Gu­atemala leader’s im­mu­nity ‘should be lifted’


A leg­isla­tive com­mis­sion on Satur­day urged Gu­atemala’s congress to lift Pres­i­dent Otto Perez Molina’s im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion in a cor­rup­tion case that has al­ready seen his for­mer vice pres­i­dent jailed and much of his cab­i­net re­sign.

The process against Perez Molina is akin to im­peach­ment and could lead to crim­i­nal charges in con­nec­tion with a cus­toms fraud scheme.

One of the five com­mis­sion mem­bers, Jorge Bar­rios, said they found “ra­tio­nal and suf­fi­cient in­di­ca­tions about the com­mis­sion of one or var­i­ous crimes.”

The move to pros­e­cute

the pres­i­dent was backed by a U.N. com­mis­sion that has been work­ing with lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors to im­prove in­ves­ti­ga­tions and elim­i­nate the im­punity of the pow­er­ful in Gu­atemala.

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Rox­ana Baldetti was or­dered jailed on Wed­nes­day on charges she took US$3.7 mil­lion in bribes to let busi­ness peo­ple evade im­port du­ties. Like Perez Molina, she de­nies any wrong­do­ing.

The pres­i­dent’s four-year term ends on Jan. 14, 2016, and elec­tions will be held in early Septem­ber to pick his suc­ces­sor.

Perez Molina balked at the in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­mis­sion’s sum­mons to ap­pear on Satur­day, send­ing his at­tor­ney in­stead.

He pre­sented a writ­ten dec­la­ra­tion say­ing that the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s al­le­ga­tions against him were il­le­git­i­mate and “do not pro­vide el­e­ments that rea­son­ably con­sti­tute any crime.”

Record­ings of tele­phone calls in­ter­cepted by in­ves­ti­ga­tors show sev­eral mem­bers of the al­leged bribery net­work re­fer­ring to “No. 1” and “the owner of the farm” as a per­son who was to re­ceive part of the bribe money.

“There are high prob­a­bil­i­ties that they are re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent,” said pros­e­cu­tor Thelma Al­dana.

At least 200 protesters de­mand­ing the pres­i­dent’s ouster gath­ered out­side the congress build­ing as the com­mit­tee met.

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