Otto Perez Molina
Guatemalan President rejects calls to resign
02:26 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is accused of leading a corruption scheme

Pérez Molina defies critics, vows to remain in office in broadcast address to the nation

There have been protests demanding the President's resignation since April

CNN  — 

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has defiantly vowed to stay in office despite calls from around the Central American country for him to resign immediately.

The President said Sunday that he will continue to govern the nation of 15 million and let the legal process take its course as a corruption scandal rocks his administration.

Pérez Molina, 64, has been accused of leading a corruption scheme. A U.N. investigating commission known as CICIG for its Spanish acronym and Guatemala’s attorney general have said there’s evidence the President and close aides in his administration, including former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, took bribes in exchange for reducing or eliminating taxes to companies or individuals seeking to import products into Guatemala.

“I categorically deny and reject the accusation that I was involved (in a corruption scheme) and having received any money from that customs fraud scheme,” the President said in a message broadcast late Sunday on Guatemalan national TV and radio.

Baldetti, 53, was detained Friday and accused of being involved in the corruption scheme. She has repeatedly denied involvement.

She resigned in May, shortly after the scandal broke and the CICIG and attorney general’s office announced the first results of their investigations.

Several ministers, vice ministers and commissioners, who have not been implicated in the scandal, have resigned recently, saying they no longer trust Pérez Molina and don’t want to be part of an administration they say is unfit to govern the country.

There have been protests demanding the President’s resignation since April, mainly in the capital’s Constitution Square, where the National Palace is located.

Dozens of people gathered Sunday evening outside the presidential residence, beating on drums, shouting and holding flags. “Otto Pérez, get out,” they chanted. “Guatemala doesn’t want you anymore.”

Protester Pamela Sarabia said she’s convinced the President knowingly allowed his associates in government to enrich themselves by receiving kickbacks from importers.

“It’s impossible that he didn’t know about all these corruption charges. It’s absolutely impossible that he didn’t know about the things the vice president was doing and all the people around him,” Sarabia said.

Others such as Óscar Adolfo Reyes, a member of Guatemala’s radio announcers association, said Pérez Molina and others allegedly involved in the corruption scheme have breached their duties and forgotten the promises of honesty and transparency made to the people upon taking office.

“They have been elected by the people with the sole goal of serving themselves instead of serving the people,” Reyes said.

Phillip Chicola, a Guatemalan political analyst, said the current political crisis has created a situation in which the President is unable to effectively govern and respond to the country’s needs.

“Since the scandal broke in April, the President has been more interested in trying to survive the last months of his term than governing. The government here in Guatemala is paralyzed because the President right now is more worried about staying in power,” Chicola said.

Guatemala is holding presidential elections September 6.

Pérez Molina’s term in office runs until January 14, but it remains to be seen if his legal troubles or the Guatemalan people will allow him to remain in power.