Former legislative leader detained in Guatemala bribe case
SONIA PEREZ D.
Mar. 10, 2016
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A former leader of Guatemala's Congress was arrested Wednesday on charges of trying to bribe a judge to issue a ruling favoring the vice president at the time, who is also accused of corruption.
Gudy Rivera's arrest continues a string of high-profile graft cases that have already landed former President Otto Perez Molina, his Vice President Roxana Baldetti and others behind bars.
Rivera was detained in the morning on an arrest warrant from prosecutors, national police spokesman Jorge Aguilar said. He is accused of bribery and influence trafficking.
Arriving at a courthouse in handcuffs, Rivera, who was considered the then-ruling party's enforcer and a close associate of Perez Molina, said he was a "man of the law" and would "submit myself to justice."
Former Judge Claudia Escobar accused Rivera of trying to bribe her to block a court order in 2014 removing Baldetti as secretary-general of the Patriot Party, to which Rivera belongs.
Escobar voted against Baldetti, complained publicly about the alleged bribery attempt and was transferred by judicial authorities.
The judge complained of threats, and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission ordered that the government take steps to protect her.
Perez Molina and Baldetti resigned last year and have been in custody on charges of permitting and benefiting from a customs graft scheme known as La Linea, or "The Line," that defrauded the state of millions of dollars.
Also Wednesday, Guatemalan prosecutors and a U.N. commission investigating criminal networks in the country said they are concerned for the safety of Juan Carlos Monzon, Baldetti's former private secretary and an alleged ringleader of La Linea, and Salvador Gonzalez, its purported financier.
"We fear for their lives because the conditions of the penitentiary system where they are being held are so insecure," prosecutor Francisco Sandoval said.
Monzon wore a bulletproof vest and helmet and was escorted by dozens of armed police officers as he appeared at a court hearing.
Luis Fernando Orozco, a lawyer for the U.N. commission, asked the court to redouble his security. The judge agreed.
The commission's head, Ivan Velasquez, said via his Twitter account that Gonzalez — who is testifying about receiving money he allegedly delivered to Monzon to be passed on to Baldetti and Perez Molina — is "notoriously in danger because of his cooperation."