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Guatemala: In search for justice – by Luis Figueroa

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libertateRafael Espada, Guatemala`s Vicepresident, sued Marta Yolanda Díaz-Durán, a respected journalist and intellectual. Known as el medico machete, the VP accused Marta Yolanda of slandering him on her oped titled El beso de Espada, which she published on Monday August 31st. 2008 on daily Siglo Veintiuno in which she is a regular oped writer.

Espada did not act as an individual whose honor has been questioned; but he acted as The Vicepresident, and arguing that the journalist`s article have put in peril the institutionality of the vicepresidency. The case, has been pushed to the political arena by the VP.

Espada`s move, indeed, makes sense for two main reasons:

If he succeeds in making this a political and institutional case, the VP depersonalizes the affaire and he distances as an individual from the observations made by Marta Yolanda in her oped.

Plus, he opens the possibility for the socialdemocratic administration of Alvaro Colom –in tha same maner that Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega have done it – to initiate a serious and deep process aimed to control the independent press and the freedom of expression. It would be very convenient for the Administration and for the VP that an element of reason of state should be considered when investigations advance in this affaire.

Since last year, Colom`s administration has been making efforts in order to control the independent press and the freedom of expression. On October 2008 Colom said that he was sick and tired with the coverage that his administration received from the press, and he threatened to reestablish legislation against freedom of the press. Such legislation existed during repressive regimes in Guatemala, but it was declared unconstitucional, by the Court of Constitutional affairs in 2006. On September 2008, the President mentioned the possibility of censoring private emails if these were offensive to those in power.

Absolute control of the independent press, and of the freedom of expression, is a key element for the future of sociademocracy in Guatemala and that practice has a tradition that may be suitable for Colom. Guatemala`s revolutionary spring, with president Juan José Arevalo (admired by Colom), established legislation against freedom of the press, and such legislation helped to give birth to the Guatemalan Journalists Society whose purpose was to protect freedom. The same regime established taxation for transistor radios.

¿Why is it that Guatemalan socialdemocracy would want to control the freedom of the press and tha freedom of expresión? Because they know that they have to win the next elections at all costs. No matter what.

If they lost the elections all the good thing that they have done will end in nothing. If they lost the elections they will not be able to recover power and they could disappear in the same fashion that all the previous political parties that have been in power have vanished, or are vanishing; that is the case of the Gran Alianza Nacional, the Partido de Avanzada Nacional, the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco, The Movimiento de Accion Solidaria and the Democracia Cristiana Guatemalteca.

If they lost the next elections, and with the history of corruption that they are accumulationg, many of his leaders may end up in jail, in the same fashion that Juan Francisco Reyes, the vicepresident of Alfonso Portillo and other officials from the FRG administration ended up behind bars.

It seems to me that sociademocrats have learned from the mistakes commited by those who were in power before them and that they know that in order to remain in power they have to control freedom of expression, education, the Judiciary Branch, the Court of Constitucional Affairs, the Supreme Tribunal for Elections and the Army.

jeanferIn the meantime, actions such as the one done by the VP have awful effects among citizens and for freedom of expressions. On May 2009 the judiciary process against twitter @jeanfer, eradicated from the media the necessary discussion about a forensic investigation of a semiprivate bank mentioned by the assassinated lawyer Rodrigo Rosemberg in his posthumous declaration. This declaration is a must see, and it has English subtitles.

Fearing the possibility of prosecution, Who will dare to mention banks or question officials?

As shown by the @jeanfer affaire, it is easy for the Administration to control freedom of expression, even with the rudimentary legal tools that those in power have available. What will happen if they manage to do as Chávez, Correa or Ortega?

In the big picture of things there is no @jeanfer affaire, or Marta Yolanda affair; for Guatemalan´s and for Latin American´s it is a turning point. It is the case for justice and freedom of expression, a moment to remember that, as Thomas Jefferson may have said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

* Luis Figueroa is a journalist who writes a column for Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre. He is also the Director of the Public Relations Department at the University of Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.

Source: Global Politician

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One comment for “Guatemala: In search for justice – by Luis Figueroa”

  1. […] GUATEMALA In search for justice […]

    Posted by Fausta’s Blog » Blog Archive » The 1-day-late Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean | September 15, 2009, 5:47 pm

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