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Guatemala president resigns under corruption allegations

[JURIST] Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina [JURIST news archive] sent a letter [El Periodico materials, in Spanish] to both the Guatemalan congress and reporters early Thursday announcing his resignation and his intention to "stand before justice." The congress has called an emergency session [Prensa Libre report, in Spanish] to meet Thursday to accept the letter of resignation. Several hours before resigning, the public prosecutor requested Pérez Molina's arrest on corruption charges and a trial judge ordered the arrest. Pérez Molina and 30 other government officials allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for keeping low import duties. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado has assumed the presidency, and must compile a list of three names for consideration for vice president, to be chosen by congress. Maldonado replaced Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested [Prena Libre report, in Spanish] in August on the corruption charges. Eight other government officials have already resigned over the allegations. Pérez Molina's resignation comes only three days before the Guatemalan general election.

The day before his resignation, Pérez Molina was stripped of his presidential immunity [JURIST report] by a unanimous vote by congress. After Pérez Molina announced [JURIST report] last month that he had no plans to resign, Guatemala's Supreme Court approved [JURIST report] prosecutors' requests to impeach the president. In July the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that approximately a quarter of the money used for Guatemalan political campaigns comes from criminal groups. The day before, the commission petitioned to take away the immunity of one of Guatemala's vice presidential contender, Edgar Barquin for allegedly laundering money that was used to fund his political campaign. In February former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo was released [JURIST report] from a US prison after serving a sentence for taking bribes from Taiwan.

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