Thursday, August 18, 2011

Plaza Publica gains access to Wikileaks on Guatemalan presidential candidate


A Guatemalan newspaper, Plaza Publica was granted to access to 15 cables through Wikileaks, providing valuable information about the front running presidential candidate, Otto Perez Molina. One particularly informative cable is from a meeting between the United States Ambassador James Derham and Otto Perez Molina on September 18th, 2007. The meeting covers several key issues facing Perez Molina in his campaign: financing, alliances with the Guatemalan elite, military corruption accusations, and possible policy plans.

According to Plaza Publica, Perez Molina was unwilling to share his financing information with the Guatemalan public. Even though his financing was kept secret from the public, Perez did discuss it with the U.S. embassy in the cable. According to Ambassador Derham, Perez asserted that he was receiving support from the four richest families in Guatemala (los Castillo, los Novella, los Herrera, and Dionisio Gutierrez), which are directly associated with the four largest industries in the country. When asked about his relationship with the Mendoza family, Perez responded that he had a minimal connection with a member of the family which was not involved in drug-trafficking before pulling them completely out of his campaign. This fact was denied completely during an interview with Plaza Publica just one month ago.

Ambassador Durham also questioned Perez about the military accusations against him by human rights organizations and watch groups for his role in the Nibaj brigade and as Director of Intelligence during armed conflict. Perez argued that he was sent to Nibaj as the Minister of Defense (not as a commander) and that the military strategy in place when he arrived was to identify the indigenous communities ‘hiding in the hills’ as guerilla supporters—another detail he left out of the Plaza Publica interview. Perez continued on to say that he made a concerted effort to change the military’s image of the indigenous and better their relationship with those communities. Perez also denied any involvement in the disappearance of commander Everardo during his time as Director of Intelligence. The embassy commented in the cable the it has, up to date, not found any valid evidence implicating Perez in violations of human rights.

On the reporting side, Martin Rodriguez Pellecer tells the full (and exciting) story of how Plaza Publica was able to gain access to the Wikileaks, shedding light on the complicated and clandestine world of internet hacking.


Top Stories:

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  • Un Nuevo Tiempo, the party in opposition to Chavez, announced yesterday that it will be supporting Pablo Perez as their leading candidate. According the polls, he has the third highest support of all the opposition politicians.
  • A government commission in Chile approved a coal-mining project in the extreme south of Patagonia, which is expected to extract six million tons of coal each year for up to 25 years, supplying 30% of Chile’s demand. President Sebastián Piñera is one of the major shareholders behind the project.
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  • The government of Chile presented a third offer to student activists and said they were willing to sit down and negotiate. While the proposal addressed some of the general demands of the student movement, activists still doubt the validity of the law and criticized its lack of specificity.
  • Mexican governors released a 10-point plan to reduce “high impact crime” such as money laundering, kidnapping, murder, extortion, and arms trafficking.
  • InSight Crime reports on severe corruption in Colombia’s jails, which has so heavily infiltrated the system that prison guards who do not break the rules are often threatened, and sometimes killed. One suggestion is to privatize the prison system.
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  • Peru’s President Ollanta Humala called for harsher security measures against the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and announced a radical shift in strategy which greatly resembles Colombia’s counterinsurgency tactics, reports Geoffrey Ramsey for the Latin America Monitor.
  • Following up on an earlier post, several hundred Bolivian indigenous people are marching from the Amazon to La Paz in protest of a highway project funded by Brazil. Protestors are concerned about the forest but also believe the road could be used for increased cocaine trafficking. Al-Jazeera provides video coverage.
  • The International Crisis Group warns of the potential for an explosion of violence following the Venezuelan elections, whether or not Chavez is re-elected. The NGO published a report yesterday discusses the possibility of a “social explosion” due to the “degree of polarization and militarization” in the country. Read the full report here.