Clamor grows for Guatemalan president's resignation

Nationwide demonstrations held as corruption scandal rocks Central American country

Clamor grows for Guatemalan president's resignation

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Tens of thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets Saturday to demand the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina amid an ongoing corruption scandal involving high-level officials.

University students, women’s organizations, indigenous coalitions and other groups marched downtown from points around the city. Guatemala City’s central park became a sea of flags, banners and picket signs as the afternoon wore on.

Simultaneous demonstrations were held in half of the country’s 22 departments. Artemio Castillo traveled an hour and a half on a school bus with dozens of others from the Santa Rosa and Jalapa departments to make their voices.

“We came with the sole purpose of making Otto Pérez Molina resign, because he’s corrupt”, said Castillo.

Exactly one month prior to Saturday’s protests, 20 individuals were arrested in connection with a criminal network within the National Tax Office, defrauding the state of customs revenue.

High-level government officials, judges and lawyers are among the growing number of people implicated. Wiretap evidence revealed when the accused were brought before a judge led to widespread speculation that Pérez Molina and his second in command may have been involved.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor and the UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala identified then Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s private secretary as the suspected ringleader.

Faced with mass demonstrations demanding her resignation, Baldetti resigned May 8. Alejandro Maldonado, a former congressman and judge, was sworn in as vice president Thursday, but protests continue.

“It didn’t appease the demonstrations”, Guatemala City resident Orlando Ramírez said at the central park protest. Maldonado comes from the far right and does not represent a change, he said.

“He’s someone who has been involved in the most criminal governments in the history of the country”, Ramírez said, referring to two administrations in the 1970s.

At the time, Guatemala was in the middle of a 36-year armed conflict in which state armed forces carried out massacres and acts of genocide against indigenous Mayans. Pérez Molina was a military commander in one of the regions where a UN truth commission established that genocide occurred.

“We’re waiting on the resignation of the [new] vice president and of the president of Guatemala”, Ramírez said.

Some demonstrators also called for the resignation of Cabinet ministers and members of Congress. Erick Archila, the country’s energy and mines minister, resigned Friday. Other high-level officials are currently under investigation in a variety of corruption cases.

General elections are scheduled for Sept. 6 in this Central American nation of 16 million, but the growing citizen’s movement is increasingly demanding systemic change. Protests are expected to continue.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Mayıs 2015, 09:52