Guatemala’s president quits, faces charges in graft scandal

Updated September 04, 2015

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Guatemala City: Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina (centre) arrives at the Supreme Court on Thursday.—Reuters
Guatemala City: Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina (centre) arrives at the Supreme Court on Thursday.—Reuters

GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemalan President Otto Perez has resigned and turned himself into a court on Thursday to face charges in a corruption scandal that gutted his government and plunged Guatemala into chaos days before a national election.

Perez, a 64-year-old retired general, quit on Wednesday evening and Congress was due to hold an emergency session to hand power to the vice president later on Thursday.

Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the capital and other cities in recent weeks calling for Perez to step down over allegations he was involved in a customs racket.

“I have submitted to (judicial) processes so that Guatemala can move on and so that there is no violence or bloodshed,” Perez said in a local radio interview on Thursday.

In his resignation letter to Congress, Perez said he would face the charges against him “with a clear conscience”. “My commitment to the people of Guatemala is to submit, with all integrity, to the due process of the rule of law and refute the accusations against me,” he wrote.

Prosecutors allege Perez was involved in a customs scam dubbed “La Linea”, or the line, after a phone hotline used by importers to avoid paying customs duties in exchange for bribes. Celebrations over Perez’ resignation erupted in a plaza of the capital days before Sunday’s presidential and congressional elections.

“At last, the most corrupt president in the history of Guatemala is gone,” said Juan Carlos Carrera, a 38-year old lawyer, who waved a blue and white Guatemalan flag from his car window and he honked his car horn.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2015

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