Guatemala’s president resigns amid corruption scandal

Congress voted to strip Otto Pérez Molina of immunity over customs fraud ring

Former Guatemalan president, Otto Pérez Molina, pictured on Monday.
Former Guatemalan president, Otto Pérez Molina, pictured on Monday.Moises Castillo (AP)

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has resigned, according to reports from Agence France Presse. The outgoing leader has offered to step down after an arrest warrant was issued for him in light of his alleged involvement in a customs fraud ring, just days before the country’s parliamentary elections on Sunday. On Tuesday, Congress voted to strip the president of his immunity.

According to Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana, her office and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala asked the judge presiding over the corruption case known as La Línea – or “The Line” – to issue an arrest warrant for the president. Pérez Molina has been accused of serving as the leader of a customs fraud ring, as well as offenses of bribery and belonging to an illegal organization.

Pérez Molina has also been accused of offenses of bribery and belonging to an illegal organization

The president handed in his resignation the day after Congress stripped him of his immunity. His defense team says he will voluntarily attend a court hearing on Thursday morning.

In an interview on Canal Antigua, Attorney General Aldana said the judge has the power to execute the arrest warrant and send Pérez to prison but he may also choose to hold a hearing and let the president remain free while the case unfolds. “The principle of presumption of innocence must be respected,” Aldana said.

Meanwhile, former vice president Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested last month on suspicion of involvement in the same fraud scheme, has been transferred from a military barracks, where she was being held in comfortable surroundings. She is now in Santa Teresa women’s prison, where she will have to live alongside convicted criminals. 

Hundreds of people celebrated Baldetti’s transfer, cheering and setting off firecrackers as the car that took her to Santa Teresa passed by.

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