HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Ex-President Blames Legal Woes on US
BRIEF

Guatemala Ex-President Blames Legal Woes on US

ELITES AND CRIME / 29 MAR 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

Arrested former Guatemala President Otto Pérez Molina has professed his innocence in the corruption scandal that cost him the presidency, claiming that the US government influenced the investigation.

"I am innocent, and everyone must respect that," the former president told the press following a March 28 court appearance, Prensa Libre reported

It was Pérez's first public appearance since he resigned the presidency in September 2015. Since then, he has been held in preventative detention at a military base.

Pérez was summoned to court alongside his former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, and approximately 30 other people accused of running a massive customs fraud network known as "La Línea." The network allegedly embezzled millions of dollars in customs taxes

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

The presiding judge was expected to rule on whether the case would go to trial, but instead he decided to indefinitely suspend proceedings in order to assess a petition from the Inspector General's Office (Procuraduría General de la Nación - PGN), which requested to be included in the proceedings.

Before returning to the military base where he is being held, Pérez blamed the US Embassy for interfering in Guatemala's internal affairs via anti-impunity commission the CICIG (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala).

"Behind all this is the CICIG, which has become a tool for the United States," Pérez stated.

The former president maintained that this was a case of "political persecution," and that investigators lacked evidence.

The Attorney General's Office has thousands of phone recordings allegedly proving the suspects' involvement in the criminal network, along with testimony from former media mogul Salvador González, alias "Eco," who reportedly helped administer La Línea's illegal funds before becoming a witness for the prosecution.

Ex-President Otto Pérez Molina speaking to press, via Prensa Libre

InSight Crime Analysis

It is unsurprising that Pérez took this opportunity in the public eye to proclaim his innocence and try to depict the CICIG as unduly influenced by foreign powers.

Pérez's relationship with the CICIG -- which investigated La Línea along with the Attorney General's Office -- was not a fully cooperative one. In April 2015, Pérez reluctantly approved a two-year extension of the CICIG's mandate, despite previous hints that he would not do so. This move was widely seen as the result of international pressure to keep the CICIG active in Guatemala. 

SEE ALSO:  Guatemala News and Profiles

While the CICIG and the Attorney General's Office took the first groundbreaking steps in building a case against Pérez and Baldetti, it remains to be seen what will happen to the case if it goes to trial. In one famous case in 2013, Guatemala's Constitutional Court annulled what had been the historical conviction of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on genocide charges, sparking international outrage.

While Pérez's claims of US interference in Guatemala's internal affairs carry much historical weight in the Latin American context, the head of the CICIG has previously assured that the US is "not propping up" the anti-impunity commission.

Nevertheless, concerns over sovereignty has limited efforts to create bodies similar to the CICIG elsewhere, in particular El Salvador

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

GUATEMALA / 29 MAR 2012

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has begun the process of renewing the mandate of a valuable United Nations-backed anti-impunity organization,…

BRAZIL / 17 JUL 2015

Authorities in Brazil have seized assets and documents from top government officials in connection with the expanding Petrobras corruption investigation,…

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 JUL 2015

A new report details the sweeping extent to which organized crime and interest groups have infiltrated Guatemalan politics.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.