The Indigenous-Led Nationwide Shutdown in Guatemala

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      Last week, the ouster of a Guatemalan prosecutor leading embattled efforts against high-level corruption sparked an explosive new chapter in the country’s long-simmering political crisis. The move provoked widespread condemnation, suspension of some U.S. aid, and protests. Heeding calls by Indigenous leaders for a “paro nacional,” or nationwide shutdown, on Thursday, communities and social movements marched, rallied, and blocked roads around the country to demand the president and attorney general resign.

      The tipping point came on July 23, when Attorney General María Consuelo Porras fired prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, head of the Special Anti-Impunity Prosecutor’s Bureau, or FECI by its Spanish acronym. In a somewhat ambiguous public statement announcing Sandoval’s termination, Porras’s office referred to bias and disrespect. Sandoval responded with a press conference and laid out detailed allegations that Porras obstructed FECI’s work in order to protect high-level officials, particularly those in the president’s circle, from prosecution for corruption. Porras and President Alejandro Giammattei have both refuted the allegations.

      “Today I am the latest in a string of prosecutors who have suffered consequences for seeking truth and justice,” Sandoval said at his press conference last Friday. “History will judge us. The results are there.” Fearing for his safety, he fled the country later that night.

      During his three years at the helm of FECI, Sandoval took on presidents, legislators, judges, business leaders, and other powerful figures. FECI worked in tandem with the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG, to identify, investigate, prosecute, and dismantle complex criminal networks entrenched in state institutions. In 2015, the two entities brought down sitting President Otto Pérez Molina and most of his administration for graft. Two years later, their investigations into then-President Jimmy Morales, who took office in 2016 and replaced Pérez Molina’s interim successor, prompted fierce backlash from the Guatemalan government. Morales deemed CICIG commissioner Iván Velásquez a threat to national security, barred him from the country, and opted not to renew CICIG’s mandate. The commission shut down in 2019, and FECI took over CICIG’s cases. Ever since, Sandoval has been the main target of animosity from current and potential subjects of corruption investigations.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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