Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Sin Pelos En La Lengua

Fernando del Rincón, like many Guatemalans, seems to revel in enunciating the surname of Rafael Curruchiche. (It’s a skill that CNN’s automatic subtitling system still needs to get the hang of.)

It would seem that, sin pelos en la lengua, it is easier to pronounce ‘judicialización’, a Spanish word I have decided to abbreviate to ‘judi’ in everyday speech, for my own sanity.

I’m not sure that ‘judi’ entirely encapsulates the nature of the problem faced by chapines today, or indeed its peculiar local roots.

At first I wanted to throw out something along the lines that its all rather like the situation would be in the UK if Suella Braverman were acting as if she were the real PM and as if she could not be removed under any circumstances — and then I realised I might need a better counterfactual analogy. 
Perhaps, it’s as if the deep state has risen from the depths and is operating on the surface with its gun like a German U-boat.

Consuelo Porras does seem to have become the de facto ruler of Guatemala, albeit as the puppet of altogether shadier figures, and as Dr G shifts into lame duck transition mode, it’s a situation that can seemingly only deteriorate…if millions of Guatemalans allow it to.

I may be wrong about this, but I suspect the post-war settlement in this country may be playing an important role in the way this is all playing out. For most of Guatemala’s history after independence the real power in the land was always the army. (Bernardo Arévalo has literally written the book on this phenomenon.)

Back in the 90s we used to take delivery in London of a glossy current affairs magazine called Crónica. In those days it was clear that the state within the state was personified by the Defence Secretary, also the de facto generalissimo.

Given the limited resources at the disposal of the elected executive, this was often more like the inner state that provided an often smothering external wrapper for the constitutional institutions.

In that era I always had a clear idea of the name and physical appearance of each incumbent Defence Secretary. I can’t say I have kept this up lately, and this has to be partly a consequence of the manner in which the military and its influence was deliberately shrunk by the peace accords of 1996.

I would therefore argue that this may have permitted the potential monopoly of weaponised, repressive power to shift across to the office of state currently occupied by Consuelo Porras. Her anti-democratic actions need to be cloaked in the codified mechanisms of that aforementioned barely pronounceable word, but in effect owe their exuberant shamelessness to a longer tradition of autocratic distortions to the rule of law in Guatemala.
Not so insólito after all.
What the millennials who aspire to transform this nation need to remember (history or indeed noted national literature can help with this) is that they are comparatively fortunate compared to previous generations. Not long before I first came here those named on the attorney general’s abortive amparo would likely have simply disappeared.

Arbitrariness has taken significant steps backwards since those dark times and the contemporary pattern seems to involve discreet initial stages of
coaccion and coercion, with persecution less likely to involve blunt cruelty.

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