July 17, 2015 / 1:31 AM / 4 years ago

Drug trafficking, corruption bankroll Guatemalan politics - report

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala City, June 13, 2015. The sign reads; "President: We do not want you" and headband; "No more corruption". REUTERS/Josue Decavele

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Drug money and corruption are now key sources of financing for political parties in Guatemala, a prominent anti-crime commission said on Thursday, ramping up pressure on the Central American country’s battered political establishment.

Just two months from a presidential ballot, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-backed independent group working with prosecutors to root out corruption, said that political contributor anonymity is facilitating links to organised crime.

“Corruption is the principal source of financing for political parties,” Ivan Velasquez, commissioner at the CICIG, told a news conference. The group’s investigations have rocked the government and led to the arrest of some high-ranking officials, including the Central Bank chief.

The report said that drug trafficking had infiltrated local politics by financing campaigns, putting its own members up as candidates and creating construction companies that later won government contracts.

Since Guatemala decided in April to renew the CICIG’s mandate, encouraged by the United States, corruption scandals have prompted several key politicians in the country to stand down, including Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

Guatemala’s President Otto Perez, who has not been directly accused of any wrongdoing, is waiting to see whether Congress decides to strip him of his immunity to be investigated over pending cases.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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