Guatemalan president barred from leaving country

  • 02/09/2015

A Guatemalan judge has barred President Otto Perez from leaving the country, hours after he was stripped of his immunity due to his alleged role in customs fraud.

"The prosecutors' office sought a ban on leaving the country for President Otto Perez, and Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ordered it", prosecutors said on Twitter.

Congress on Tuesday (local time) voted to strip Perez's immunity, clearing the way for him to be prosecuted over claims he masterminded a multi-million-dollar corruption scheme.

The resolution was passed unanimously by the 132 MPs present, making the conservative leader the first president to have his immunity revoked in Guatemala's history.

After months of unprecedented protests, hundreds of demonstrators outside Congress erupted into jubilant cheers at the news, as passing drivers honked their horns in celebration.

The vote clears the way for prosecutors to charge Perez, a 64-year-old retired general, with running a scheme that allowed businesses to reduce their customs duty by paying bribes to corrupt officials.

Under Guatemalan law, he will be automatically removed from office if remanded in custody by a judge.

Perez's lawyers have filed a motion challenging the immunity vote before the Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule by Thursday.

The scandal, which has already felled his former vice president and a string of top officials, comes as Guatemala prepares for elections on Sunday to choose Perez's successor.