Guatemala's President Resigns

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Otto Pérez Molina resigned today amid a scandal that is believed to have defrauded the state of millions of dollars. Pérez Molina—who is accused of leading the scheme that helped business owners avoid import duties by paying bribes—had initially refused to step down.

The country’s Congress voted Tuesday to lift his immunity, and its attorney general announced an arrest warrant had been issued for the president. But Pérez Molina changed his mind overnight. He maintains his innocence and has pledged to cooperate fully with the legal process. As the Los Angeles Times explains:

The corruption scandal, uncovered by prosecutors and a U.N. commission probing criminal networks in Guatemala, involved a scheme known as "La Linea," or "The Line," in which businesspeople paid bribes to avoid import duties through the customs agency.

The case has embroiled other high-profile government officials, including former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who resigned in May. She is currently in jail.

Congress must accept Pérez Molina’s resignation and appoint a replacement. According to the country’s constitution, this will likely be Vice President Alejandro Maldonado, who would serve until the winner of the upcoming election is inaugurated.

The Guatemalan constitution limits presidents to one four-year term, so Pérez Molina, who has been in office since January 2012, is not eligible for re-election.