Guatemalan stories ripped from the Onion or the Business Press?

Mike Allison of the Central American Politics blog has some great commentary on two stories that appeared in the news today.

Guatemala among top global reformers in World Bank’s Doing Business report

Leader Of The Year: Otto Perez Molina, President Of Guatemala “Committed to development”

From his blog:

Please tell me that I am wrong but I am under the impression that 2013 has been a major step back in Guatemala.

Freedom of the press has declined with cyberthreats and physical threats against El Periodico and its employees. At least four journalists have been murdered so far this year.

The criminalization of social protest has worsened with government officials and businessmen characterizing civil society leaders as terrorists and their struggle against injustice as terrorism. The Human Rights Defenders Protection Unit in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) recorded 568 attacks against human rights defenders during the first eight months of 2013 compared to 305 in 2012. Twenty-two human rights defenders and four journalists have been killed so far this year. (See hereherehere, and here)

Freedom of expression and belief have come under attack. The offices of the Association for the Advancement of Social Sciences (AVANSCO) were burglarized in January shortly before it was scheduled to publish a report related to its work on the history of the police. The Central American Institute for Social Democracy Studies and the private office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, were burglarized in July during which documents and computers were stolen.

The public prosecutor’s office and the courts have shown improvement although much of that improvement has been overshadowed by the questionable decision by the Constitutional Court to overturn the Rios Montt verdict. Lawyers from abroad voiced concerns that the court’s ruling had made more uncertain the role of the judiciary in the country which was not good for investors. The deaths of labor leaders have also caused concern for Guatemala’s trade relations with Europe and the United States.

President Otto Perez Molina announced a two-year moratorium on mining concessions which ticked off the business community and didn’t satisfy grassroots activists. The president has just sent in the army to secure five of the country’s customs houses because of corruption and fraud.

And to top it all off, the president of the Bank of Guatemala (Banguat), Edgar Barquín, recently made a presentation to Congress on how the “Confidence Index of Guatemala fell from 80 to 36 percent in the last six months due to insecurity, social unrest and lack of legal certainty for investors.”

In what world are these businessmen living?

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