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Guatemala government in meltdown amid La Linea graft scandal

Former Guatemala vice president Roxana Baldetti allegedly took half of the payoffs from businesses who bribed the government to evade customs duties, prosecutors said in court this week.

Baldetti, 53, pictured left, was arrested last week. She has denied the charges.

President Otto Perez Molina said Sunday he regrets the allegations but won't resign. He claims he's not linked to the scandal.

Fourteen members of Molina's cabinet have resigned. Police have made about thirty arrests.

Baldetti, who took office as VP in January 2012, resigned in May.

In court, prosecutors played secret recordings that allegedly show her taking bribes.

The scandal is known as La Linea (The Line) -- a reference to a special phone number businesses allegedly called for help to clear their goods through customs.

Protesters want President Molina to resign.

“Citizens are demanding that these acts not be tolerated,” Claudia Paz y Paz, a former attorney general, told the New York Times. “When they see that people are pocketing public funds, it generates indignation.”

Prosecutors are trying to strip Molina of immunity and put him on trial. Only the congress can remove his immunity. Twice in the past, congress rejected motions to end Molina's legal protections.

A presidential election is set for early September. Molina isn't eligible to run because of term limits.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.