Updated 11:18 AM EST, Wed, Jan 26, 2022

Guatemala President Otto Pérez Molina Steps Down After Arrest Warrant for Corruption Allegations

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Otto Pérez Molina stepped down as Guatemala's president after being issued an arrest warrant for corruption allegations.

The arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday, Sept. 2, by Guatemala's attorney general. Pérez Molina, 64, was detained on Thursday after the country's Congress accepted his resignation by a 118-0 vote, stripping him off of his immunity, CNN reported. Pérez is held in Guatemala City's Matamoros jail, as ordered by Judge Miguel Angel Gálvez.

Former Vice President Alejandro Maldonado was tasked to fill Pérez Molina's position in the remaining months of the latter's term, CNN added. The Central American country will prepare for presidential and congressional elections on Sunday.

In recent weeks, protesters stormed the streets of Guatemala's capital and other cities calling for Pérez's resignation amid allegations that he was involved in customs fraud schemes, Reuters wrote. In the courtroom hearing, prosecutors played phone recordings of Pérez Molina allegedly incriminating him further in the scandal.

The Attorney General's Office and a U.N. investigating commission said that Pérez Molina and close aides within his administration "received bribes in exchange for lowering taxes for companies seeking to import products into Guatemala," CNN noted.

Last month, Pérez Molina publicly denied the charges and insisted that he was a victim of a plot designed by his political enemies and their foreign interests, Reuters reported.

After a court hearing and before he was detained in jail for a possible flight risk, Pérez Molina told reporters that he plans to "respect due process and face" the allegations, which he believes is "completely inconsistent," the news outlet added. His resignation letter to the Congress indicated his claims of a "clear conscience."

According to prosecutors' allegations, Pérez Molina was a part of a customs scam labeled "La Linea" ("The Line"), which is a reference to a phone hotline used by importers to evade customs fees in exchange for bribes, Reuters wrote.

In May, Roxana Baldetti resigned as Guatemala's vice president and was jailed last week after investigations accused her of participating in the scheme, CNN further reported. The judge in charge of Baldetti's case said that she will be tried for the same accusations Pérez Molina are facing: customs fraud, illicit association, and passive bribery.

Baldetti insisted the charges are not true. Her lawyer, Mario Cano, said in court that investigators are incriminating the wrong person, the news outlet added.

Pérez Molina, who swore to put an end to corruption and crime, was elected president in 2011, Reuters wrote. Guatemala's Constitution prohibits the retired military officer for re-election in this weekend's presidential voting.

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