Lawmakers urge lifting immunity of Guatemalan president

AP News
Posted: Aug 29, 2015 6:02 PM

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A legislative commission on Saturday urged Guatemala's congress to lift President Otto Perez Molina's immunity from prosecution in a corruption case that has already seen his former vice president jailed and much of his cabinet resign.

The process against Perez Molina is akin to impeachment and could lead to criminal charges in connection with a customs fraud scheme.

One of the five commission members, Jorge Barrios, said they found "rational and sufficient indications about the commission of one or various crimes."

The move to prosecute the president was backed by a U.N. commission that has been working with local prosecutors to improve investigations and eliminate the impunity of the powerful in Guatemala.

Former Vice President Roxana Baldetti was ordered jailed on Wednesday on charges she took $3.7 million in bribes to let business people evade import duties. Like Perez Molina, she denies any wrongdoing.

The president's four-year term ends on Jan. 14, 2016, and elections will be held in early September to pick his successor.

Perez Molina balked at the investigating commission's summons to appear on Saturday, sending his attorney instead.

He presented a written declaration saying that the attorney general's allegations against him were illegitimate and "do not provide elements that reasonably constitute any crime."

Recordings of telephone calls intercepted by investigators show several members of the alleged bribery network referring to "No. 1" and "the owner of the farm" as a person who was to receive part of the bribe money.

"There are high probabilities that they are referring to the president," said prosecutor Thelma Aldana.

At least 200 protesters demanding the president's ouster gathered outside the congress building as the committee met.