Guatemala’s ex-president back in court facing corruption allegations – Los Angeles Times
Guatemala’s former president was back in front of a judge on fraud charges Friday morning after spending the night in a military jail.
Otto Perez Molina went from president to prisoner on Thursday after his resignation was accepted by the nation’s Congress.
The 64-year-old former general stepped down after an arrest warrant was issued against him late Wednesday in connection with his alleged role in a corruption scandal that saw officials take kickbacks for reducing import taxes for companies.
Phone conversations that purport to reveal how the former president met with members of the customs fraud scheme was among evidence under discussion during Friday’s legal proceedings in Guatemala City, according to the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s Twitter account.
Speaking in court Friday, Perez Molina declared himself “an honest person.”
“I’ve made mistakes, but most of them in good faith,” he said. “Not premeditated mistakes as people want to see, with the intention of doing the Guatemalan people a disservice or stealing from them. I haven’t done that and I’m not going to do that; that’s why I am here today.”
Perez Molina’s resignation followed months of widespread protests in Guatemala over the issue of corruption.
The revelations about the customs bribe scheme were a result of a joint investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known as the CICIG, an independent body set up by the United Nations, and the public prosecutor’s office.
It is not yet immediately clear whether Perez Molina would spend a second night in jail Friday. He was placed under “provisional custody” by a judge pending the end of the initial legal proceedings.
His former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, is also in custody and facing charges in connection with the scandal. She resigned in May and was replaced by Alejandro Maldonado, who was sworn in Thursday as interim president.
During a speech after the ceremony, Maldonado urged Guatemalan youth to continue their fight for democracy. “You cannot consider your work done now,” he said, according to local media.
He has called for the resignation of all of Cabinet members and top officials.
Guatemalan voters go to the polls Sunday in a previously scheduled election to select a new president. Perez Molina had not been eligible to run for a new term.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles — home to the largest number of Guatemalans outside their homeland — Consul General Francisco Cuevas was considering his options. Cuevas said he had been in contact with his friend Perez Molina until the final hours before the president’s resignation.
“I’m considering all of the possibilities,” Cuevas told Hoy newspaper in Los Angeles. “But I can’t simply run off and abandon my post — the legal process [of Perez Molina’s case] is still underway.”
Bonillo is a special correspondent.
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
12:05 p.m.: This article has been updated with the former president’s statement in court.
The article was originally published at 10:57 a.m.