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Facing corruption charges, president of Guatemala resigns

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has resigned amid allegations of his involvement in a customs fraud scheme, a scandal that has ignited grassroots protests.

Perez Molina is accused, along with other Guatemalan officials currently under investigation, of profiting from a setup in which prosecutors say businessmen avoided paying import tariffs on products moving through Guatemala’s customs agencies in exchange for bribes.

Earlier, a judge had issued a warrant for his arrest and lawmakers voted to strip him of immunity from prosecution. The president officially submitted his resignation in a letter to congress on Wednesday evening, writing, “Considering the current situation and taking into into account the interest of the nation, it’s appropriate that I continue with the process and therefore face justice and resolve my personal situation.”

In recent weeks, citizens have staged demonstrations demanding an end to impunity for the country’s political elite. Prosecutors first exposed the corruption scheme dubbed “La Linea” or “The Line” in April.

The country’s vice president, Roxana Baldetti, resigned in May and was arrested last week, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that prosecutors directly accused Perez Molina of participating in the scheme which allegedly involved millions of dollars in customs revenues. In a televised address on Aug. 23, Perez Molina denied he had any involvement.

The political shakeup comes at a pivotal time in the Central American nation with general elections scheduled for Sunday. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado will serve as president for the remainder of Perez Molina’s term, which ends in January when Guatemala’s next president takes office. A hearing is expected as early as Thursday.

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