Guatemala Corruption Scandals Signal End of Era of Impunity

Guatemala Corruption Scandals Signal End of Era of Impunity
Demonstrators gather outside the National Palace demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala City, June 13, 2015 (AP photo by Luis Soto).

The uncovering of a series of massive corruption scandals over the past two months has sparked a succession of widespread public protests larger than Guatemala has seen in recent history. Since April, thousands of Guatemalans from a diverse cross-section of society have repeatedly poured into the streets to demand change and an end to corruption. The wave of protests incited an ongoing political crisis, forcing the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti and several high-level government officials, including four members of President Otto Perez Molina’s Cabinet. With calls growing for Perez Molina to resign, and signs that the Supreme Court could impeach him, this could be a watershed moment for Guatemala, dealing a serious blow to impunity.

On April 16, Guatemalan authorities arrested 22 people implicated in a criminal network responsible for defrauding the national tax collection agency and customs office of an estimated $120 million in tax revenue. The criminal ring, dubbed “La Linea” (The Line), involved officials at the highest levels of government, including the current and former head of the tax collection agency and Baldetti’s personal secretary, Juan Carlos Monzon, who was identified as the ring’s principal leader. The whereabouts of Monzon, who had traveled with the vice president to South Korea, is still unknown.

The scandal also reverberated in the justice sector. Further investigations into the tax fraud scheme resulted in the arrest of three lawyers representing members of “La Linea” who are accused of offering clients access to corrupt judicial authorities.

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