Guatemala’s vice-president has resigned amid a customs corruption scandal that implicated her former private secretary and opened her up to an investigation.
A sombre president Perez Molina said Roxana Baldetti had abandoned her offices in the presidential palace and he was informing congress. He called the decision “brave” and thanked her for her service.
“Her resignation is due to a personal decision with the only interest being to leave her office voluntarily, to submit herself to and co-operate with whatever investigations may be necessary and above all within the due process,” Molina said.
Baldetti is the first Guatemalan vice-president to step down due to a corruption case, although prosecutors have not implicated her in the scandal and she denies involvement.
She had earlier lost a constitutional court appeal seeking to overturn a ruling that allowed congress to begin an investigation into whether to strip her of the prosecutorial immunity that comes with office.
Recent days had seen calls for Baldetti’s resignation by protesters and influential business leaders.
“Roxana’s resignation is a victory for the people!” jubilant protesters chanted.
Molina said he would send three names to congress for a new vice-president to be picked from.
Baldetti’s one-time aide, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, is alleged to have been the ringleader of a customs scheme in which officials defrauded the state of millions of dollars by taking bribes to lower customs duties. Monzon’s last known whereabouts were overseas, and he is currently being sought by authorities.
At least 50 private citizens and public servants, including Guatemala’s current and former tax chiefs, are suspects in the customs scandal. Prosecutors said 27 are in custody.
Authorities revoked bail and were seeking to lift Sierra Stalling’s judicial immunity in order to launch an investigation.