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International News: Former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina sentenced to eight years over corruption

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2023. 3:18 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: In a significant ruling, a Guatemalan court has sentenced former president Otto Pérez Molina to eight years imprisonment on charges of money laundering, fraud, and corruption. The verdict, as reported by the BBC, comes in the wake of mass anti-corruption protests that led to Pérez Molina’s ousting from office in 2015.

Pérez Molina, 72, has been incarcerated since the day following his resignation. Prosecutors pointed out that the ex-president had illicitly procured millions through bribes, offering in return over 70 contracts to various firms.

In a related case from the previous year, both Pérez Molina and his then vice-president, Roxana Baldetti, were convicted for orchestrating a large-scale bribery operation within the Guatemalan customs authorities.

The unearthing of these corruption scandals was largely attributed to the relentless efforts of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). This UN-initiated commission was formed in collaboration with Guatemala with the specific goal of eradicating systemic corruption in the Central American nation. Their work led them to probe corruption allegations at the very pinnacle of political power.

However, their commendable efforts did not come without resistance. In a move that garnered widespread disapproval, CICIG was expelled from Guatemala in 2019 by the subsequent president, Jimmy Morales. This decision was made shortly after the commission began probing into Morales’ supposed financial discrepancies during his election campaign.

The removal of CICIG was condemned by anti-corruption factions both domestically and internationally, notably by entities in the US and European Union.

Regrettably, the struggle against corruption in Guatemala persists. Current President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration has come under scrutiny for allegedly hindering corruption inquiries. Adding to the concerns, the US state department last year charged Guatemala’s Attorney General Consuelo Porras with sabotaging investigations in an alleged bid to “protect her political allies and gain undue political favor”. This allegation arose after Porras sanctioned the arrest of several anti-corruption prosecutors.

Such events have fueled an exodus of many Guatemalan legal professionals who departed the country fearing apprehension.

A recent public poll revealed that the endemic corruption issue is a significant concern for Guatemalans. This prevailing sentiment was reflected in the electoral choice, as many cast their vote in favor of an outsider candidate who vowed to eradicate corruption.

 

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