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Guatemala Corruption Scandal Leads to Political Crisis

  • Reuters

FILE - Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina arrives at the Army general headquarters in Guatemala City, June 30, 2015.

FILE - Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina arrives at the Army general headquarters in Guatemala City, June 30, 2015.

Street demonstrations, the resignation of cabinet ministers and the arrest of his former vice president have pushed Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina into a corner.

Protesters demanding Perez Molina's resignation blocked roads on the outskirts of Guatemala City on Tuesday, the same day a judge was expected to rule on allegations that former Vice President Roxana Baldetti accepted $3.7 million in bribes as part of a scandal that forced her from office.

Since Friday, five of Perez Molina's 13 cabinet secretaries have resigned, mainly because of the scandal. Business and church groups have joined the calls for him to step down.

Tensions are mounting ahead of the Sept. 6 elections, which are to elect Perez Molina's successor.

Some protesters are demanding the elections be postponed until the corruption scandal is resolved and Perez Molina resigns. Prosecutors have said the president may have been involved in the scandal and have called for his immunity from prosecution to be lifted.

Perez Molina rejected the possibility of resigning in a televised speech on Sunday. He has denied involvement in the scandal, which involved bribes funneled to a chain of officials who helped businesses evade import duties.

Protesters pledging more demonstrations in coming days. Farm leader Carlos Barrientos said road blockades may be erected in about two dozen points around the country.

People gather in front of the Presidential House in Guatemala City, demanding the resignation of Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, Aug. 23, 2015.

People gather in front of the Presidential House in Guatemala City, demanding the resignation of Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, Aug. 23, 2015.


Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu said "it is crucial for all us, in all the sectors, to avoid promoting violence.''

Human rights activist Helen Mack said she believes Perez Molina might try to spark a confrontation "to make himself look like a political victim, and escape justice.''

Mack noted that protests so far have been peaceful.

"We have hit a really serious political crisis,'' said former Vice President Eduardo Stein. "Never before have prosecutors publicly requested lifting the immunity of the president.''

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