Amid crisis, Guatemalan bishops seek overhaul of country’s electoral law

By Catholic News Service

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) — Guatemalan Catholic bishops called for an overhaul to the country’s electoral law and for political parties to wipe out corruption amid a widening crisis that has left President Otto Perez Molina fending off calls for his resignation.

In a June 3 letter, the bishops’ conference said it supported protesters who have held demonstrations across the country demanding Perez, a former military general elected in 2011, step down.

"We need to break the cycle of corruption, impunity and conflict to be a different Guatemala," said the letter, signed by Bishop Rodolfo Valenzuela Nunez of Vera Paz, conference president, and Bishop Domingo Buezo Leiva of Izabal, conference general secretary.

The letter did not call for Perez to resign, but it said the "discovery of organized corruption in state institutions" has put the government in "crisis."

Perez has vowed to finish his term, which expires in January.

Protests have been growing since early May when then-Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned amid investigations of a bribery scandal.

Then, in late May, 15 officials were arrested over charges that the Social Security Institute rigged contracts for a Mexican pharmaceutical company in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks.

The twin scandals have forced the resignations or firing of dozens of government officials, including the head of the central bank and top ministers.

"Against this background we want to scream with indignation: Enough!" the bishops wrote in the letter.

The letter called for Congress to act swiftly to approve changes to the election law, which would establish term limits for lawmakers and mayors and would apply greater oversight of contributions to political parties and the way the funds are used. On Sept. 6, voters will choose a president, members of Congress, mayors and local council members.

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