As many as 15,000 mostly urban and middle-class Guatemalans took the streets on April 25 to demand the resignations of President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti, after the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala uncovered a sophisticated network of tax evasion used by middle- and high-ranking members of the government.
After protesting peacefully for hours in the streets, demonstrators returned home and continued their activity online in social networks, tweeting the hashtag #RenunciaYa (#ResignNow) and sharing pictures from the demonstration and banners denouncing corruption and demanding justice.
Some of the banners were colorful indeed:
— Plaza Pública (@PlazaPublicaGT) April 26, 2015
Several #BannerstoRemember in #ResignNow! Show us which one is your favourite and then read what's next!
Is a major political crisis in the offing?
According to Martín Rodríguez Pellecer (@martin_guate), director of the website Nomada.gt, these protests are different from demonstrations against “corruption as usual,” as the nation's vice president is implicated, and could lead to an institutional crisis, early elections, or even a coup.
Resignations by Molina and Baldetti could trigger the worst institutional crisis in Guatemala since 1993, when President Serrano Elias fled the country after he tried and failed to dissolve the Congress. The country will hold general elections later this year in September.Alejandro Sinibaldi, the current frontrunner for the incumbent Patriot Party ticket, recently dropped out of the race, blaming Vice President Baldetti for needing to withdraw.
Among protesters, meanwhile, there have been worrying reports that mobile networks are shutting down for unknown reasons, leading some to accuse the government of trying to disrupt demonstrators’ ability to coordinate and promote their message:
— Jo-Marie Burt (@jomaburt) April 25, 2015
It remains unknown whether the shutdown was intentional or due to network saturation.
#CICIGSI: a citizen victory as commission continues its work in Guatemala
This weekend's demonstrations follow last week's citizen victory, when public scrutiny mobilized by a controversial tax fraud case finally pressured President Molina to ask the UN Secretary General to extend the mandate of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) for another two years. The commission has been one of the country's few effective weapons against corruption. Demonstrators from Guatemala and abroad demanded its continuation using the hashtag #CICIGSI (#CICIGyes)
The new discovery of tax evasion by state officials and subsequent protests have made for a tense situation in Guatemala, where citizens face unprecedented levels of violence, the denial of justice for genocide victims, the criminalization of community leaders, the murder of journalists, and a terrible food crisis now affecting thousands of rural and indigenous Guatemalans.