Bid to lift Guatemala president's immunity fails in congress

AP News
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Posted: Aug 13, 2015 8:23 PM
Bid to lift Guatemala president's immunity fails in congress

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — An attempt to withdraw Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina's immunity from prosecution died in Congress on Thursday, following a string of corruption scandals that sparked large protests.

Lawmakers were able to muster only 88 votes to support the motion, short of the 105 needed. Some opposition members sided with the governing Patriotic Party and other legislators didn't vote.

Luis Rabbe, the president of Congress and a legislator from the Renewed Democratic Freedom Party, was among those voting to close the case.

Opposition lawmaker Leonel Lira expressed frustration with the outcome, accusing those who opposed the measure of having ties to people linked to corruption.

"It seems this country is never going to move forward," Lira said.

Presidential spokesman Jorge Ortega said the vote was democratic and respected state institutions.

"This decision allows the executive to develop its transition agenda without any obstacle of a political or judicial nature," Ortega said.

Perez Molina has just five months left in his four-year term, and Guatemalans will vote later this year to pick his successor.

The president has denied any wrongdoing, while opponents insist he bears responsibility for the scandals that happened on his watch.

Perez Molina's former vice president was forced to resign earlier this year over a customs kickbacks scheme that reached into her inner circle. At least 30 suspects have been detained in connection with the scandal.

A second scheme involving a $15 million kidney-treatment contract rocked the country's social security institute.