Who's Twittering the Protests in Guatemala?

This piece from the Guatemala News sums up why I was instantly leery of the tendency of some bloggers to immediately endorse the online protests against Guatemala’s President:

The relative few privileged Guatemalan youths in and outside of Guatemala with computer access and internet skills have implemented a new way of organization that takes place on the internet. Facebook and Twitter has been used to mobilize that sector of the younger generation of Guatemalans to get involved in the protests. At the beginning of the movement demands for implementation of a coup was expressed. The intention was to violently destabilize the government. The comments posted incited to violence and showed an extreme lack of maturity and regard for the law and the democratic institutions in Guatemala – a very strong reminder of the standard behavior of the ruling class in the past. These are the descendents of that class and the similarity of the language is stunning. They learned from their parents how you manage a country if you do not like the government who happens to be in place. Democracy is not a very well defined concept in their minds, jet.

It has to be noted that the accessibility and audience of the internet in Guatemala and young Guatemalans living abroad is very much defined by social status. The young Guatemalans who are living in poor, rural regions of the country and other underprivileged areas in Guatemala, or those who are illegal immigrants in the US do not use the internet as an organizational tool and their voice is not prominent on the internet. The audience is a very small percentage of the young generation that has the privileged to have a computer and to understand how to use a social network. The population can be defined as the wealthy and the middle class, usually considered opposition to the current government.
The other very important issue is the language used by the people who participate in the discussions. A lot of the rhetoric sounds like the language used by the extreme right in the times of the internal conflict in Guatemala. Considering the fact that the young people of Guatemala have a notorious lack of knowledge concerning the violent political history of their country, it is striking to read their opinions. It is not their fault; the recent internal war is not part of the teaching materials and curriculum in any school in Guatemala. Respect for Democracy is not how they where raised.

Now I have no idea whether or not Colom is guilty but I have a visceral suspicion of the Guatemalan right. They have historically been the most retrograde of any country in Latin America. The truth about what happened in Guatemala in the 1980s is only beginning to come out. I don’t expect anyone will get to the bottom of the current mess anytime soon but this ISN Security Report does shed some light:

The president’s heretofore presumed distance from corruption and the drug trade in Guatemala was perhaps one of the few life lines left to prevent the country from a full speed slide into failure. Since Rosenberg’s video, Alvaro Colom has fallen into the middle of a maelstrom of rumor and scandal that predates his presidency.

Colom’s party, known as the UNE, tried to weed out its most corrupt members leading up to the 2007 presidential elections, when Colom defeated Otto Perez. Many agree that the presidential campaign was extremely violent due to this process. Many now question whether or not Colom traded his old criminal financiers for new ones.

Gustavo Alejas, his brother, and a distant cousin joined the UNE during Colom’s campaign. Gustavo, especially, was in charge of raising money for the party, and for Colom’s campaign. Many in Guatemala view Alejas’ position as Colom’s gatekeeper as a political favor to the man who helped put the president in office.

Almost immediately after local media shared the video with the rest of the world, Colom’s office issued a statement to categorically deny Rosenberg’s claims. Since then, Colom has asked for the FBI and Guatemala’s own International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) ”“ a UN-backed organization ”“ to take up the investigation.

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Nat Wilson Turner

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