Whilst crooning about Dickie Davies Eyes, Half Man Half Biscuit declared that “mention the Lord of the Rings just once more, and I will more than likely kill you”. I feel similar whenever the virtues of that human interaction replacement system, Twitter are extolled. That said, the threat of five years in gaol for a Guatemalan Twitterer, Jean Anleu, seems a little draconian.
Of course, there’s more to it than that, as :
Writing under his internet alias “jeanfer,” Mr Anleu urged depositors to pull their money from Guatemala’s rural development bank, whose management has been challenged in a political scandal: “First concrete action should be take cash out of Banrural and bankrupt the bank of the corrupt.”
These words illegally undermined public trust in Guatemala’s banking system, according to prosecutor Genaro Pacheco.
Authorities proved Mr Anleu sent the message by searching his Guatemala City home, and then put him in prison with kidnappers, extortionists and other dangerous criminals for a day and a half before letting him out on bail.
If similar laws were in effect in the United Kingdom, I can think of a good many members of the public as well as newspaper columnists or even elected representatives who would faced a spell in chokey as well for these 96 characters.
Anleu, previously had had only 175 Twitter contacts (I refuse to call them “friends”) with whom he shared techno-geekery comments. His followership has grown to some 1,600 since his arrest. He appears thoroughly harmless and also quite generous: offering his computer skills to community projects and impoverished schools. His blog offers a meandering, lyrical journey through a Beatnik’s mind, with the latest missive speaks of Dylan Thomas and coffee and kissing a beautiful girl.
Yet, even if he avoids gaol, his legal costs are estimated already to be in the region of the equivalent of £6,000, as the Times reported at the time of his arrest in May. One does wonder, however, if the Times is now be approving of Anleu’s conviction.
Nor is this the only multi-media scandal to have hit the nascent democracy which is post Cold War Guatemala; always was one of the more violence-riven in Latin America. As the Times had reported, Anleu had “tagged the message with ‘#escandalogt’ – referring to the alleged murder of prominent lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg”.
What had been initially thought of as another pointless murder spilling over in a middle-class area of Guatemala City, this is now alleged to have been orchestrated by the country’s President Alvaro Colom. At Rosenberg’s funeral, family members distributed a DVD in which Rosenberg was seen calmly stating that if this were being viewed, he would then be dead under orders from Colom.
The motive was said to have been alleged involvement of the Colom family in yet another Guatemalan banking crisis, during which another whistleblower (and his daughter) were also alleged to have been murdered.
I have no opinion formed either way on the Rosenberg case (and note that Colom has invited the FBI to investigate), although Anjeu’s looks decidedly squalid. I do see, also, the threat to Guatemalan public confidence in their first Leftist President since the disgraceful CIA-backed deposition of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1954. A Facebook group “Guatemalans united ask for the resignation of Alvaro Colom” has 41,000 members whilst a pro-Colom group has just 150. I would take this with a pinch of salt, though, as 41,000 represents one third of that national Facebook user-base and the Internet is still out of reach for a great majority of the 13 millions Guatemalans.
Just as Guatamala may be experiencing a flashback to the bad days of Cold War Latin American machinations, so is adjacent Honduras in which the national military deposed and deported the Leftist president, Manuel Zelaya. That Zelaya had been attempting to initiate a national referendum to permit him to run for re-election after his current non-renewable four year term still does not fill me with confidence at a coup d’etat anywhere in Latin America.