Thursday resigned amid a growing political scandal that has seen his former vice president sent to jail and threatened to disrupt upcoming presidential elections.

Perez Molina, 64, submitted his resignation at midnight local time, according to his spokesman, who was quoted by a local newspaper.


The announcement came after a Guatemalan judge issued an unprecedented court order against Guatemala’s head of state as part of a fraud scandal that has engulfed his government.

The order was not for arrest, but required that Perez Molina answer questions from Judge Miguel Angel Galvea.

Perez Molina had his immunity from prosecution stripped by lawmakers on Tuesday in a fast-moving climax to a crisis that has roiled Guatemala for months.

The president will have to appear before the judge on accusations of illicit association, fraud and receiving bribe money in a customs racket.

The scandal has already claimed the job of former vice president Roxana Baldetti, whose former personal secretary was named as the alleged ringleader. Baldetti, who says she is innocent, resigned May 8 and is currently in jail awaiting trial on accusations she took millions of dollars in bribes.

Perez Molina, who also maintains his innocence, has vowed to face the legal process. No formal charges have been filed, though Aldana said there is a preliminary investigation under way into the president’s possible involvement in the fraud ring.

He is under an order not to leave the country.

The corruption scandal, uncovered by prosecutors and a UN commission probing criminal networks in Guatemala, involved a scheme known as “La Linea,” or “The Line,” in which businesspeople paid bribes to avoid import duties through the customs agency.

The ring is believed to have defrauded the state of millions of dollars.

Protesters have filled the streets of the capital almost daily over the scandal, demanding not only that Perez Molina step down but that next Sunday’s presidential elections be postponed.

Business leaders, Guatemala’s National Council of Bishops and even the government comptrollers’ office had also called on Perez Molina to step down.

Perez Molina, a former army general turned politician, won the presidential elections on a ticket to fight crime and corruption.

(AFP)

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