El Huateque

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  • Guatemala ¡Presente!

    In a series of protests and recently declared general strike Amid the entire Presidential cabinet quitting on corruption charges and the Vice-president already having resigned and charged with corruption: 

     

    Thousands of protesters have marched in the Guatemalan capital, demanding the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina over a corruption scandal.

    Businesses, including fast-food chains, were shut in support of the protest.

    The president is facing impeachment proceedings over the affair, which has seen his former deputy jailed and six cabinet ministers quitting in protest.”[1]

     

    Guatemalans are engaged in a level of activism not seen since the height of the guerrilla insurrection in the late 1970s.

     

    Speaking to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now long time investigative reporter Allan Nairn describes the scene:

    Well, it’s an uprising, and it could lead to the fall of Pérez Molina. They’re calling for a general strike, mass demonstration today. The issue is corruption. But if the movement develops further, if it spreads more fully to the Mayan heartland of the country, then the issue could move from corruption to justice, because the reason the Guatemalan elite, like General Pérez Molina and Vice President Baldetti, have been able to loot the treasury to the tune of more than $100 million, been able to steal for themselves cash which was used for Jaguar cars, plantations, villas, yachts, airplanes, helicopters, was because they took and have maintained themselves in power through mass murder. Pérez Molina was a commander in the northwest highlands during the '80s. He personally helped implement the Ríos Montt program of mass murder—effectively, genocide—against the Mayan population. And that's what the Guatemalan system has been built on.[2]

     

    Who is Otto Pérez Molina? In my estimation there is no greater villain during the genocide of indigenous Maya in the 1980s, aside from Rios Montt, then the current president Otto Pérez Molina. Molina was head of military intelligence during the most violent periods of the armed conflict, the early 1980s when over 100,000 of the over 200,000 killings of indigenous Maya occurred. Most infamously, during his time in the Guatemalan Army and particularly during the civil war, (1960-1996), President Molina commanded the special operative forces of the Guatemalan military known as Kaibiles, which had a reputation for brutality.[3]

     

     On top of public corruption analysts at the online news outlet Southern Pulse have noted ties between President Molina’s administration and gang and drug trafficking networks.[4] Molina has been tied to drug trafficking organizations due to his revered status among individual Kaibiles—both those who remain in the organization, as well as those who have defected from the military, many of whom are aiding and leading drug trafficking and gang syndicates within Guatemala and their Mexican counterparts, the Zetas.[5] The Guatemalan government’s ties to drug trafficking have become an increasingly troubling issue since the drug violence and conflicts in Mexico have served to move the production of drugs and the associated violence into Guatemala.[6] Military officials and heads of the National Civil Police have been arrested for corruption and their ties to elicit groups. Furthermore, Southern Pulse notes that some of President Molina’s business partners are known associates of drug cartels.

     

    The 2004 Nueva Linda massacre I documented revealed that despite the 1996 peace accords prescribing the complete separation of the military and police, and attempts by successive regimes to implement this separation, former members of the military continued to head the National Civil Police. This crossover between the military and police forces resulted in increased violence that involved the use of military tactics,[7] as evidenced by the Nueva Linda massacre and other violent confrontations that have followed and that have become increasingly violent under the “firm hand” regime of Molina. During these violent confrontations it has also been noted that private security, many of which are former members of the military, have been allowed to freely operate with the police. Many of these Public Security officials have been indicted for drug trafficking.[8]

     Within the milieu of strikes and protest another development has materialized related to the armed conflict,

     A Guatemalan court has said former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt can stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity – but cannot be sentenced because the 89-year-old suffers from dementia… Ríos Montt was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 80 years for genocide and crimes against humanity committed during his dictatorship in 1982 and 1983 at the height of Guatemala’s brutal civil war. The sentence was later thrown out on a technicality.[9]

     It seems in Guatemala a popular mobilization promising the possibility of substantive change is contrasted against the continued and underlying impunity that pervades Guatemala.

     -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

    [1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34083073

    [2] http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/27/uprising_in_guatemala_could_anti_corruption

    [3] http://justf.org/blog/2013/01/18/facts-about-guatemalas-kaibiles

    [4]Samuels Logan, The Politics of Corruption in Guatemala, (Southern Pulse, August 15, 2013). Pg. 11

    [5] http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/us-report-shows-zetas-corruption-of-guatemalas-special-forces 

    [6] http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/us-beginning-of-the-end-for-mexicos-cartels

    [7] “Guatemala: 2013 Country Report,” Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/guatemala

    [8] http://www.ghrc-usa.org/Publications/factsheet_nationalcivilpolice.pdf

    [9] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/25/guatemala-rios-montt-genocide-trial-not-sentenced

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