Guatemalan president to face corruption probe | News | DW | 11.06.2015
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Guatemalan president to face corruption probe

Guatemala's Supreme Court has approved a request for congress to decide whether to strip President Otto Perez Molina of his immunity. The president has refused to resign amid a corruption scandal.

The Guatemalan supreme court Wednesday asked the nation's congress to consider lifting President Otto Perez Molina's immunity, as he is set to be investigated for alleged corruption.

Perez Molina has faced protests and calls to resign ever since a UN investigation in April accused him and other high-ranking officials of taking part in a customs bribery ring. The probe concluded that senior customs officials took bribes from businessmen in order to avoid paying taxes.

The president fired three government ministers along with his intelligence chief as a result of the scandal, but has refused to resign.

"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 University of San Carlos.

"The president is cornered. And he has no option but to resign," Palacios said.

Chief Justice Josque Baquiax announced the probe against Perez Molina, which was requested by an opposition party founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

The 13-member court examined a complaint from the Winaq party that claimed Perez Molina knew senior Guatemalan officials had been involved in fraud in the customs and social security systems.

The Guatemalan congress will now appoint a five-member commission to investigate Perez Molina and decide whether to remove his immunity. Such a move could result in a process similar to impeachment, if the commission decides to try Perez Molina.

The president has denied any involvement in the scandal. He has not been charged with any crimes, but many Guatemalans hold him accountable for the corruption in his administration.

Presidential spokesman Jorge Ortega said the administration would monitor the process and wait for the congressional decision.

bw/bk (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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