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Guatemalan President Resigns

Perez Molina now faces criminal charges in customs fraud ring scandal

by Jackie McVicar

Otto Perez Molina's Letter of Resignation, presented to Congress at midnight.
Otto Perez Molina's Letter of Resignation, presented to Congress at midnight.

Tatamagouche -

Otto Perez Molina has resigned as President of Guatemala. At midnight, the former military officer who was elected in the 2011 Presidential Elections through his Patriot Party, presented his letter to congress where he cited his “conviction to do the right thing and face justice” (see letter of resignation). He asks that Guatemalans put their anger and hate aside and work for the deep transformation that the State needs in order to have justice, security, peace and development, especially for the country’s most dispossessed. Known as “Tito Arias”, his nom-de-guerra during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, Perez Molina was named in the historic 2013 National Genocide Trial as responsible for ordering Maya Ixil villagers to be rounded up and taken to military outposts where they were executed.  In his letter of resignation, he closes by saying that he has conviction and faith in God that a dignified Guatemala for all is possible. He thanked the Roman Catholic and Protestant Evangelical Churches for their prayers.

Guatemala is still set to vote on Sunday, September 6 during its Presidential Elections despite many calls to postpone it. The newly chosen President will be sworn in on January 14, 2016 and in the meantime, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre will act as President. Maldonado Aguirre was chosen as Vice President in May after Roxana Baldetti resigned once her involvement in a customs scandal known as La Linea was uncovered. During her arraignment hearing last week on charges of criminal conspiracy, customs fraud and bribery, President Perez Molina’s voice was heard giving orders to make changes with the personnel of the national revenue agency – SAT – in order for the fraud ring to march ahead. The UN-mandated International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office broke the revenue agency and customs fraud scandal in April 2015, naming the head of SAT as one of the ringleaders. Since then, resignations have been given by all levels of functionaries within the Perez Molina Administration. Over a hundred are also being investigated in the case and several have already been criminally charged for their involvement in La Linea.  

According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Perez Molina faces the same charges that former vice president Roxana Baldetti is up against. Perez Molina’s lawyer is Cesar Calderon, who is also an evangelical minister from the El Verbo Church (the same that Rios Montt is part of). Calderon is known for representing Guatemalan military and others charged in high profile criminal cases that have rocked the country, including the Rosenberg Case. Calderon represented military official Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, who was Director of Military Intelligence during the de facto government of Dictator Efrain Rios Montt in 1982-1983. Rodriguez Sanchez was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity and was brought to trial, along with Rios Montt, in 2013. According to a CMI Guatemala article, “Calderon comes from a school of litigation that lawyers call Malicious Litigation: Lawyers who specialize in obstructing justice.” This was seen throughout the genocide trial which ultimately ended in Rodriguez Sanchez being declared innocent before the trial was annulled.   

Guatemala’s Attorney General, Thelma Aldana, has issued a warrant for Perez Molina. His defense has already presented several court injunctions, though he has also vowed to show up in court, where he will declare his innocence. On Sunday, August 23 in a televised address to the nation, he also vowed to remain President until January 2016. 

Most updates are forthcoming.

 

 


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