ROME – As rising anger and discomfort in Guatemala is causing more and more people to call for the president to resign, the Catholic bishops of the Central American Country warned that such measures would further destabilize the country.
“It is necessary and urgent that the presidential initiative manifested and executed before the beginning of the pandemic to call for a frank and open dialogue, with concrete proposals, from the different sectors of the country, be resumed,” wrote the bishops in a statement published on their website earlier this week.
“Without this dialogue we perceive that discontent will grow, fed by those who want to destabilize the nation seeking their own interests, that is to say, by the structures of organized crime and drug trafficking, as well as the corruption and impunity embedded in the organs of the State,” they argued.
Two months ago, during the visit of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemala, President Alejandro Giammattei underscored his commitment to root out corruption in the country, even at the highest level of government.
In July, Guatemala’s attorney general ousted the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, who earlier this year had received recognition from the U.S. State Department for his work fighting corruption. Subsequently, thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets throughout the country to call for the president and attorney general to step down.
Despite the protests, Giammattei continued full steam ahead and appointed Rafael Curruchiche, a controversial figure known for protecting the corrupt and prosecuting the political opposition, to take over Sandoval’s job as head of the country’s anti-corruption unit.
This has been taken as further evidence to the claim that despite his promise, the president is part of the corruption problem, not the solution.
In their statement, the bishops do not support the president, but do argue that the people succeeding in forcing him to resign would be “a serious setback in our democratic process.” As an alternative, they urge Guatemalans to remind their leader “of the commitments he so vehemently assumed in his inauguration speech and ask him to fulfill them.”
However, they are a lot less understanding of María Consuelo Porras Argueta, the country’s attorney general, noting that “her figure and her performance have been singled out as the main cause of popular discontent,” the prelates invite her “from your civic conscience and ethical principles to discern what is best for the good of the country.”
Despite their off-handed support to the resignation of the attorney general, the bishops argue that while the right to demonstrate in a peaceful manner is legitimate and fundamental, the blockade of highways, customs houses and airports – as has been the case for the past few weeks – is not the solution.
“On the contrary, it affects and harms the majority of the population and can be an occasion for violent acts,” they wrote.
“For us bishops, with the conscience born of our pastoral and civic responsibility, what is happening now is a cause of great concern,” they wrote. “It is a clear sign of the lively dissatisfaction of the people, of their discontent, of their frustration and of their feeling once again disappointed.”
The only way for the country to move forth is through a path of social peace and justice, of collective tranquility and with human needs met, they argued, as only then will the well-being and serenity of the people be ensured.
Lastly, the bishops also dedicate several paragraphs to the COVID-19 pandemic, that has killed almost 11,000 people in a nation of 16 million, warning that despite the efforts made, vaccination against the virus has not achieved the expected results, both because the administration is failing in its distribution and because citizens fail in their civic duty to get inoculated.
“The latest data recorded are alarming: Hospitals are overcrowded and at maximum capacity; the level of exhaustion of health personnel is alarming; the number of infected persons has increased considerably; the sectors of the population affected are not confined to a single age group; and the announcement of the presence of a new, more aggressive and contagious strain of the virus is of great concern,” they write.
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