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Corruption: Guatemala’s congress strips president of immunity

President Otto Perez of Guatemala has lost his immunity after the country’s congress voted overwhelmingly to clear the way for him to be prosecuted over allegations of corruption.

The resolution was passed unanimously on Monday by the 132 politicians present, who had faced virulent demands from protesters to make the president face trial over the alleged multimillion-dollar fraud scheme at the national customs service.

After months of unprecedented protests that have swept Guatemala, 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 filed a motion on Monday challenging the immunity vote before the Constitutional Court, which is expected to rule by Thursday.

The 132 votes in favour were well clear of the two-thirds majority needed for the motion to pass in the 158-member legislature.

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