Guatemala's Congress swore in former judge Alejandro Maldonado as president Thursday as his disgraced predecessor appeared in court over corruption allegations hours after resigning in the face of unprecedented protests.
Maldonado, a 79-year-old conservative who only became vice president in May, will serve out the rest of his former boss Otto Perez's term, handing over on January 14.
The country will hold elections Sunday to choose his successor, in a climate of widespread outrage over the corruption scandal engulfing Perez and broad rejection of the traditional political elite.
The Guatemalan people have been at the center of great moments of change and upheaval in our institutions, mobilized by their disgust with broken systems, said Maldonado, a lawyer and former judge on the Constitutional Court, after taking the oath of office.
The new government must emerge from the need to inspire citizens' confidence, opening a space in public service for mature and experienced people but also young professionals and social activists.
Congress had earlier voted unanimously to accept Perez's resignation, which he submitted just before midnight Wednesday after lawmakers stripped him of his presidential immunity -- a first in Guatemala -- and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
As Maldonado was donning the blue-and-white presidential sash, Perez appeared before the Supreme Court, looking uncomfortable as prosecutors detailed their accusations against him. The retired general lowered his eyes as prosecutors played out wire-tapped phone calls they say implicate him in a scheme to defraud the state.
Investigators believe the 64-year-old conservative received $3.7 million in bribes paid by importers in exchange for illegal discounts on their customs duty, said prosecutor Antonio Morales.
His former vice president Roxana Baldetti, who resigned in May, has already been charged with taking $3.8 million in bribes between May 2014 and April 2015.
I'm calm and I will face the situation bravely because I've done nothing wrong, Perez told a local radio station before his court appearance, where he sported a dark suit, red tie and a haggard look on his face.
The embattled president stepped down after clinging to power through months of mounting protests.
Guatemalans fed up with corruption erupted in celebration outside the Supreme Court early Thursday on the news of his resignation. Thousands have hit the streets in protest since the scandal first erupted in April, on a scale never before seen in Guatemala.
The accusations have stoked outrage in the Central American country of 15 million people, 53.7% of whom live in poverty, where the scars are still fresh from a 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, a and which has the dubious distinction of being one of Latin America's most violent nations, with some 6,000 murders each year.
The scandal was uncovered by investigators from a United Nations commission tasked with fighting high-level graft in Guatemala, who say they found massive evidence that Perez orchestrated a scheme dubbed La Linea (The Line), named for the hotline that importers would allegedly call to access a network of corrupt officials.