Gu­atemalan pres­i­dent re­fuses to quit over cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Otto Perez said Sun­day that he will not re­sign and re­jected al­le­ga­tions that he was one of the ring­leaders of a cor­rup­tion scan­dal shak­ing the coun­try.

Pros­e­cu­tors and of­fi­cials from a U.N. in­ves­tiga­tive com­mis­sion said Fri­day they had un­cov­ered ex­ten­sive ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing Perez and ex-vice pres­i­dent Rox­ana Baldetti in a mas­sive, highly or­ga­nized scheme to re­duce im­porters’ cus­toms du­ties in ex­change for bribes.

With two weeks to go to gen­eral elec­tions, Perez made a state­ment to the na­tion in which he pledged to abide by le­gal pro­cesses — but said he would not quit.

“I de­clare cat­e­gor­i­cally that I re­ject my link to it (the bribery scheme) and hav­ing re­ceived any money from the op­er­a­tion of cus­toms fraud,” said Perez.

He added: “I will not re­sign. But with the same strength and char­ac­ter with which I re­ject my in­volve­ment, I can­not fail to rec­og­nize that this has hap­pened in my gov­ern­ment and to of­fi­cials close to me or that I ap­pointed, so this forces me to make a public apol­ogy.”

The mul­ti­mil­lion-U.S.-dol­lar fraud case has up­ended Gu­atemalan pol­i­tics since it erupted in April, felling nu­mer­ous high-rank­ing of­fi­cials, forc­ing Baldetti’s res­ig­na­tion and now reach­ing the coun­try’s high­est of­fice.

The al­le­ga­tions come as Gu­atemala pre­pares for gen­eral elec­tions on Sept. 6.

Perez, a 64-year-old re­tired gen­eral and con­ser­va­tive whose term ends in Jan­uary, can­not run for re­elec­tion.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is based on some 86,000 wire-tapped phone calls that un­cov­ered a scheme dubbed “La Linea” ( the line), named for the hot­line used by busi­nesses to con­tact the cor­rupt net­work of cus­toms of­fi­cers.

Thou­sands of Gu­atemalans have hit the streets in re­cent weeks call­ing for Perez to go and sev­eral of his cab­i­net mem­bers have stood down in an act of no-con­fi­dence in the pres­i­dent.

AP

A man holds a sign with a por­trait of Gu­atemala’s Pres­i­dent Otto Perez Molina and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Rox­ana Baldetti dur­ing a protest de­mand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Molina in front of the Pres­i­den­tial House in Gu­atemala City, Sun­day, Aug. 23.

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