The string of massive corruption scandals gripping Guatemala has deepened, as the head of the congressional commission investigating President Otto Perez Molina for corruption charges resigned Thursday after allegations of conspiracy and fraud were leveled against the lawmaker.
The U.N. anti-impunity body in Guatemala known as CICIG announced evidence linking Congressional commission chief Baudilio Hichos to the country's US$14.5 million social security scandal Wednesday, calling for an impeachment process against the official for charges of fraud, conspiracy and influence peddling.
While Hichos initially vowed to continue working in his capacity leading the congressional probe into President Perez Molina, which is considering stripping his immunity from facing a trial, he stepped down Thursday, as Perez Molina's testimony was expected in Congress.
“Lawmaker Baudilio Hichos resigns from investigative commission undertaking impeachment process against Perez Molina.”
Hichos headed a congressional commissioninvestigating Perez Molina for corruption, after the Supreme Court ruled that Congress would determine whether to strip the president of the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by elected officials.
Prosecutors have leveled allegations against Perez Molina related to massive scandals in the country's customs agency and Social Security Institute, known as IGSS, which have already forcedtop government officials and presidential allies from office amid ongoing popular calls for Perez Molina's resignation.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said he will not attend an audience in Congress on Thursday despite being summoned to testify to the commission probing his involvement in the series of major corruption scandals.
Presidential Press Secretary Karla Herrera explained the presidential absence is due to conflicting commitments. Instead of testifying in person, Perez Molina will send a document stating his position in response to the corruption charges.
But a lawmaker rejected Perez Molina's written testimony Thursday, saying he should have come to be held accountable, even though Guatemalan law allows submission of testimony in writing.
Pesquisidora: Dip. Moran "no aceptamos informe del mandatario, la ley lo permite, pero debió venir a rendir cuentas" pic.twitter.com/5TyawlMs6Q— Luis Garcia TN23 (@LuisGarciaM2) June 18, 2015
“Investigator: Lawmaker Moran: “We don’t accept the president’s report, the law permits it, but he should have come to be accountable.”
The congressional probe marks the first time a Guatemalan president in office has been investigated since 1985. Legislators were expected to rule on whether Perez Molina will face trial after the president's testimony, but it remains unclear if the ruling will be delayed if the written testimony is not accepted.
As corruption swirling around the government deepens, it remains unclear who will lead the congressional commission probing recent scandals in light of Hichos' resignation.
Perez Molina continues to deny the allegations of corruption.
“Perez Molina: ‘None of the crimes that they point to involving me are solidly argued.’”
On Thursday, the latest“Resign Now” march to demand Perez Molina’s immediate resignation will take place. These have been ongoing for over two months.
The political shakeup and growing popular discontent as a result of shattered confidence in the government and corrupt officials comes just months before Guatemala's general elections this September.