Guatemala President Stripped of Immunity

Guatemala President Stripped of ImmunityGuatemala President Stripped of Immunity

Guatemala’s Congress on Tuesday voted unanimously to strip President Otto Perez of immunity, paving the way for prosecutors to charge him in a graft scandal that could lead to his ouster.

Perez, a 64-year-old retired general who was elected on a ticket to combat crime and corruption, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said he will not resign over a scandal that has sent thousands of protesters onto the streets and gutted his Cabinet, Reuters reported.

The public prosecutor’s office said after the vote a judge had agreed to issue an order preventing the president from leaving the country, as he was a flight risk.

“In the eyes of the justice system, he is now a common citizen given he no longer has immunity, and so there will be a criminal prosecution against the president,” Attorney General Thelma Aldana told a news conference.

“Guatemala is showing that no one is above the law.”

Aldana said prosecutors were still considering what charges to bring against Perez, but they would likely include tax fraud and illicit association.

Perez cannot run for reelection under the constitution and is set to remain in office until a handover in January.

Perez’s conservative administration has spent much of this year mired in public protests and scandals over corruption allegations against senior officials, several of whom the retired general fired during a cabinet purge in May.

Last month, Perez survived a similar vote in Congress, when more than half of lawmakers voted to lift his immunity but the total fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.