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Guatemala Rises Up against Corruption

By: Contributor - May 21, 2015, 9:12 am

EspañolOn Saturday, May 16, tens of thousands descended upon the streets of Guatemala to protest against endemic government corruption. Some even demanded that President Otto Pérez Molina step down. Others also called for the Electoral and Political Parties Law to be reformed.

The country made the first step in the right direction last week when public outcry forced Vice President Roxana Baldetti to resign. But as protestors were keen to point out, it was just the beginning.

We witnessed a historical event on Saturday. Differences were put aside and everybody joined in, because we’re all fed up with this and many other past corrupt governments. Of course this did not stop some people from instigating division.

Two suspicious Facebook pages, “A regular and conscious citizen” and “United Citizenship,” argued that “political and corporate manipulation” was behind the protests, claiming those who showed up had been “herded” by opposition parties. It seems someone is afraid.

60,000 people in Guatemala protested on Saturday against the Pérez Molina administration.
Around 60,000 Guatemalans demonstrated on Saturday. (Prensa Libre)

Students from several private universities gathered in front of the Guatemalan judiciary, and then we went on to join a march started in the morning by the San Carlos University, the country’s largest and oldest higher-education institution. It’s not something you see everyday: Guatemala has awakened and it has had enough with the political class.

Rain didn’t stop us. We gripped our soaked banners and placards even harder. All of Guatemala united? I never thought I’d see the day.

Constitution Square was once more full of people who want change in this wounded country. We have realized that democracy is just a joke for partisan politicians, who attain power only because it’s a handy tool to enrich themselves with.

We still have a long road ahead, but these first steps are extremely important. Those who seek power now know we’re vigilant and that just as we voted them into office, we can remove them.

The Prosecutor’s Office and the UN’s Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) must now continue investigating the tax-evasion scandal known as La Línea (The Line) and make those responsible pay. A reform of electoral law is likewise necessary, otherwise we will tell the same story every four years.

Baldetti’s resignation was not enough. The fact of the matter is that a person who interfered with the controversial election of Supreme Court judges came to occupy the vice presidency.

El caso "La Línea" ha mostrado a los guatemaltecos la corrupción de su Gobierno (CPR-Urbana)
The corruption scandal known as The Line has drawn widespread indignation. (CPR-Urbana)

Guatemala no longer tolerates this kind of politics. Protests are necessary to spark big changes. Now our voice is heard; without fear, we rise today against those who have treated us like fools.

Guatemalans have demonstrated against other candidates who aspire to hold public office. In Quetzaltenango, for instance, a civil-society group rallied to criticize the ruling Patriotic Party (PP) and its mayoral runner-up Armando Paniagua, former director of corrupt poverty-relief program Fonapaz. Unfortunately, PP supporters reacted with violence.

On Saturday, the crowd chanted “Baldizón, it’s not your turn!” referring to the Lider party’s presidential candidate Manuel Baldizón, and last week in Antigua Guatemala another group demonstrated against his candidacy.

The forces of corruption and the old order are fighting back. A video circulating social media shows a Lider sympathizer threatening the person filming an event in Coatequepe. The man, wearing the traditional red shirt of the party, tells the protesters that if they raise even one sign, “bullets will rain upon you.”

But we won’t give up. We’re not afraid anymore. Guatemala has had enough.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.