Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has resigned in the face of a corruption scandal that has brought his government to the brink. A spokesman says Perez Molina submitted his resignation at midnight after he was ordered to stand in front of a judge in the customs fraud case, which already has led to the jailing of his vice president, and the resignation of several cabinet ministers who withdrew their support for the president. His resignation, the first by a Guatemalan president, is not effective until Congress accepts it and names a new president. They were to convene early today to do so. Protesters, business leaders, and even Catholic church officials have called for Perez Molina to resign in recent weeks as the investigation of the customs fraud ring has grown wider and hit more officials.
Perez Molina, who maintains his innocence, submitted his resignation "to maintain the institution of the presidency and resolve on his own the legal proceedings leveled against him," the rep says; Congress lifted his immunity from prosecution Tuesday. The president, 64, will have to appear on accusations of illicit association, fraud, and receiving bribe money—arising from a scheme in which businesspeople paid bribes to avoid import duties through the customs agency—though no formal charges have been filed. Vice President Alejandro Maldonado is constitutionally in line to assume the presidency. He was chosen to replace former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who resigned May 8 due to the same scandal and is now jailed and facing charges. Maldonado would likely remain in office until the winner of Sunday's elections is inaugurated Jan. 14, 2016.