Guatemala Moves to Strip Immunity from Embattled President

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Guatemala’s Supreme Court is reportedly reviewing a complaint of corruption that involves President Otto Perez Molina, in order to decide whether this merits stripping him of his presidential immunity. It is the latest indication the president’s term in office may be at risk of ending prematurely. 

The Attorney General’s Office (known as the Public Ministry in Guatemala) has processed a formal complaint of corruption involving Perez Molina and passed it along to the Supreme Court, reported EFE. Guatemala’s high court is expected to review whether the complaint — which was filed by opposition politician Amilcar Pop — merits stripping Perez Molina of his presidential impunity.

This development comes one week after a massive corruption scandal in the country’s social security agency led to over a dozen arrests, including Perez Molina’s former private secretary, Juan de Dios Rodriguez.

Since the scandal broke, prominent civil society groups and labor unions in Guatemala have called for the president’s resignation. Thousands of protesters also recently crowded Constitution Plaza in Guatemala City, demanding Perez Molina to resign.

Meanwhile, on May 28 a major business association in Guatemala, known as the CACIF, requested that Perez Molina begin the  “immediate” return of state resources that have siphoned away via government corruption. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Perez Molina has been under intense scrutiny for weeks, the potential removal of his presidential immunity could be a determining factor in whether he decides to resign before his term ends in January 2016. Perez Molina is surely reluctant to become the center of a high-profile criminal investigation, and he may see resigning from office as a way to reduce the possibility of a government inquiry into his links to the IGSS scandal. 

Former Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned earlier this month just days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of removing her political immunity. Baldetti had come under similar pressure to resign following a corruption scandal that implicated her then-private secretary as the head of an enormous customs fraud ring.

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Corruption in Guatemala’s judicial system has often led to impunity for Guatemala’s political elite, as previously documented by InSight Crime. Nonetheless, Perez Molina and Baldetti have reason to fear facing justice in Guatemala. In September 2012, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ruled to extradite former President Alfonso Portillo to the United States, where he was later convicted of money laundering.

CORRECTION: This article originally incorrectly reported that the Public Ministry presented charges of corruption against Perez Molina before the country’s Supreme Court. 

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