Arrest warrant issued for Guatemala’s president
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina, who faces prosecution for allegedly masterminding a huge fraud scheme, a prosecutor said, a day after he was stripped of his immunity.
“The arrest warrant for the president has now been issued” by Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez, who is in charge of the investigation, said Julia Barrera, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
Under Guatemalan law, Pérez Molina will be automatically removed from office if remanded in custody by a criminal court.
Guatemala’s attorney general also said Wednesday she is confident embattled Pérez Molina will be convicted of corruption, as the country’s top court rejected his challenge to prosecutors’ moves to try him.
The conservative leader is against the ropes after Congress voted unanimously Tuesday to strip him of his immunity, clearing the way for prosecutors to go ahead with their case against him.
Investigators accuse Pérez Molina of running a scheme in which businesses paid bribes to dodge taxes on their imports, defrauding the country of millions of dollars.
“There’s a criminal case and we will go to trial and then a verdict. In my opinion and based on what I know of the case, it will have to be a conviction,” Attorney General Thelma Aldana told AFP.
“At this time we have complete freedom to investigate whatever line of inquiry we deem pertinent in the president’s case,” said Aldana, who was appointed by Pérez Molina.
The president meanwhile failed in his bid to block the prosecutors’ investigation as the Constitutional Court ruled against two motions filed by his lawyers.
The five-judge court said it had ruled unanimously not to grant the petitions — one challenging the Supreme Court of Justice’s decision to allow prosecutors to open a criminal investigation, the other challenging the legality of the congressional investigative committee that subsequently recommended lifting his immunity.
Pérez Molina is the first president in the Central American country’s history to be stripped of his immunity, a decision that caused exasperated Guatemalans to burst into celebration Tuesday night after months of unprecedented protests.
A judge subsequently barred the 64-year-old retired general from leaving the country.
Investigators say their accusations are based on some 89,000 wire-tapped phone calls that uncovered a scheme called “La Linea” (the line), named for a hotline businesses would call to access corrupt officials and get illegal discounts on their customs duties.
Pérez Molina has repeatedly denied involvement and rejected calls from the increasingly virulent protest movement for his resignation.
The scandal, which has already felled his former vice president and a string of top officials, comes as Guatemala prepares for elections Sunday to choose his successor.
Pérez Molina, in power since 2012, is constitutionally barred from running for re-election. His term ends on January 14.
The president has been left increasingly isolated by the scandal.
Six of his 14 ministers have resigned in recent days, along with several other top officials.
You may be interested
ICT highlights rural communities on World Tourism DayThe Tico Times - September 28, 2020
The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) on Sunday celebrated World Tourism Day by inaugurating an alliance of attractions in the…
Costa Rica Coffee Culture at a CrossroadsSteve Hodel - September 27, 2020
The traditional cafe society in Costa Rica has reached a cultural crossroads. Older generations of coffee drinking traditionalists are crossing…
International rejection grows against project that threatens NGOs and journalists in NicaraguaJulia RIOS / AFP - September 27, 2020
International rejection against a bill considered threatening to journalists and human rights defenders in Nicaragua increased Friday with demands that…