Jailed Guatemalan ex-President points finger at United States - KMOV.com

Jailed Guatemalan ex-President points finger at United States

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Retired Army Gen. Otto Perez Molina won a runoff presidential election in Guatemala in August, 2011, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation. Retired Army Gen. Otto Perez Molina won a runoff presidential election in Guatemala in August, 2011, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation.
Retired Army Gen. Otto Perez Molina won a runoff presidential election in Guatemala in August, 2011, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation. Retired Army Gen. Otto Perez Molina won a runoff presidential election in Guatemala in August, 2011, seizing on voters' concerns about growing insecurity in the Central American nation.

By Catherine E. Shoichet

(CNN) -- Days after a judge sent him to jail, former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina maintains his innocence, suggesting the United States may have played a role in the case that landed him behind bars.

"There are many things behind this," he told CNN en Español's Fernando Del Rincón in an exclusive interview Wednesday from the military jail where he's being held as investigations in a corruption case against him continue.

"It is not only what you saw in the hearing. There is a series of interests of another type, I would say including geopolitical interests, not only in Guatemala, but extending to Honduras and El Salvador," he said.

Pérez Molina resigned from his post last week after lawmakers stripped him of the immunity that would have protected him prosecution. Shortly afterward, he found himself in custody after a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Guatemala's attorney general and a U.N. investigating commission accuse Pérez Molina and a group of close aides within his administration of receiving bribes in exchange for lowering taxes for companies seeking to import products into the Central American country. The case shook his government for months and sparked protests throughout the country calling for his resignation.

Pérez Molina denied the accusations Wednesday, adding that the steps leading up to his resignation and arrest mirrored the steps of a "soft coup" forcing him from power.

And he said he believes the United States is at least partly to blame.

U.S. 'interference'

How? Top U.S. officials, he said, repeatedly tried to pressure his government to renew the mandate of the United Nations International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known as the CICIG.

The commission, a special independent body of prosecutors, is now helping lead the charge against Pérez Molina. A treaty-level agreement between Guatemala and the United Nations signed in 2006 gives the commission special power to investigate a limited number of sensitive cases.

Pérez Molina told Del Rincón the case against him is politically motivated, and it's no coincidence that it came to a head last week. The former President said he was getting ready to boot the U.N. commission from his country.

"The CICIG has been an instrument that has served others, but not to strengthen justice," he said. "Today, the CICIG, we see it really as an interference of the United States, who were the ones who most pressured for it. So I responded to the interference of the United States, who are the ones who are practically ordering the commissioner here."

A State Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the former Guatemalan President's accusations.

The U.N. commission has been praised for tackling a number of high-profile cases in Guatemala, helping prosecutors take steps to crack down on organized crime and combat impunity. But even before his arrest, Pérez Molina was critical of the group.

'Asking God for strength'

Wearing blue jeans, a blue polo shirt and a vest, Perez Molina spoke with Del Rincón in a courtyard at the military jail.

He defended his legacy, saying he'd worked tirelessly to help his country.

"History will be the judge. These are difficult, hard, complicated moments, but there are millions of Guatemalans who have been served well during the past three years, eight months," he said.

His time behind bars, Pérez Molina said, has been marked by introspection.

"These are complicated days, days of a lot of feelings, of a lot of internal debate, of looking at how things have been happening," he said. "Not just now, this started months ago. ... They orchestrated things so that it would lead to this. It is a difficult and complicated moment. We are asking God for strength."

Pérez Molina described himself as a victim of unjust accusations, arguing that he would have admitted any wrongdoing if he were guilty.

"We are facing this, and I will keep facing it. I did not try to leave the country, and I will not try to flee from the judicial processes," he said. "The only thing that we are asking is that they are fair processes, and that things to as they should to allow me to prove my innocence and clarify things."

CNN's Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.

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