Guatemalan Ministers, Intelligence Chief Resign Amid Series of Corruption Scandals

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla. (Image: Government of Guatemala)
Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla. (Image: Government of Guatemala)

Top Story — The Guatemalan intelligence chief, as well as the ministers of the interior, environment and energy resigned on Thursday over a series of separate corruption scandals that have rattled the Central American country. The resignations come one day after police arrested 16 people, including the country’s central bank chief, as part of a health-care bribery investigation.

“I asked for and accepted their resignations, and I’m making these changes because I consider it appropriate to do so,” President Otto Pérez Molina told reporters on Thursday.

Aside from the probe into a contract-rigging case involving a pharmaceutical firm, which formed the basis for Wednesday’s arrests, investigators are also looking into a scheme that diverted custom fees and is believed to have been spearheaded by a former secretary to the vice president, who resigned on May 10 because of the unfolding scandal.

The Guatemalan president has denied involvement in the scandal, and has refuted allegations that his government is dissolving, referring to such suggestions as “unfounded rumors,” according to The Associated Press.

The president’s decision to request resignations from several key members of his administration — ex-Interior Minister Mauricio López had acted as the president’s campaign chief — comes as protests have roiled Guatemala City in the past several weeks, with many calling for Pérez Molina’s resignation. The president has rejected the call from protesters, vowing to complete his term, which ends in January 2016.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexican police have found three dismembered corpses in the conflict-ridden Guerrero state, near a city where 16 people were reported missing after a vigilante takeover that ended on May 14.
  • Mexico’s central bank on Thursday cut its economic growth forecast for the remainder of the year, after data was released showing the first quarter of 2015 saw the economy’s worst performance in two years.

Caribbean

  • U.S. and Cuban officials expressed confidence about the restoration of full diplomatic ties after meeting on Thursday, although they stopped short of announcing a date for the exchange of ambassadors, a long-awaited step.
  • The credit rating agency Moody’s on Thursday further downgraded Puerto Rico’s debt, which was already in the junk category due to a major budget crisis that prompted the governor’s proposal of a $674 million budget cut on Wednesday.

Central America

  • Ahead of the planned beatification of slain Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero on Saturday, the country’s human rights ombudsman said on Thursday that his murder, for which nobody has been convicted, should be re-investigated.
  • The son of former Honduran President Porfirio Lobo was arrested on Thursday in Haiti, reportedly by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in an anti-drug operations, according to The Associated Press.

Andes

  • After negotiating a $2 billion investment deal in Brazil, China’s premier arrived in Colombia on Thursday as part of an effort to boost economic ties there, which are relatively thin in comparison with China’s activities in the region as a whole.
  • Colombia’s mining commission has put a temporary hold on more than 500 mining projects, citing environmental and human rights concerns.
  • Peru’s military has sent humanitarian aid to the impoverished Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers region, which is the country’s top cocaine-producing region and home to Shining Path guerrillas.

Southern Cone

  • Amid protests of police violence in the United States, Brazil faces its own problems with police killings, which occur at rates that far exceed those in the United States.
  • In the Chilean capital of Santiago, protesters clashed with police during a speech by President Michelle Bachelet, who has faced increased criticism as a number of corruption scandals rock the country, including one involving her son.
  • Brazil’s rose to its highest level in four years in April, according to government statistics released on Thursday, though some analysts are saying the the number could be much higher.

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