“A massive tax fraud scheme exposed in Guatemala this April might once have been viewed as business as usual in a country that has struggled with corruption at the highest levels for decades.
Instead, Guatemalans got angry.”
Events in Guatemala can appear to be drawn from the most fantastical social realism yet, deep down, they are embedded in those aspects which continue to blight this beautiful country, namely the violence, impunity, corruption, greed, racism, and contempt visited on the people by the ruling elites.
Lindsay Bigda discusses the background to the current broad-based movement against official corruption in Guatemala, in Foreign Policy in Focus, and how this is rocking Guatemala to its core.
The initial scandal that sparked public disapproval involves a criminal network that’s been called La Línea, where businesses could receive an illegal “discount” on the required fees when their property cleared customs. It is estimated that approximately 50 percent of the balance was then paid to the state. The rest went to a network of defrauders that included corrupt officials and their collaborators.
Just a week later, a second investigation by CICIG and the Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed another corruption scandal within Guatemala’s Social Security Institute, or IGSS.
The institute had awarded a kidney dialysis contract to the company Droguería Pisa in exchange for kickbacks to government officials, including IGSS employees and the head of the Guatemalan Central Bank. Pisa had no expertise providing the treatment, and 13 have people have since died.
President Otto Pérez Molina has dismissed or asked for resignations from his chief of intelligence, the ministers of the environment and of energy and mines, and his interior minister, among others. Many of the ousted officials are members of Pérez Molina’s inner circle and are under investigation for various acts of alleged corruption.
In a country that hasn’t seen such diverse and massive protests in many years, there is hope in Guatemala that sustained public outcry could create a space for long-term change.
You can read Lindsay’s full article here, in Foreign Policy in Focus.