Guatemalan President Will Face Trial on Corruption ChargesSeptember 10, 2015 in Guatemala
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez has ruled that former Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina will face trial on corruption charges, after being detained last Friday following the loss of his diplomatic immunity. He will remain in prison as the country heads into a runoff election to find his successor.
On Tuesday this week, Judge Galvez determined that there were “sufficient indications” that Perez Molina had been involved in a scam in which importers paid bribes to public officials in exchange for reduced tariffs. In a series of recorded conversations played during Tuesday’s hearing, former vice president, Roxana Baldetti was heard to implicate Perez Molina in the scam by referring to him as “number 1”, “chairman of the company,” and “owner of the estate.” Baldetti, who continues to maintain his innocence, was arrested last month on charges of illicit association, fraud and graft. Perez Molina – a former general who was elected in 2011 on an anti-corruption platform – has also denied allegations of wrongdoing and until late last week had refused to resign, despite mounting pressure from within his own government. In a pre-recorded address to the nation Perez Molina said: “I will not resign and…I categorically reject any link (to the scandal).” But after a judge ordered his detention over the allegations levelled against him the 64 year old submitted his resignation, ostensible to “maintain the institution of the presidency and resolve on his own the legal proceedings levelled against him”. His decision was accepted in a unanimous vote by congress, who afterwards swore in Alejandro Maldonado to act as caretaker president until January next year.
The fraud in which Perez Molina has been implicated was first revealed in April by the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, otherwise known by the Spanish acronym CICIG. The investigation has led to the imprisonment of almost forty people and the birth of a vast grassroots movement, which has seen thousands of people take to the streets of Guatemala demanding the resignation of the President. Since its creation in December 2006 the CICIG has shone a light on endemic corruption in Guatemala. It has worked on nearly 200 cases and has helped bring charges against numerous criminal networks and around 200 politicians, police officials and military officers.