4 Arrested after White Powder Attack on Guatemalan Vice President


Picture by Surizar under a Creative Commons Attribution License

Four university students were arrested in Guatemala City after one of them threw an unidentified white powder at Vice President Roxana Baldetti as she was leaving the National Theater, where President Otto Perez Molina delivered his state of the union address.

Prensa Libre shared a video of the incident on YouTube:

The media immediately searched for social media profiles of the students involved, releasing pictures and information [es] about their political affiliations and current academic institutions.

Meanwhile, rather than cause outrage or solidarity for the Vice President or the students, the incident sparked suggestive comments among the Guatemalan Twitter community, as “polvo” (the Spanish word for powder) has a sexual connotation, meaning a one night stand.

Twitter users also joked about the harmless nature of the attack and at the authorities’ overreaction, as the students might be charged with attempting to assassinate the President, a crime that could send them to prison for fifteen years if found guilty.

Roxana Baldetti without flour / with flour

Others suggested that the Vice President should be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars or even open her own acting company:

Baldetti should found an acting school

In one of her first declarations, the woman accused of the attack said she didn't do it because she wanted to become famous, but rather to exercise her freedom of expression and dissent. She wasn't treated seriously by Guatemalan Twitter users either, who modified a photo saying “I did it because I wanted to appear on Twitter searches”

Other statements by Sayra Cristal Cottom Florián, who threw the white powder at the Vice President, Roxana Baldetti.

The government reported that the incident was condemned by a diverse range of people. However, the general feeling is that if anyone does anything against the people in power, he or she will face terrible consequences and a display of force, as journalist José Ruben Zamora suffered a few weeks ago when he was barred from leaving the country and had his assets frozen after the President sued him for “coercion, extortion, blackmail, violating the Constitution, and contempt,” as reported by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. If the target of a prosecution is someone in power, however, different rules seem to apply, as the world learned after the verdict against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt was declared void and the trial rescheduled for 2015.

Regardless of who carried out the act and the reasons behind it, the reactions expressed by Guatemalans show a decline in support [es] for the government, a loss in government credibility, and a growing healthy skepticism regarding the government's achievements in their two years in power.

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