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Guatemala scandal centers on president

A video statement by a slain lawyer saying that if he were to be killed that President Alvaro Colom and his circle would be responsible has opened up long-standing rifts in Guatemala.

May 23, 2009|Ken Ellingwood

"It has generated confidence that this would be an impartial investigation," said Mario Merida, a security analyst and newspaper columnist.

Leaders of the military, which once ruled Guatemala and is closely watched at delicate moments, have stayed in the background, making it clear that their only role this time would be to defend the constitution. The statements have taken the air out of concern that the scandal could provoke a military coup.

Colom's foes have asked Congress to strip the president of official immunity from prosecution while pressing him to step aside. Guatemala does not have an impeachment process.

But the president's opponents also have broadened their message by including wider concerns, such as reducing violence and reforming the nation's deeply troubled justice system.

The Congress on Thursday approved a bill that would open to greater public scrutiny the system for naming judges, who have previously been picked from lists drawn up by interest groups.

Galvez, the political science professor, said the crisis could galvanize support for long-needed reforms of the court system and criminal investigations.

"This makes it possible to think of a solution to the crisis that is positive for the country," he said.

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ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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