The Joker and the Thief
Xelawho loves to clown around. We live for jokes, gaffes and goofs. Groan-worthy puns are our raison d’être. Guatemala’s cashed-up dunces and idiots in elected office commit enough unforced errors during a normal month for us to laugh all the way to the bank.
September was not a normal month. As anti-impunity commission CICIG closed in on President Jimmy Morales, he attempted to expel their boss Ivan Velasquez from the country. In the face of mounting evidence that Morales was both Corrupt and a Thief, the diputados in Congress declined to strip him of his immunity, lest doing their right thing come round to bite them in the ass if their own crimes ever came to light.
Then, having abdicated their civic and moral responsibilities once over, Congress doubled down. They called a special session to gut anti-graft legislation, and tens of thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets with black flags to mark their independence day. Shit’s bad, basically. Moreover, it’s a tired routine —nobody’s really laughing anymore.
But let’s rewind the tape for a second. What exactly did CICIG do to twist the president’s panties into a knot? If your guess was “their jobs,” then you might be a bit smarter than Morales. He got steamed when CICIG announced they were looking into the campaign finances of his party — the National Convergence Front, abbreviated in Spanish as FCN.
Of particular interest to CICIG were millions of Quetzales possibly donated to the FCN by ex-military drug trafficker Monroy Meono, alias “El Fantasma.” Before his arrest and extradition to the United States in 2016, Meono alleged to El Periodico that the FCN collected protection money from drug traffickers all across Guatemala.Other donations to the FCN were similarly questionable or not properly accounted for. And so Morales, in a desperate move, attempted to declare Ivan Velasquez a “persona non grata” and remove him from Guatemala.
It wasn’t just the FCN that was left spooked. CICIG declared an investigation into two other major parties — the social democrats UNE and right-wing populists LIDER. UNE, LIDER,and the FCN rarely agree, but they banded together under the threat of investigation. An emergency session of Guatemala’s congress was called, and diputados across the political spectrum nearly passed a bill to roll back legal and financial penalties for corruption.
The Guatemalan people, united in righteous anger, didn’t stand for it. They poured into the streets —in Xela, in the capital, and all across the country.
A national strike shut down business across the country, and highways were blocked at multiple points for days in a row.
And, incredibly, the pressure worked. Kind of. The Constitutional Court blocked the expulsion of Ivan Velasquez. Congress, being just bright enough to know which way the wind blows, couldn’t rouse the votes to pass their shameless pro-corruption bill. 104 votes are needed to strip Morales of his immunity. As of press time, we aren’t quite there; 75 voted in support the last time a motion was brought. Still, the probe into the FCN and Morales continues. By the time you’re reading this, Morales may be sitting in Pavoncito mulling his upcoming trial. Other plutocrats are teetering, too
CICIG announced in early October they’re also seeking an indictment for former president and Guatemala City mayor Alvaro Arzu. Whether any non-corrupt, non-thieves will step up to replace them remains to be seen.For our part, Xelawho would love to write that story. Until then …
¡El pueblo unido jamás ser vencido¡