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Guatemalan Twitter User Arrested for "Inciting Financial Panic," First Arrest of its Kind in Central American History
Amid protests in the streets and on social networks calling for Guatemala's president to step down after the assasination of a whistleblower attorney, Guatemalan police have arrested a Twitter user for "inciting panic" through tweets. In the capital city today, police raided his home and confiscated his computer.
Quick background: The Guatemalan bank Banrural is at the center of the country's current political crisis: the recently assassinated attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg represented a finance expert, Khalil Musa, who was said to have refused to participate in corrupt transactions involving that bank. Musa, was assassinated in March. After continuing to make statements about alleged government complicity in that murder, and in the financial crimes Musa protested, Rosenberg was himself shot to death this past Sunday. Days before his murder, Rosenberg recorded a video saying he believed he would soon be assassinated by forces acting at the orders of Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom. After his death, the video spread virally on YouTube, sparking widespread protests on and offline.
Today, Twitter user "Jeanfer" was arrested for suggesting in a tweet that people who had money deposited in Banrural should remove those funds, and by doing so, break the control that corrupt entities have over the state-controlled financial institution.
Below, my clumsily translated snip from a report in the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre about the arrest, which as far as I know is the first time anyone in Guatemala, or Central America, period, has been detained over something they posted to Twitter:
The police today detained Jean Ramses Anleu Fernández, an information technology worker, for having incited financial panic on the social network Twitter, after having written this Tuesday a comment on Twitter which called for a united force to take funds out of [the Guatemalan bank] Banrural, as a result of the information transmitted in a video recorded by the attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg before his assassination.
Jean Anleu Fernández, known on the microblogging social networking website Twitter as "Jeanfer," was arrested today during a police raid of his residence in zona 8 of Guatemala City, in which the police took his computers at the order of the Guatemalan government's public ministry division in charge of banks.
The head of the banking system, Genaro Pacheco, told reporters that Mr. Anleu admitted that he made this comment about Banrural on Twitter.
Mr. Anleu Fernández wrote on Tuesday May 12, at approximately 2pm, a commentary ("post") in which he expressed, "The first action people should take is to remove cash from Banrural, and break the banks of corrupt people," along with the hashtag #escandalogt, which is known by Twitter users as a way of classifying posts related to the Rosenberg assasination case.
Discussion of Rosenberg's assassination, and related calls for an investigation and/or removal of Colom from power, continues undaunted on Twitter -- and is easily followed with the #escandalogt hashtag. As one might imagine, there is a great deal of outcry against @jeanfer's arrest today. One Twitterer said just now (translated from Spanish): "The capture of @jeanfer appears to me to be a smoke curtain to divert attention from the accusations against president Colom."
Below, screenshot of another form of online protest: en masse, Guatemalan Twitter users are re-tweeting the comment that led to @jeanfer's arrest.