Point of No Return Is Very Close in Guatemala

Jose Ruben Zamora, Guatemalan journalist, founder and director of elPeriódico. (Photo: latamjournalismreview.org)

Journalist Jose Ruben Zamora’s life is at risk wherever he is being held.

By Richard Aitkenhead (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – It is Friday night, July 29, 2022, and the news emerges that Jose Ruben Zamora (JRZ), founder and director of elPeriodico, has been detained for a new judicial case that makes no sense and seems to have no logic. Through a police deployment typical of arrests of dangerous organized crime figures, and not of a journalist who has always attended the hearings to which he has been summoned in the past. This looks like a reprisal, a revenge of the Pact of the Corrupt, with the typical legal chicanery of failed states and covert threats to all opponents.

Jose Ruben’s life is at risk in any of Guatemala’s detention centers, for which the indictment establishes a  crime whereby he must remain in prison. A sign of what we can expect in the electoral process. The response of the citizenry must be clear: It is not acceptable! Enough blackmail, of twisting investigations, of persecuting genuine whistle-blowers, investigative reporters, of attacking independent judges and prosecutors and of defending the corrupt of yesterday, of today, and encouraging, with their example, those of tomorrow. It is neither right nor acceptable.

We are not Venezuela or Nicaragua yet, thank goodness. The President is not Bukele either, with his popular support. He is just a president without popular support, as Gallup polls show. Enough is enough! The time has come to demonstrate, once again, that the citizenry is tired of rampant corruption, the total brazenness of many politicians, the repeated abuses by officials and the shameless actions of various institutions of the justiciary.

This is not an intransigent defense of Jose Ruben, a friend for many years and a journalist I respect. Neither is it a visceral attack against the prosecutor or the current political environment. It is a call to Guatemala and Guatemalans. Let’s stop playing with forms and let’s discuss the substance. We are heading towards the abyss.

I have no political participation or personal interest pro or against this government. I have a national conscience and the certainty that enough is enough, to put an end to the flawed system we live in. We must prevent the crooks from continuing to steal without any regards to the needs of the population, while pretending to defend the law and the rule of law. It is not true!

Congress does not even vote for the election of magistrates, while it makes a piñata of the public budget. The independence of the justice system is interfered with, the criminal investigation system is politicized, independent judges are persecuted, justice is used to threaten opponents and as an instrument of protection to allies. Fortunately, their abuses are so gross that it is increasingly clear and evident, for locals and foreigners, the spurious interests that drive them and that, without understanding or caring, are dragging the country towards the cliff. The point of no return is very close. Be strong JRZ!

*First published in El Periodico of Guatemala.

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