A recently released poll indicated the mounting pressure against embattled Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina to resign from his office.
According to Guatemala's Prensa Libre daily on June 20th, 84% of poll respondents replied “yes” to the question “Do you believe Otto Pérez Molina supports a corrupt system and should resign?” Only 6% answered in the negative while 10% admitted, “I don’t know.”
In addition, 86% of those surveyed believed that the legislature couldn’t be trusted to enact reforms regarding political parties and upcoming elections.
The poll was carried out on June 16th by members of the #HagámonosElParo youth movement who asked questions to car drivers waiting at intersections in Guatemala City.
Only 1397 people were polled despite plans to inquire 15,000 respondents, which is a small sample size. Nevertheless, mass protests have been held every weekend throughout Guatemala for the past nine weeks against Pérez Molina who has been battling a growing corruption scandal involving members of his government.
On May 16th, for instance, thousands of Guatemalans marched in street protests in thirteen cities nationwide organized via social media networks. Tens of thousands of Guatemalans purportedly from different social, economic and political classes rallied near the National Palace earlier this month.
“The protests are like a democratic spring where the people have taken to the streets to demand many things,” affirmed one of the marchers, Pedro Cruz. “I have seen the people awaken.”
A smaller rally took place this past Saturday in Guatemala City though one of the participants was Oswaldo Ochoa, a 62-year-old who trekked 125 miles in six days while also undergoing a hunger strike.
The allegations of corruption came to light with the creation of a U.N.-sponsored body of international prosecutors called the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, (CICIG). Vice President Roxana Baldetti resigned from her post on May 8th after the CICIG accused her personal secretary of leading a corruption ring that took bribes from importers in exchange for lower customs duties. The CICIG then revealed wrongdoing by Social Security officials who received kickbacks in exchange for awarding of a $15 billion kidney dialysis contract. (At least thirteen patients died from contaminated dialysis treatments).
“The president should resign immediately not just because the people want it but also for his ties to (allegedly corrupt politician) Juan de Dios Rodriguez,” declared David Gaitán of the Acción Ciudadana NGO. “It’s impossible that Perez was unaware of these illicit talks,” he added.
Despite the continued criticism against him including from the likes of Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, Pérez Molina has been defiant throughout the political crisis and has vowed to remain in power.
“I have a constitutional mandate. I am going to fulfill the constitutional mandate that the country’s laws establish,” he mentioned to reporters on May 18th.
Pérez Molina last week received some relief from Guatemala's Constitutional Court that temporarily blocked congressional efforts to strip him of immunity. Yet after the ruling some of the president’s traditional supporters, like the local Catholic Church, have called on weekly protests to continue until he resigns.
Pérez Molina isn’t the only Central American leader affected by street protests against a growing corruption scandal:
Thousands of angry protesters marched in the Honduran capital Friday for the fourth week in a row to demand President Juan Orlando Hernandez step down over a corruption scandal.
The corruption allegations could affect relations between the U.S. and Central America including jeopardizing a $1 billion aid program created after a surge of unaccompanied minors crossed the border into the U.S. last year.
Activists said 30,000 people turned out for the march, which snaked through the streets of Tegucigalpa toward the prosecutor's office…
Protesters accuse Hernandez of receiving about $90 million of more than $300 million they say was skimmed from poverty-wracked Honduras' public health system for his campaign.
YouTube Source – Reuters (Video posted in May 2015).
Online Sources (English) – The New York Times, Yahoo News, teleSUR English, ABC News, The Guardian, Bloomberg, MercoPress
Online Sources (Spanish) – La Hora, Prensa Libre, XEU, Milenio, Canal Antigua, La Prensa