Just days before a general election, Guatemalan President Otto Perez has been issued an arrest order on charges of graft. The country has been thrown into chaos by the detention order and the arrest or removal of other high ranking Government ministers and officials.
Lawmakers stripped Perez of any immunity from prosecution protection he had enjoyed and which had kept him from being charged ever since the graft scandal was "officially" discovered several months ago.
The irony behind his arrest order is that the 64-year-old retired general won the presidency campaigning on a crime and corruption ticket.
News of the president being issued an arrest warrant were tweeted by the office of Attorney General Thelma Aldana. The tweets said Perez would face charges of taking bribes, illicit association, and customs fraud. The judge who signed and issued the warrant was not named in order to protect him and his family from possible revenge attacks from Perez supporters. He was referred to as simply Judge “B”.
Perez, who is unable to seek re-election under the Guatemalan constitution and was due to handover the presidency to a newly elected president in January has claimed he is innocent and has to date refused to resign.
His Government has spent much of 2015 involved in corruption allegations and charges, with Perez himself firing several government ministers in May, a move experts say was a passing of the buck.
Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned last May although denying any wrongdoing. After her resignation she was arrested on charges of bribery, illicit association, and fraud.
Prosecutors have said that If Perez is jailed, the courts could order the end of his presidency, with vice president Alejandro Maldonado stepping in.
Most of the charges relate to a customs racket which prosecutors have labelled "La Linea," (the line) due to a phone hotline used by importers who avoided paying customs duties in exchange for bribes.