During a televised message to the nation Sunday night, in a defiant gesture, Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina announced he will stay in power in spite of growing calls for his resignation, the call from the attorney general for his impeachment, and four months of street protests against government corruption.
Perez Molina said that he is innocent and that he is willing to submit himself to the legal process that has been started against him.
The attorney general’s launch of impeachment proceedings came Friday, just hours after former Vice President Roxana Baldetti was arrested for her alleged involvement in a fraud network known as "La Linea," operating in the country’s customs agency. Baldetti resigned May 8 amid popular pressure, after embezzlement scandals began to come to light.
According to the U.N.’s impunity commission in Guatemala, CICIG, documents reveal a close relationship” between Baldetti and Perez, particularly regarding the president's direct involvement in illicit activity in the La Linea fraud scheme.
Despite initial doubts regarding the whereabouts of Perez Molina, judge Carmen Pocon confirmed that the president was in the Presidential Palace hours before the televised message to the nation. The event itself was delayed for an hour and a half than was originally announced.
During the televised message, the president referred to CICIG, rejecting what he said was “a (foreign) interventionist strategy, which aims at telling us what to do”.
Protesters gathered early in the afternoon ahead of the televised statement outside the presidential palace, waving national flags and calling for an indefinite vigil until the president resigns.
In the past 24 hours, seven members of Perez's cabinet have resigned over the corruption scandal involving the president.
Earlier Sunday, the Archbishop of Guatemala, Vian Morales, joined the calls for the president's resignation, and called upon the head of state to listen to the overwhelming majority asking him to step down.
Social movements, student organizations and nongovernmental organizations announced Sunday that, beginning Tuesday next week, they will hold a new round of protests demanding Perez Molina’s resignation. Other organizations are calling for an indefinite strike.
Last week, Guatemala’s congress voted to uphold Perez Molina’s presidential immunity from trial. The decision blocked further investigation into the president’s alleged involvement in corruption and the potential for his impeachment as a result of a congressional probe involving several delays.
The Guatemalan attorney general's and the anti-impunity body CICIG's investigations into a wave of corruption scandals that implicate several high-level government officials have fueled popular discontent with the government and led to widespread calls for the immediate resignation of President Perez Molina.
Guatemalans will vote in general elections for a new president on Sept. 6. The Electoral Tribunal rejected over 30 candidates due to corruption charges that currently open against them.