The Supreme Court has approved for congress to decide whether to remove President Pérez Molina’s immunity from prosecution for possible involvement in the “La Linea” and IGSS corruption scandals. Should Perez Molina be put on trial, his possible prosecution would essentially result in his impeachment.
The Upcoming 2015 Elections
A recent poll by Costa Rican firm Borge y Asociados indicates that while conservative candidate Manuel Baldizón is still the favorite to win the upcoming presidential election, comedian Jimmy Morales is gaining support. Morales is seen as an anti-establishment candidate with little ties to Guatemala City, which could benefit him with the recent public outcry over government corruption. Morales is running as a member of the right-wing party, Frente de Convergencia Nacional, which has ties to the military. However, many express their doubt in Morales’ ability to lead as president. He has also recently made controversial comments about the past internal conflict in the country, including his denial that genocide was committed against the Maya Ixil people.
The retrial of Ríos Montt for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity has now been scheduled for July 23. The retrial was originally scheduled to restart in January 2015, but was postponed for several months, and the future of the trial remains uncertain. Questions about Ríos Montt’s deteriorating physical and mental health have prompted Judge Carol Patricia Flores to request a psychiatric evaluation of Montt, which will indicate whether he is still “fit for trial” and not intellectually incapacitated.
The Tico Times released a report last Friday declaring that the murder of Defense Attorney Francisco Palomo Tejada was the 26th homicide involving a lawyer in the past three years. Despite the Guatemalan Attorney General forming a special unit to investigate the murders of lawyers, only one of the 26 incidents has ended with a conviction. There is speculation that the murder of Palomo Tejada was in response to his success in obstructing the Ríos Montt case, which was delayed due to the defense’s claim that the presiding judge was impartial, and more recently, with his attempts to argue that Ríos Montt’s health may deem him unfit for trial.
President Otto Peréz Molina stated Thursday that the U.S. government and the World Bank have already begun to administer polygraph exams to officials in Guatemala’s tax authority (SAT), in response to the massive tax fraud scandal that unraveled in late April. This is one of the most recent efforts taken by Pérez Molina to curtail corruption in his administration. Over the past month, many high level officials have either resigned or been fired, including Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who was involved in the SAT scandal, and the president of the central bank, Julio Roberto Suarez Guerra, who is linked to a separate investigation involving false contracts awarded by the country’s Social Security Institute (IGSS).
Today, the New York Times published an article, tackling the multidimensional political crises that are unfolding in Guatemala and Honduras. The article notes that the countries are experiencing parallel mass movements, driven by the work of grassroots organizations, civil society, and citizens of all backgrounds. Read the full article here.