World

Thousands march against corruption-plagued Guatemala president

People take part in a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez as a corruption scandal rocks the government, at the streets of the Historical Center in Guatemala City on July 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO Johan ORDONEZ

GUATEMALA CITY: Some 5,000 protesters marched Saturday night in downtown Guatemala City demanding the resignation of the country's corruption-plagued president, who lost a fight for immunity from prosecution earlier this week.

On Tuesday, Guatemala's Constitutional Court rejected President Otto Perez's appeal for presidential immunity that also sought to legally erase a pre-trial investigation of graft allegations.

On Friday, a Congressional committee recommended fully lifting that immunity and allowing the investigation to proceed.

Protesters Saturday shouted "Out with Otto Perez" and "No more corruption" as they marched from the Supreme Court to the National Palace in the city's historic center.

Holding candles and flaming torches, many carried multi-colored banners with slogans such as: "With Otto Perez's government, corruption and repression increase."

"The president's resignation is a starting point and would breathe fresh air into the situation. It wouldn't resolve all the problems but would be a good way to move forward," Juan Alberto Fuentes, a former finance minister, told AFP during the march.

The probe against Perez was requested by opposition party Winaq after a UN-backed investigation aimed at cleaning up the Guatemalan judicial system reported in April that senior customs officials had taken bribes from businessmen seeking to avoid paying taxes.

The main suspect in the fraud, Juan Carlos Monzon, an aide to the vice president, is now a fugitive from the law.

Guatemalan vice president Roxana Baldetti resigned from her post in May.

In a separate scandal, the president of the central bank and the director of the social security system - both of whom are close to Perez - were arrested in May on charges of cheating the social security system out of approximately $15 million.

"We live with much injustice in Guatemala, the governments are complicit in corruption," Oscar Farfan, a 40-year-old protester who joined the march after walking 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the western indigenous town of Sumpango, told AFP.

 

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