The Guatemalan Supreme Court has approved a request to impeach President Otto Perez Molina as the Central American country plunges deeper into political chaos sparked by the ongoing investigation into a corruption scandal.
This comes barely a day after President Perez Molina refused to resign and continued to deny his involvement in the scandal that has already led to the arrest of dozens of officials and politicians including the former Vice President Roxana Baldetti.
Reports say Perez Molina is left with no option but to resign as many of his allies have already moved out, with several of his cabinet ministers resigning. Moreover, thousands of people are protesting in the streets calling for his immediate removal.
The scandal came out in the open earlier this year when it was found that nobody was being fined for avoiding paying duties for the goods they imported. After a preliminary investigation, a UN investigation commission, known as CICIG took charge of the probe. In April, as many as 20 suspected officials were detained, but a private secretary of Roxana Baldetti, said to be one of the key ringleaders, fled the country.
Under the scam, importers were able to avoid paying customs duties in exchange for bribes, which investigators have said were distributed to officials. Now the prosecution says it has proof that this ill-gotten money even reached the country’s president.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, these officials coordinated with each other in manipulating documents for shipping containers going through customs at Guatemala’s two main seaports, Puerto Quetzal and Puerto Santo Tomás. In addition, the criminal network reportedly operated in the seven busiest border crossings across the country.
Baldetti denied involvement, but police arrested her last week. Next, it seems, is the turn of President Pérez Molina himself to be interrogated by the UN commission.
Several ministers, vice ministers and commissioners, who have not been implicated in the scandal, have resigned recently, saying they no longer trust Pérez Molina and do not want to be part of an administration they say is unfit to govern the country.
A retired military general, Pérez Molina’s term in office runs until January 14, but he is barred from running again. Some analysts say he is trying to provoke a coup in an attempt to escape the country.