As 2014 comes to an end and the Government is preparing for their last year in office, and their last opportunity to secure the next elections a year from now; the country faces one of its worst governmental deficit crisis in the last 50 years. The government literally ran out of money. Over-spending on publicity, expensive trips, over-hiring of public employees, and a tax reform that failed to bring in the money it promised, all helped to speed up this anticipated and inevitable shortage. In 2013, congress rejected the 2014 budget but somehow that amount was still ill spent, affecting in particular the hospitals and police. It got to the point that prisoners were being taken to court on public transportation because the police cars were out of gas and money.
But one of the most affected sectors has been the health system. It is well known that if you end up at any government run hospital, the chances that it will be understaffed, that you’ll have to buy your meds, and that you might be sharing a waiting room with a few dozen other patients for hours, are pretty high. But in the last month or so things have taken a turn for the worse. Hospitals were unable to pay their food and cleaning providers, and they ran out of things as basic as surgical gloves. Nurses and other hospital employees accumulated up to four months of not receiving a single paycheck. Guatemalans have been discussing the fiasco using the #RetosPresupuesto hashtag.
And to top things off the BBC went on an undercover journalistic investigation, posing as possible donors to the only Government Mental Hospital in Guatemala: El Federico Mora. What they discovered quickly earned us the unfortunate title of having the most dangerous psychiatric institution in the world. Over drugged patients lying around in raggedy clothes, dirty facilities, 3 nurses to look after 70 patients and accusations of sexual abuse by doctors, nurses and policemen, were only a few of the things mentioned in the article. The news spread like wild fire over social media and it would only take a few days for our vice-president to give another one of her unfortunate interviews claiming people were exaggerating the conditions of the place, (ignoring BBC´s video footage), and going as far as to calling it “a really nice place”. This earned her one of the most popular hash tags for the month: #SegunBaldettiEsRebonito. To this day walls have been painted, new beds have bought and 6 employees have been fired. But both the reputation of the hospital and vice-president don’t seem close to recovery.
Continuing with the financial crisis topic, another popular hashtag during the last month was #OttoPerezMolinaNoMereceSerChapin (meaning: Otto Perez doesn’t deserve to be Guatemalan), to protest a series of political and economic measures that this government has approved. Among these is a series of new taxes to make up for the deficit, one of which will tax cellphone companies Q5 a month for every phone line, which doesn’t seem like much but this extra cost will most likely be transferred to the consumer. Another measure, though not confirmed by the government, was an under-the-table deal struck with the opposition to approve next year’s unrealistic budget allowing them to spend a lot of money building roads and other infrastructure projects that will allow them gain popular vote. What continues to confuse us is: why hate them on twitter but then give them your vote? We really don’t get it. #wedontgetit
Some trending images from December…