Guatemala's president may face corruption trial

Guatemala's Supreme Court gave a green light for embattled President Otto Perez, seen in Guatemala City on May 8, 2015, to be investigated for graft in the corruption scandal rocking his government (AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez) (AFP/File)

Guatemala City (AFP) - Guatemala's Supreme Court on Tuesday gave a green light for embattled President Otto Perez to be investigated for graft in the corruption scandal rocking his government.

Prosecutors has sought to open an investigation of the president, who as chief executive enjoys immunity from prosecution. The high court allowed the request to move forward, a spokesman said.

The measure will now be sent on to lawmakers who will decide if Perez's immunity will be stripped, said court spokesman Angel Pineda.

On Monday, Guatemalan prosecutors formally charged former vice president Roxana Baldetti with corruption three days after she was arrested for allegedly masterminding a customs bribery ring with Perez.

As angry protesters pressed Perez to resign, prosecutors told the court Baldetti took a 50-percent cut on all illegally slashed customs payments, for a total of some $3.8 million between May 2014 and April 2015.

They called her one of the ringleaders of a massive, highly organized bribery scam that has rocked Guatemalan politics -- less than two weeks from elections that will decide Perez's successor.

The scandal erupted in April when a United Nations commission tasked with fighting high-level corruption in Guatemala accused one of Baldetti's top aides, Juan Carlos Monzon, of running the bribery scheme.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu also called for Perez to go, encouraging citizens "to continue defending dignity and justice by remaining united in the fight against corruption and impunity."

And the special prosecutor in charge of human rights, Jorge de Leon, said it was "extremely important that the president resign and face trial."

Perez, a conservative retired general who has been in power since 2012, escaped a bid to lift his presidential immunity earlier this month when Congress rejected the measure.

The 64-year-old leader is not eligible to stand in the September 6 elections.