In the midst of what experts have characterized as the worst political crisis in years, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the public prosecutor struck again last week, arresting 17 in connection with corruption at Guatemala’s social security institute. Amongst those arrested was Juan de Dios Rodriguez, the institute’s president and the former private secretary of Guatemala’s head of state Otto Pérez Molina. CICIG, whose demise had been predicted only weeks ago, has been instrumental in uncovering numerous significant corruption scandals.
According to prosecutors, the social security institute fraudulently awarded a US$ 15 million contract to the Pisa pharmaceutical company, at more than 15 percent commission, to ensure renal dialysis to social security patients though Pisa had neither the staff nor technical capacity to fulfill the contract. Prosecutors allege that at least ten patients died as a result of the illegal contracting, and many more suffered health complications.
Rodriguez reportedly played a role in last year’s controversial nomination process of higher court judges, using his contacts to influence the court’s composition. Prosecutors also arrested Otto Molina Stalling, who is the son of Supreme Court Judge Blanca Stalling. Molina Stalling was the social security institute’s financial adviser who allegedly negotiated the commission. Judge Stalling’s sister-in-law, Judge Sierra de Stalling, was also recently implicated in the custom tax fraud scheme uncovered only a week earlier by CICIG and the public prosecutors. The Supreme Court convened to consider how to respond to these allegations.
On Friday, during the first hearing related to the social security institute scandal, the public prosecutor and CICIG presented wiretaps which suggested again the involvement of former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who resigned in the wake of earlier corruption allegations implicating her private secretary. The public prosecutor has begun to review Baldetti’s properties.
Despite the growing public clamor for his resignation, President Pérez Molina has reaffirmed he intends to stay until the January 2016 end of his mandate. However, Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla and other executive officials resigned last week. Pérez Molina indicated that he requested these resignations because of his commitment to transparency. Prior to the last round of resignations, Guatemala’s powerful business lobby CACIF had sought the review of public contracts in light of the growing scandals.
A coalition of Guatemalan civil society organizations has called for the postponement of the scheduled September national elections and a modification of the electoral laws to ensure a democratic process.