With the highest number of Facebook users in Central America and a Twitter population growing by the thousands every month, social media can be a great place to find out what’s buzzing in Guatemala. Of course, there’s also a whole lot of nonsense posted online too, but at XelaWho we like nonsense so here are some of last month’s social media trends, with the interesting & the informative alongside the vacuous & the ludicrous.
The end of February brought us another round of the jaw-dropping, batshit crazy Guatemalan politics that we’ve all come to know so well. After serving just two years of his sentence in the US for laundering $70 million of Guatemalan money through US banks and accepting illegal bribes from Taiwan, ex-president Alfonso Portillo made his triumphant return to Guatemala. Triumphant in the sense that he was greeted by a crowd of fanatical supporters who were beyond excited to see the #LlegadaPortillo and were promptly treated with a speech that signalled his effective re-entry into Guatemalan politics. Portillo laid out his #PropuestaPortillo for the country with the much-loved recipe of meaningless populist rhetoric, including proposals to carry out “major surgery” on the country, seek out “agreements” for the good of Guatemala, create a “democratic front”, combat illegal trafficking (although we´re assuming his definition of “trafficking” doesn’t include money laundering), reform the State, rewrite the Constitution and even (cringe alert!) to combat corruption.
Amazingly, the country hung on his every word and his proposals were greeted with praise from both civil society and Guatemala’s political parties. Mario Estrada, secretary-general of the Union of National Change party, was quick to express that “our party’s ranks are open to (his) participation… What party would not want him, with the level of leadership and experience he has?” We´re gonna take this as implying that Estrada´s party must be struggling on the embezzlement front and so was referring to Portillo´s extensive money-laundering experience and his world-class leadership skills for overseeing international larceny schemes. Online, many people sprung to Portillo’s defence calling him, among other things, “the best of the worst”. A #PortilloSeriaCapaz hashtag was even started, where tweeters listed all of the impossible tasks that Portillo would be capable of doing if elected and where it is genuinely difficult to tell apart tweeters who are being satirical and those who are actually dead serious.
Later in March, another political scandal broke out after it was revealed that the governing party was distributing more than 6,000 bolsas seguras (bags with basic foodstuffs given to impoverished families as part of the government’s social programme) with Alejandro Sinibaldi’s face plastered all over them (Sinibaldi is the Partido Patriota’s candidate for presidency in this year’s elections). This not only amounts to breaking the law regarding election campaigning before the campaigning period officially begins but it is also a blatant case of the misuse of state funds (i.e. Guatemalan citizens’ taxes) for party propaganda. Not surprisingly, outrage erupted online using #BolsaSinibaldi: “Guatemala is bleeding from so much corruption” tweeted Luisferb, while David Reyes commented that “whilst the citizens may see this as a gift, it is nothing more than a crime carried out with tolerated impudence.”
March also saw the tragic news of the attempt to assassinate three journalists in the southern city of Mazatenango, in which two were killed and one was seriously injured. One of the men killed, Danilo López, had been receiving death threats after reporting on corruption in the region. The nation stood in solidarity with the journalists both offline & online using the #YoSoyPeriodista hashtag.
In other news, two television personalities were slammed online following some rather silly comments. First up was Andreya Ayala, presenter of Channel 7’s Nuestro Mundo, who lashed out at Guatemalans after she was criticised for wearing a revealing dress at a family event, writing that the country is full of “backwards mediocre people.” Guatemalans weren’t too impressed with her comments, using the hashtags #FueraDeLaTVNuestroMundo7 and #AndreaAyalaNoEsChapina. Diana Zuleica Leal, a contestant on a popular contest show Combate, then went on to tweet how sad it was that there are “so many stupid people in Guatemala”. In a turn of bittersweet irony, it was quickly pointed out that her tweet contained a basic grammatical error and to top it off, in the ensuing online discussion, she went on to reveal that she thought Europe was a country. #Facepalm. Guatemalans responded with the brilliant hashtag #1DiccionarioPara ZuleicaQueDiga.