Guatemalan Congress Unanimously Votes To Allow Investigation Of President

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People rally outside the Guatemalan congress demanding the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina on Tuesday. Photograph: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

Note: After the article below was written Reuters reported:

Guatemala’s Congress on Tuesday voted unanimously to strip President Otto Perez of immunity, paving the way for prosecutors to charge him in a graft scandal that could lead to his ouster.

Perez, a 64-year-old retired general who was elected on a ticket to combat crime and corruption, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said he will not resign over a scandal that has sent thousands of protesters onto the streets and gutted his cabinet.

Lawmakers on Tuesday dealt the isolated Perez a serious blow as all 132 present voted to remove his immunity, just before a presidential election to be held on Sunday.

The public prosecutor’s office said after the vote a judge had agreed to issue an order preventing the president from leaving the country, as he was a flight risk.

Associated Press reported that “prosecutors are now free to file criminal charges against Perez Molina just like any other citizen, and a judge would be able to order his detention. The congressional vote does not remove the president from office, but a judge later granted an order barring him from traveling outside the country.”

The Institute for Public Accuracy reports that Allan Nairn

appeared on Democracy Now Wednesday morning and stated that by possibly prosecuting a sitting president, Guatemala was being an ‘example for the world.’ Nairn argued that while corruption has opened the door, now that he’s been stripped of immunity, Molina could face other charges, including for killings he oversaw in the 1980s. In his recent interview  ‘Guatemala President Faces Arrest as Business Interests and U.S. Scramble to Contain Uprising,’ Nairn said: ‘If the movement develops further, if it spreads more fully to the Mayan heartland of the country, then the issue could move from corruption to justice, because the reason the Guatemalan elite, like General Pérez Molina and Vice President Baldetti [who was forced to resign and is now being held on fraud charges], have been able to loot the treasury to the tune of more than $100 million, been able to steal for themselves cash which was used for Jaguar cars, plantations, villas, yachts, airplanes, helicopters, was because they took and have maintained themselves in power through mass murder. Pérez Molina was a commander in the northwest highlands during the ’80s. He personally helped implement the Ríos Montt program of mass murder — effectively, genocide — against the Mayan population. And that’s what the Guatemalan system has been built on.’ Nairn has interviewed both Molina and the former dictator Montt.”

- PopRes

Human wall shields Guatemala deputies as the enter legislature to debate stripping leader’s immunity

Guatemalan civilians who support the ousting of President Otto Pérez Molina have formed a wall of bodies to let lawmakers into Congress, protecting them from presidential loyalists trying to prevent a vote on withdrawing the leader’s immunity from prosecution in a corruption scandal.

Dozens of Pérez Molina backers had blocked access to the capitol since the morning in an attempt to delay the proceedings, which are similar to impeachment and could lead to criminal charges. The interior department vice-minister Elmer Sosa also arrived with riot police to “guarantee the safety of protesters and congress”, and lawmakers were finally able to go inside.

“It was impressive that the people themselves came and created a human chain and a path so we could enter,” said opposition legislator Leonel Lira.

A commission of lawmakers has recommended that Pérez Molina’s immunity of office be withdrawn, and now the issue is before the full congress. A vote of 105 of the 158 representatives is required to approve the measure.

The president says he is not guilty of any wrongdoing and has refused mounting calls for his resignation by protesters, business groups and government officials.

The customs graft scandal has already claimed the job of his former vice-president Roxana Baldetti, who is in jail awaiting trial on charges that she accepted millions in bribes in return for letting others avoid import duties. A number of cabinet officials have also left office.

Edgar Pereira, a member of a civic group called the Social Humanist Movement, was on the frontline of people protecting the lawmakers.

“The people have to come to congress to guarantee that the session takes place,” Pereira said. “We cannot allow manoeuvring and manipulation by the president to keep it from meeting.”

Pérez Molina has repeatedly said he is willing to face the process against him.

Government agents have had to step in on several occasions to keep backers and critics of the president away from each other.

“The congress needs to meet to tackle the most important matters for the country,” the US embassy in Guatemala said via Twitter. “We hope that congress meets today as scheduled.”

  • cavendish

    This brave struggle against the 1% in Guatemala gives the rest of the world hope. There will be No immunity for the world’s biggest crooks!