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  • Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales walks towards the Congress building, Jan. 14, 2017.

    Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales walks towards the Congress building, Jan. 14, 2017. | Photo: EFE

Tens of thousands shut down the streets of Guatemala City, similar to the 2015 Renuncia Ya marches which helped oust former President Otto Perez Molina.

An estimated 35,000 protesters marched through the streets of Guatemala City Wednesday to demand the resignation of corrupt officials, including President Jimmy Morales.

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The protests, organized by the Committee for Rural Development, or Codeca, are calling for the resignations of more than 100 politicians who received bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht for a project to build a highway in Guatemala.

Demonstrators are also protesting Morales, a former actor whose campaign slogal was “Not Corrupt, Not a Thief,” for failing to address problems in Guatemala such as insecurity, controversial hydroelectric projects and a generalized culture of corruption.

The group of protesters, who traveled hours from other Guatemalan departments, planned to congregate outside the congress building by 11 A.M. local time in one of the biggest demonstrations since the country’s historic “Renuncia Ya,” or “Resign Now,” movement forced the resignation of former President Otto Perez Molina in September 2015.

After months of protests in the capital city’s main plaza, Perez Molina was stripped of his presidential immunity and resigned. Months after the movement faded, political outsider Morales took office in January 2016 after riding a wave of anti-corruption sentiment to electoral victory over former first lady Sandra Torres.

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Now, the president’s own brother and son are both under preventive arrest, facing accusations of being involved in a fraud operation that siphoned off some US$400,000 from the country’s Property Registry. 

Meanwhile, Perez Molina and his former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, continue to await trial on corruption charges in relation to La Linea case, a scandal that exposed an elaborate network of bribes and kickbacks through the country’s customs authority that was traced all the way to the president’s office.

The case was brought to light through work by an internationally funded anti-corruption body operating in Guatemala and known by its Spanish acronym CICIG. Current president Morales recently refused to publicly defend the commission against a smear campaign.

As Morales completed one year in office in January 2016, social, political and Indigenous groups slammed his presidency as “inefficient” for his failure to improve the quality of life for Guatemalans and tackle issues plaguing the country such as corruption and insecurity.

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