Guatemala's Congress voted unanimously on Tuesday to strip President Otto Perez Molina of his immunity from criminal prosecution, a move that clears the way for him to face charges in connection with a corruption scandal that has rocked the Central American country's government.
As president, Perez Molina was previously exempt from criminal prosecution. A similar to vote to remove that protection was held just two weeks ago, but failed to muster enough support to pass. The tide has turned dramatically since then, however, and 132 lawmakers voted against Perez Molina on Tuesday in a resounding condemnation of the embattled leader.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets since April, when a crime ring dubbed "La Linea" — The Line — was revealed by a joint investigation by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and the Guatemalan Public Ministry. The customs fraud network stole an estimated $120 million dollars from taxpayers, according to local reports.
Several members of Perez Molina's cabinet have resigned because of their alleged involvement in the crime ring. Former vice president Roxana Baldetti faces charges of illicit association, bribery, and fraud. The crime ring's alleged leader is Juan Carlos Monzon, Baldetti's private secretary, who is currently a fugitive.
Perez Molina has denied any wrongdoing and stated that he intends to remain in office. Last week, Guatemala's Supreme Court approved a motion by the country's attorney general to impeach the president.
Perez Molina is nearing the end of his term in office, which is set to end in January 2016. The scandal comes on the eve of a presidential election that is currently scheduled to take place next Sunday, on September 6, despite calls for the vote to be delayed.
Reuters contributed to this report.