Guatemalan prosecutors urge president to step down amid scandal

Perez Molina is facing an impeachment process and possible charges in a customs fraud scheme.

Moises Castillo/AP
National University students march to the National Palace to take part in a strike calling for the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in Guatemala City, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.

Pressure grew Thursday on Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina to resign as business and government offices closed, protesters prepared to march, and the attorney general's office urged him to step down "to prevent ungovernability that could destabilize the nation."

The government comptrollers' office also issued a statement saying Perez Molina, whose government has been shaken by corruption scandals, should resign "to avoid greater social unrest that could have unpredictable consequences."

Perez Molina, facing an impeachment process and possible charges in a customs fraud scheme, has not spoken publicly since Sunday, when he denied any involvement and said emphatically that he would not resign.

Large protests were scheduled in the capital following days of intermittent roadblocks by demonstrators who want the president to resign and the Sept. 6 presidential elections to be postponed.

Pollo Campero, the country's iconic fried chicken chain, joined the stoppage and shuttered its outlets in Guatemala City on Thursday. Other restaurant chains announced on their Facebook sites that they were also joining the shutdown. The country's national chamber of commerce called on its members to allow their employees to attend the demonstrations "as long as they are peaceful and law-abiding."

Perez Molina's former vice president has been jailed on charges of receiving bribes from businessmen to evade import duties and the attorney general's office said the president himself also appears to have been linked to the scheme. Many members of his cabinet already have quit, and business, religious and student groups are also calling on Perez Molina to resign.

On Wednesday, former Vice President Roxana Baldetti was ordered to remain in jail pending trial on charges of conspiracy, customs fraud and bribery, based on allegations that she accepted $3.7 million in bribes as part of the scandal that forced her from office.

And on Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has the power to remove Perez Molina's immunity from prosecution as a sitting president.

Five of Perez Molina's 13 cabinet ministers have resigned since Friday, as have eight vice-ministers, two secretaries and other government officials, amid demands that Perez Molina quit. He has vowed to stay on.

Both the president and Baldetti have denied any wrongdoing.

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