Talk to Al Jazeera

Former Guatemalan president: I never acted illegally

We speak to Otto Perez Molina at a military prison as he waits to find out if he will stand trial on corruption charges.

In September 2015, the people of Guatemala took to the streets in an unprecedented and dramatic demonstration against the sitting President, Otto Perez Molina.

The country was upended when prosecutors revealed a multi-million-dollar corruption ring involving the president and members of his government.

I have my doubts that it will be a fair trial. And these doubts stem from how the CICIG has operated in the past, how they select the cases they prosecute, how they respond to the American ambassador's directives and how they intimidate judges and the Public Prosecutor's office.

by Otto Perez Molina

The case was dubbed “La Linea” (the line), which is the codename for a hotline allegedly used to discuss and plan the operations by which importers paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to avoid customs duty.

Perez Molina, a former army general and intelligence chief, who had been elected president in 2011, stepped down in September 2015 after Congress lifted his political immunity from prosecution following months of anti-corruption protests.

The investigation of the La Linea case would not have happened without the collaboration of CICIG – the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, an independent entity set up by the United Nations and the government to support the Public Prosecutor’s office. But Molina accuses the committee of in fact being run by the United States in an effort to protect its geopolitical interests.

The investigation uncovered nearly 90,000 intercepted phone calls. The former president can be heard in one of them ordering his top tax official, Carlos Munoz, to fire a senior official and replace her with one they could trust. The president was pushing for the change presumably to ease La Linea operations.

This week on Talk to Al Jazeera, we join the former president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, in prison as he waits to find out if he’ll stand trial on corruption charges.