Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has
resigned in the face of a corruption scandal that has brought his government to
the brink, a spokesman said early Thursday.
Jorge Ortega said Perez Molina submitted his resignation at midnight Wednesday
local time after a judge issued an order to detain him in the customs fraud
case, which already has led to the jailing of his vice president, and the
resignation of several cabinet ministers who withdrew their support for the
resignation, the first by a Guatemalan president, is not effective until
Congress accepts it and names a new president. They were to convene early
Thursday morning to do so.
business leaders and even Catholic church officials have called for Perez
Molina to resign in recent weeks as the investigation of the customs fraud ring
has grown wider and hit more officials. Perez Molina was steadfast in his plan
to stay until the judge's unprecedented order, dealing the most serious blow
yet to entrenched political corruption in the Central American country.
told reporters that in the end, Perez Molina submitted his resignation "to
maintain the institution of the presidency and resolve on his own the legal
proceedings leveled against him."
Molina, 64, has maintained his innocence.
President Alejandro Maldonado is constitutionally in line to assume the
presidency. Maldonado, a conservative lawyer and former Constitutional Court
judge, was chosen to replace former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who
resigned May 8 due to the same scandal and is now jailed and facing charges.
She too maintains her innocence.
would likely remain in office until the winner of upcoming elections is
inaugurated Jan. 14, 2016.
country's reaction was initially quiet as the news played out in the middle of
order to detain Perez Molina is not for his arrest, rather to for him to
declare before Judge Miguel Angel Galvea, who granted the request Wednesday
from Attorney General Thelma Aldana.
president will have to appear on accusations of illicit association, fraud and
receiving bribe money.
formal charges have been filed, though Aldana said there is a preliminary
investigation under way into the president's possible involvement in the fraud
president's attorney, Cesar Calderon, told The Associated Press that Perez
Molina will appear voluntarily as soon as they have confirmed the order was
Molina was already under order not to leave the country, and on Tuesday
congress lifted his immunity from prosecution.
corruption scandal, uncovered by prosecutors and a U.N. commission probing
criminal networks in Guatemala, involved a scheme known as "La
Linea," or "The Line," in which businesspeople paid bribes to
avoid import duties through the customs agency. The ring is believed to have
defrauded the state of millions of dollars.
former personal secretary was named as the alleged ringleader.
have filled the streets almost daily over the scandal, demanding not only that
Perez Molina step down but that next Sunday's presidential elections be
postponed. He says delaying the vote would be against the law.