PRAYER ALERT: On Sept. 3 former antifraud campaigner Otto Perez Molina resigned as President of Guatemala. The next morning he was on trial in a Guatemala City courtroom. He was charged for “being part of a criminal organization, with the purpose of defrauding the state.” He was forced to listen to hours of recorded phone calls of custom officials agreeing to charge importers reduced rates. Perez Molina and his vice-president Roxana Baldetti are accused of receiving 50 percent of the profits from this customs fraud operation. From the courtroom Perez Molina was escorted to a military prison.
Baldetti had already resigned on May 9. The heads of the Ministries of Interior, Energy and Mines, Environment, the social security agency, the tax collection agency, and the Guatemalan Central Bank also resigned due to various corruption scandals. General elections are planned for tomorrow, Sept. 6.
Perez Molina won the presidency in 2012 on an antifraud platform. He vowed to fight corruption. He targeted organized crime such as drug cartels. He planned to work with antifraud Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz and the antifraud UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG. Since 2010 CICIG and Paz y Paz have dismantled more that 30 drug rings and other criminal operations. They have charged more than a hundred public officials with crimes.
They even brought former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt to trial. Rios Montt was accused of genocide against the indigenous Maya Ixil people during the 1980s. His troops had killed almost 2,000 of them and had displaced about 30,000. During the trial it was revealed that that the commander of a military garrison had incinerated villages. This commander had also ordered the death of local Ixils. The commander’s name was Otto Perez Molina.
Rios Montt was found guilty. But the Supreme Court overturned his conviction. It suspended the judge and shortened Paz y Paz’ term in office. Perez Molina then refused to renew CICIG’s mandate. But CICIG kept working closely with the newly elected antifraud attorney general Thelma Aldana. Together they exposed the customs fraud ring.
Tomorrow voters will choose between four notable presidential candidates. Leading in the polls is Manuel Baldizon, Perez Molina’s close ally. The others include Sandra Torres, former President Alvaro Colom’s ex-wife; Zury Rios, Rios Montt’s daughter; and political outsider and comedian Jimmy Morales.
So much corruption has been exposed that many voters fear nothing will change. Baldizon has been caught on tape authorizing the illegal transport of voters to the polls. Hospitals are preparing for the possibility of violence. Some are calling for a boycott to force a postponement.
The results are certain to impact Belize. Border tensions with Guatemala have flared up. A recent confrontation between hundreds of Belizean patriots and the Guatemala Navy has escalated the conflict…
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