Corruption by Guatemalan government officials is usually considered business-as-usual, but something different is happening now. The U.N. sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), along with the national police and the Guatemalan Prosecutors’office, have uncovered a sophisticated network of tax evasion, and the President and Vice President have been implicated, though not charged. However, on April 17, 21 middle- and high-ranking members of the government were arrested, charged with a major customs tax fraud scheme.
The revelations led to an outcry in the capital of thousands of people, demanding the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti.
The CICIG foound that the tax authority had profited from contraband and tax fraud at customs posts with the collaboration of senior and medium-ranking officials. The CICIG was created in 2006 to bolster Guatemala’s weak judicial institutions by helping investigate high-profile crimes, especially within the government, and has been very effective. Its mandate expires in September of this year. Although Perez Molina expressed doubts about allowing it to stay, he did sign the agreement under pressure from the U.S. and pressure from the citizens.
General elections will be held in September so the current demonstrations are highly significant. The protests were peaceful but the demonstrators are determined to continue their activity online in social networks.
Thanks to Caryn Maxim for help with this article. For more information go to https://globalvoicesonline.org.