Gu­atemala opens cor­rup­tion probe against Pres­i­dent Perez

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Otto Perez will be in­ves­ti­gated for al­leged cor­rup­tion and Congress has been asked to con­sider lift­ing his im­mu­nity, the Supreme Court said Wed­nes­day.

The pres­i­dent has faced ma­jor protests call­ing for his res­ig­na­tion since a U.N.-backed in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ported in April a cus­toms bribery ring im­pli­cat­ing a wide ar­ray of high-rank­ing of­fi­cials.

Last month, Perez fired three gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and his in­tel­li­gence chief as he sought to get a grip on the widen­ing scan­dal in the poor and vi­o­lence-plagued Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try of 15 mil­lion.

“This is a body blow po­lit­i­cally for the pres­i­dent be­cause un­for­tu­nately in this coun­try (legal) im­mu­nity has guar­an­teed (elected of­fi­cials can act with) im­punity,” said Mar­cio Pala­cios, head of the po­lit­i­cal science depart­ment at the Univer­si­dad de San Car­los.

“The pres­i­dent is cor­nered. And he has no op­tion but to re­sign.”

For po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Manuel Vil­la­corta, the devel­op­ment also could send stu­dent and other so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions into the streets.

“We should not for­get that th­ese groups are the ones that have been de­mand­ing specif­i­cally that Perez step down,” he said.

The probe against Perez, re­quested by an op­po­si­tion party founded by No­bel peace lau­re­ate Rigob­erta Menchu, was an­nounced at a press con­fer­ence by the chief jus­tice of the Supreme Court, Jo­sue Baquiax.

The 13 mem­bers of the court stud­ied a com­plaint from the Wi­naq party to the ef­fect Perez knew about il­le­gal trans­ac­tions com­mit­ted by se­nior of­fi­cials in­volved in fraud in the cus­toms and so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tems, Baquiax said.

Now it is up to Congress to ap­point an in­ves­tiga­tive com­mis­sion, the chief jus­tice said.

The U.N.-backed probe, aimed at clean­ing up the coun­try’s ju­di­cial sys­tem, con­cluded that se­nior cus­toms of­fi­cials took bribes from busi­ness­men seek­ing to avoid pay­ing taxes.

In a sep­a­rate scan­dal, the pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Bank and the direc­tor of the So­cial Se­cu­rity sys­tem — both of whom are close to Perez — were ar­rested in May on charges of cheat­ing the so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem out of US$15 mil­lion.

The pres­i­dent, a re­tired mil­i­tary of­fi­cial, has re­sisted pres­sure to re­sign and de­nies the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. He has in­sisted he will serve out his full term, which ends in Jan­uary next year.

Though a con­ser­va­tive, with his coun­try fac­ing wide­spread dru­gre­lated vi­o­lence, Perez sur­prised some by propos­ing le­gal­iza­tion of il­le­gal drugs.

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