In Guatemala Official close to president arrested in graft probe

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Guatemalan police arrested a former close aide to President Otto Perez on suspicion of corruption on Thursday, widening the circle of arrests that have battered his administration during its final months.

Gustavo Martinez, a former secretary general of the presidency who is also the fiance of Perez's daughter, was detained along with a former energy minister, accused by Guatemalan prosecutors of illegal influence-trafficking.

The 56-year-old Martinez stood down from his job at the presidency early last month following reports in the Guatemalan media accusing him of illicit enrichment. Lawyers representing Martinez could not be reached for comment.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-backed group working with prosecutors to root out corruption, said Martinez, the ex-minister and two others had taken advantage of their posts to sell favors.

Ivan Velasquez, commissioner of the CICIG, said Martinez had helped set up meetings for local energy firm Jaguar Energy in exchange for payments worth at least $120,000.

Jaguar Energy could not be reached for comment.

The news is a fresh blow to the 64-year-old Perez ahead of the first round of the next presidential elections in September.

The law bars Perez from running again.

The president has not been directly accused of wrongdoing, though he is waiting to see whether Congress decides to strip him of his immunity to be investigated over pending cases.

On May 8, his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, resigned after news reports linked her to a customs corruption racket. She denied any wrongdoing. On May 20, several top officials, including the central bank governor and one of Perez's former personal secretaries, were arrested in a separate bribery probe.

A day later, Perez fired several high-ranking ministers who had been accused of graft by Guatemalan media.

Thousands of Guatemalans have staged demonstrations calling on Perez to stand down in recent weeks, but the president on Thursday reiterated he would not be resigning.

"I have nothing to hide," he said after a meeting with U.S. officials.

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