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COHA Expresses Grave Concern: Death Threats to Guatemalan Congressman Amílcar de Jesús Pop

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By: Lisa Lopez-Escobar, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs 

Guatemala’s future continues to appear uncertain as the hemisphere awaits a response to the demands of the citizens. The anti-corruption movement that has materialized in the country is calling for three things: the resignation of current President Otto Pérez Molina, the prosecution of former Vice President Roxanna Baldetti, and a reform titled Reformas a la Ley Electoral y de Partidos Políticos (Reform of Electoral and Political Party Law) that would create a constituent assembly in charge of curtailing corruption in the country.[1] There have been protests in the streets of Guatemala City since April demanding the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina, and it all started with one man: Congressman Amílcar de Jesús Pop Ac. Congressman Pop presented a lawsuit against President Pérez Molina on April 24 citing various charges. Now, his life is being threatened. Sources say he has received repeated calls affirming that he would be killed if he did not call off his crusade against the Guatemalan president.

The Congressman was one of the first to speak out and has been a leading figure in the fight against corruption among the demonstrators. A member of the WINAQ party in Guatemala, the first political party in the country to give indigenous Mayan citizens representation on political matters, Amílcar Pop was the first to take solid action against the controversial president and embodies much of the spirit of the anti-corruption movement.[2] The lawsuit was designed to attract attention to the various crimes Congressman Pop believes that the president is responsible for; within it he cites the covering up of corruption scandals such as “la línea” and the Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad (IGSS)-Pisa case. The President’s greatest crimes, according to the Congressman, include lying to the people of Guatemala, using his influence and power to cover up and protect former Vice President Roxana Baldetti and her private secretary Juan Carlos Monzón, the leader of “la línea,” and the placement of many of the president’s friends and allies in positions of power throughout the government, thus ensuring complete control over the country.[3] Now, many of these friends have resigned and are facing trial, something Congressman Pop firmly believes awaits President Pérez Molina.

Amílcar Pop has been one of the leaders in the legislature pushing for Congress to head the demands of the population who wants to see tangible change and justice come to the country. Guatemalans demand the reconstruction of the political system to amplify the popular voice, as well as the removal of the corrupt elite. Congressman Pop, whose Mayan ancestry makes him a minority in the country, has greatly advocated for the support of the protestors’ demands in Congress and urged the people of Guatemala not to be afraid. Now, he has also been invited to speak at the Comisión Pesquisidora, a five-member commission chosen by the legislature to investigate the complaints of corruption filed against Pérez Molina that will ultimately recommend whether or not he should be stripped of his immunity. The legislature will then make the final decision on whether to accept the recommendation.[4]

As a focal point of the country’s anti-corruption movement, Congressman Amílcar Pop now has a target on his back. On June 12, Pop confirmed that he received a call during the reunion of the Comisión Pesquisidora assuring that he would be killed that day or the next.[5] Fortunately, the congressman is still alive and continues to denounce Molina. However, the death threats have continued. The Comisión Pesquisidora revealed more death threats on June 13 to the Department of Human Rights. President of the commission, Baudilio Hichos, states that they have received calls during meetings requesting that they stop seeking to remove President Pérez Molina’s immunity. The commission is asking for another secure space where they can proceed with their meetings.[6]

The source of the death threats against the congressmen is still unknown, but it can be assumed that they are coming from a person or a group of people whose interests would suffer if the president were put on trial and the electoral reform passed. The threats are an indication of the hostile environment Guatemala currently faces as the once voiceless nation attempts to wrest power from the hands of the elite minority. The death threats are of great concern for Congressman Amílcar Pop and the members of the Comisión Pesquisidora, but they remain unfazed and continue their work. Nonetheless, it is clear that Guatemala’s transition to a more democratic rule will not be an easy one.

By: Lisa Lopez-Escobar, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs 

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.

Featured Photo: Congress of Guatemala. From: Ariela Asturias.

[1] http://biblio.juridicas.unam.mx/libros/4/1593/134.pdf

[2] https://es-es.facebook.com/winaq

[3] http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20150611/pais/13622/Nunca-un-Presidente-hab%C3%ADa-sido-sometido-al-escrutinio-del-Congreso%E2%80%9D–Am%C3%ADlcar-Pop-diputado-Winaq.htm

[4]http://canalantigua.tv/comision-pesquisidora-cita-a-diputado-amilcar-pop/ ; http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/guatemala-supreme-court-president-impeachment-31676696

[5] http://canalantigua.tv/diputado-amilcar-pop-es-amenazado-de-muerte/

[6] http://canalantigua.tv/comision-pesquisidora-denuncia-amenazas-de-muerte/