Immunity No More! Guatemalan Lessons For The Rest Of Latin America

Honest judges and popular protest combined to topple a president, setting a bold precedent in an age when news travels fast.

Anti-corruption protests last week in Guatemala City
Anti-corruption protests last week in Guatemala City
Aldo Cívico


BOGOTÁ â€" Guatemala has joined the ranks of countries where ordinary people are saying enough is enough to politics and knavery as usual.

After months of street protests, the country's parliament voted last week to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of his immunity. The leader is suspected of embezzling public funds. Pérez Molina resigned and was immediately jailed, capping an exceptional turn of events, particularly in the context of Latin America, where corruption scandals recur in a setting of shameless impunity for the rich, the powerful and the violent.

There are perhaps some lessons here that Guatemala's fellow Latin American countries would do well to heed. One is that justice must be implacable in fighting corruption. The other lies in the visible strength of a civic movement promoting the culture of legality.

Such a movement becomes imperative when politics and public life lose both sense and essence, are rotted through by corruption, and when collaboration between legal and illegal powers becomes habitual.

Corruption is the cancer of democracy. It annuls the legal pact through which people consider themselves members of a community, and corrodes their sense of belonging. As ethical conduct melts away, corruption fans the worship of personal interests and turns the common good into an irksome obstacle.

The judiciary's role becomes crucial when the political sphere has become an ethical vacuum. In those cases it must act as a surgeon that extirpates and cuts where necessary to ensure the survival of the social body. And for that it needs its corps of competent, responsible officials.

In Guatemala, the judiciary proved decisive thanks to the intervention of an honest judge, Colombian Iván Velásquez of the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. As our columnist María Elvira Bonilla wrote once, since the time of the mobster Pablo Escobar, Velásquez has devoted his career to fighting the ties between politics and crime. When he began scrutinizing relations between Colombian paramilitaries and politicians, Colombia sent him packing. Today Guatemala enjoys what Colombia failed to appreciate.

Justice is essential. But it's not enough. That is something the Italian prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino understood. For them, the fight against the mafia had to be more than a cold, distant analysis. It had to be part of a cultural and ethical movement. Their work had to shake consciences so that social complicity with the mafia would no longer be perceived as normal and inevitable.

Judge Velásquez's efforts did just that. He managed to shake the minds of Guatemalans, helping foster the peaceful civilian protests that, in combination with judicial action, led to the president's resignation and arrest.

Guatemalans broke free of fear and its silent shackles, setting an important precedent in the process. Competent, honest leaders backed by independent civilian action can turn what seemed like the impossible into business as usual.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!