Guatemala: President defies mass protests


"Resign Now" is the rallying cry of the popular movement bringing together diverse social sectors calling for President Perez Molina's resignation. Photo: Prensa Comunitaria.

Despite growing social movement pressure and emerging corruption scandals, Guatemalan President Perez Molina says he will not resign.

Several Guatemalan officials were arrested on May 20 in connection with a series of corruption scandals unfolding in the country as thousands took to the streets in the latest round of protests demanding Molina's resignation.

Guatemalan authorities detained Central Bank governor Julio Suarez and issued an arrest warrant for Social Security Institute president and former presidential aide Juan de Dios Rodriguez for fraud. The allegations include a health care corruption scandal involving US$14.5 million in medical service contract irregularities.

More than a dozen other suspects were also arrested and are being investigated for fraud and other charges. The prominent arrests follow the resignation of Vice-President Roxana Baldetti earlier this month in an unrelated corruption case.

Amid growing national indignation and discontent with the government, Molina told a press conference that he would not cede to pressure and resign, Prensa Comunitaria reported.

Guatemalan political analyst Gustavo Illescas told teleSUR English: “Different motives have come together to demand the president's resignation, including dissatisfaction with the corruption within Molina's government, the fact that he made money off of medicine and health services meant for the population, and the fact that he carried out repressive actions against the indigenous and campesino [small farmer] movements.”

Meanwhile, thousands of campesinos and rural indigenous people marched in Guatemala City on May 20 in the latest demonstration of the growing “Renuncia Ya” movement.

“It's time for the people to rise up because we have realised that corruption is at all levels within the agencies of the state,” Vicenta Jeronimo, vice-president of the Guatemalan rural group Codeca, told Prensa Latina at the march.

“Indigenous people and campesinos unite today in the capital, demanding Molina resign, for freedom for political prisoners and more.”

Campesino demonstrators also called for new Vice-President Alejandro Maldonado to resign for his role in overturning the guilty verdict in former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montt's genocide trial.

“At the moment, the most common demands we are hearing range from the purging of the justice system and the political parties, all the way to the formation of a National Constituent Assembly,” Illescas said.

Slogans at the campesino march included cries of “Out! We're tired of so much robbery, we're the ones from below and we're going for the ones up above,” El Universal reported.

The “Renuncia Ya” movement brought 60,000 diverse protesters to the streets on May 16 in the largest demonstration yet.

“Now, as a result of the corruption scandal and the massive protests, we have the chance to establish a new pact in which all Guatemalans are included,” said Illescas.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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