World

Conservative ex-justice Alejandro Maldonado in line as Guatemala's interim leader

  • FILE - In this May 14, 2015 file photo, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre attends his swearing-in ceremony as Guatemala's new vice president, inside Congress in Guatemala City.  President Otto Perez Molina resigned Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, amid a corruption scandal after a judge issued an order to detain him in the case. Maldonado is constitutionally in line to assume the presidency.  (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

    FILE - In this May 14, 2015 file photo, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre attends his swearing-in ceremony as Guatemala's new vice president, inside Congress in Guatemala City. President Otto Perez Molina resigned Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, amid a corruption scandal after a judge issued an order to detain him in the case. Maldonado is constitutionally in line to assume the presidency. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Guatemala's new President Alejandro Maldonado attends his swearing-in ceremony before Congress in Guatemala City, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Maldonado was sworn in as Guatemala's new president amid a corruption scandal that has caused a national political crisis. The conservative former judge will serve out the term of form President Otto Perez Molina, who resigned late Wednesday after a judge issued an order for this detention. Prosecutors accuse the ex-president of leading a customs fraud ring.  (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    Guatemala's new President Alejandro Maldonado attends his swearing-in ceremony before Congress in Guatemala City, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Maldonado was sworn in as Guatemala's new president amid a corruption scandal that has caused a national political crisis. The conservative former judge will serve out the term of form President Otto Perez Molina, who resigned late Wednesday after a judge issued an order for this detention. Prosecutors accuse the ex-president of leading a customs fraud ring. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

Vice President Alejandro Maldonado, a conservative former high court justice, was expected on Thursday to replace President Otto Perez Molina, who resigned a few hours earlier amid a corruption scandal.

Maldonado, who has served just a few months as Guatemala's No. 2 official, would hold the presidency only until January should Congress swear him in after accepting Perez Molina's resignation, as expected.

The 79-year-old Maldonado was chosen from a list that Perez Molina submitted to Congress in May to replace former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who resigned because of the same scandal. She is now behind bars and facing charges.

If all goes as expected, Maldonado would remain in office until the winner of Sunday's presidential contest is inaugurated on Jan. 14, 2016.

Maldonado has served as Guatemala's foreign minister and in ambassadorial posts. He also formerly headed Guatemala's highest court, where he presided over much-debated decisions like the one not to extradite former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

Rios Montt faced charges in Spain for genocide, torture and terrorism committed at the height of Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war, and the decision against extradition was hotly criticized.

Maldonado also oversaw the high court's 2011 decision to bar former first lady Sandra Torres' bid to succeed her ex-husband in the presidency. Torres had divorced then-president Alvaro Colom months earlier, but Maldonado said her candidacy still violated a constitutional ban on relatives of the chief executive running for the office.

Torres is running for president again, but the front-runner this time is Manuel Baldizon, a businessman who lost four years ago to Perez Molina.

Perez Molina appeared in court on Thursday after Congress voted earlier this week to strip him of his immunity from prosecution. Members of Congress were to meet later Thursday to decide whether to accept the president's resignation.

Prosecutor Thelma Aldana has said the ex-president is suspected of illicit association, fraud and receiving bribes in connection with a conspiracy that is believed to have bilked the government out of millions of dollars.

Officials allegedly took bribes in exchange for letting businesses evade import duties through the customs agency. Perez Molina has denied any wrongdoing.