Monday, March 25, 2002

free speech
Salsa-dancing roosters taunt Guatemalan president
Silly title, serious topic:
Thousands of Guatemalans line the streets every year to see students wearing executioners' hoods poke fun at politicians, the church and the country's powerful military. The parade began as a protest against late 19th century dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera.

This year students dressed in yellow rooster costumes stole the show by changing the words to hit songs to take jabs at Portillo, who newspapers have accused of opening bank accounts in Panama to smuggle millions of dollars out of the country.
Why the hoods and costumes? Because past participants in these student marches have been assassinated as recently as in the 1990's.

The students weren't the only ones protesting this year:
For the third time in 10 days, thousands of Guatemalans filled the streets of the capital Friday to demand the resignation of President Alfonso Portillo and others accused of skimming hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds while children in the countryside are dying of malnutrition.
The Strike of Sorrows (or Huelga De Dolores) is a tradition that dates back to 1898. It's one of the few ways that criticism of government can be aired in a country with a long history of repression.

President Bush met with Central American Presidents yesterday. He had made a statement earlier last week about withholding aid from countries from governments that it identified as being corrupt. News reports don't indicate that the topic came up during the meeting.

I'm sure that most Guatemalans don't want aid money withheld. But, as we can see from their marches and protests, they would certainly like to see some changes take place in the way that the money is spent. The Strike of Sorrows happens around this time each year, so it wasn't timed to coincide with our President's visit.

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