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Guatemalan Prosecutors Urge President to Resign Amid Scandal

  • Associated Press

National University students, professors and employees march to the National Palace to take part in a national strike calling for the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in Guatemala City, Aug. 27, 2015.

National University students, professors and employees march to the National Palace to take part in a national strike calling for the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in Guatemala City, Aug. 27, 2015.

Pressure grew Thursday on Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina to resign as business and government offices closed, protesters marched by the thousands and the attorney general's office urged him to step down "to prevent ungovernability that could destabilize the nation."

The government comptrollers' office also issued a statement saying Perez Molina, whose government has been shaken by corruption scandals, should resign "to avoid greater social unrest that could have unpredictable consequences."

Guatemala's congress named a commission of five legislators on Thursday to consider whether to remove the president's immunity from prosecution, a process somewhat like impeachment. A previous effort failed.

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.

Perez Molina, facing the impeachment process and possible charges in a customs fraud scheme, has not spoken publicly since Sunday, when he denied any involvement and said emphatically that he would not resign.

But his former ministers of defense and the interior, who had resigned from his cabinet recently, both left Guatemala between Wednesday and Thursday, the country's immigration service confirmed.

Thousands of protesters marched in the capital following days of intermittent roadblocks by demonstrators who want the president to resign and the Sept. 6 presidential elections to be postponed.

Guatemala City's main square was a sea of blue-and-white national flags and white-clad protesters who chanted "Otto out!" The demonstrations drew a broad range of Guatemalans, from impoverished Indians to the country's upper-middle class.

"We usually don't go to protests, because of fear, but now this is sending a message of hope and an opportunity to educate our children, politically," said Mario Ovalle, 48, a lawyer who attended the march with his daughters, aged 9 and 12. "The exciting thing is that this has brought together all classes of society, with a common objective."

The marches included one by university students, and Eduardo Valdes, the rector of the Jesuit Rafael Landivar University, said "the corruption ... has become unbearable for the people."

Pollo Campero, the country's iconic fried chicken chain, joined the stoppage and shuttered its outlets in Guatemala City on Thursday. Hamburger and pizza chains announced on their Facebook and web sites that they were also joining the shutdown.

The country's national chamber of commerce called on its members to allow their employees to attend the demonstrations "as long as they are peaceful and law-abiding."

On Wednesday, Perez Molina's former Vice President Roxana Baldetti was ordered to remain in jail pending trial on charges of conspiracy, customs fraud and bribery, based on allegations that she accepted $3.7 million in bribes from businessmen to evade import duties. The scandal that forced her from office.

And on Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to remove Perez Molina's immunity from prosecution as a sitting president.

Five of Perez Molina's 13 cabinet ministers have resigned since Friday, as have eight vice ministers, two secretaries and other government officials, amid demands that Perez Molina quit. He has vowed to stay on.

Both the president and Baldetti have denied any wrongdoing.

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