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Guatemalans Vote Sunday

  • VOA News

A man walks on a street backdropped by a wall of campaign posters promoting presidential and mayoral candidates, in Patzun, Guatemala, Sept 4, 2015.

A man walks on a street backdropped by a wall of campaign posters promoting presidential and mayoral candidates, in Patzun, Guatemala, Sept 4, 2015.

Campaigning has concluded for Sunday's presidential election in Guatemala, despite calls for postponement and Thursday's resignation of President Otto Perez Molina over corruption allegations.

Hundreds of protesters angry about the corruption scandal called for the election to be put off, as they gathered at the Supreme Court building in Guatemala City, where Perez Molina appeared in court Thursday and Friday.

Perez Molina said in court that he is innocent of accusations that he accepted $800,000 in an alleged bribery ring nicknamed "The Line." The nickname references the special telephone line said to have been reserved for businessmen who allegedly paid bribes to officials to avoid import taxes.

FILE - Otto Perez Molina is escorted by police to court to face corruption charges, following his resignation in Guatemala City, Sept. 3, 2015.

FILE - Otto Perez Molina is escorted by police to court to face corruption charges, following his resignation in Guatemala City, Sept. 3, 2015.

The former president said in court Friday that he accepted no bribes and bragged that he had been offered — and refused — 10 times that amount from fugitive drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman when the Mexican drug kingpin was captured in 1993.

The ousted president's mention of Guzman also served as a reminder that Perez Molina had been behind the long-sought fugitive's arrest. Guzman has since escaped from prison in Mexico by bribing prison officials.

Perez Molina has not yet been formally charged. He next appears in court on Tuesday.

Sunday's election

Meanwhile, Guatemalans vote Sunday in an election designed to select the president for a term starting next year. Until then, former Vice President Alejandro Maldonado will serve as president, having taken the oath of office after Perez Molina's resignation Thursday.

Thousands of Guatemalans filled the streets when news of the president's resignation spread. They had been protesting for months, demanding that he step down.

Perez Molina was elected in 2011 on an anti-corruption pledge. But Guatemala continues to be one of Latin America's most impoverished countries.

A government spokesman says the United States supports Perez Molina's decision to resign. "We commend the people of Guatemala and their institutions for the manner in which they have dealt with this crisis, and continue to underscore our support for Guatemala's democratic and constitutional institutions," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

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