The Guatemalan Twitter user named Jean Anleu Fernández who was arrested for making a Twitter post that suggested people should remove their money from the Banrural in order to help break the backs of corrupt politicians has been released from jail and placed under house arrest. In the video above, you can watch as he greets his friends and makes a Twitter post while in handcuffs. In one of the most fascinating recent examples of the battle for free expression we are watching a normal guy get persecuted by a Western nation for simply posting his thoughts on the internet. He has been charged with inciting financial panic and attempting to cause a run on the bank. I actually think his idea for pulling money out of the bank is a very good one and I fully support his idea. Why not? If Guatemala is so afraid of a run on its bank, then it either needs a new bank or a new government. Perhaps both. I think that, on the basis of what we are seeing in Guatemala, both the bank and the country’s government should be eliminated as quickly as possible. The barrage of worldwide outrage toward Guatemala’s government via the internet is illustrative of the power of ‘word bullets’ to destabilize and destroy governments. This is a fearsome power in the hands of ordinary internet users all over the globe. It is this power that is the great weapon in the hands of all free people. But it is also the power that will cause a dangerous reaction from governments seeking to eliminate this potent popular weapon. I think that we are on the brink of the greatest assault on freedom of expression in history and that the assault will come primarily from free Western nations. We are seeing it already in attempts like U.S. congressional representative Linda Sanchez’s bill to criminalize the posting of opinions on the internet that may offend anyone at all or emotionally injure a potential reader. There is absolutely no difference between her attempt at legislation to eliminate freedom of speech and the behavior of the Guatemalan government in arresting a man for suggesting that people withdraw their own money from a bank.
The government of Guatemala has arrested and imprisoned a man named Jean Anleu Fernández who posted on Twitter yesterday the following message: “The first action people should take is to remove cash from Banrural, and break the banks of corrupt people. #escandalogt”
His Twitter message was in response to the suspected involvement of the Guatemalan president in the recent assassination of a prominent lawyer who was investigating government corruption. What we are seeing here is the new power of words. Their power to take down a government. The outrageous action of Guatemala has created a worldwide eruption of blog and Twitter outrage in which Anleu Fernández’ original message is being reproduced countless times. Boing Boing is doing excellent coverage of this story.
I agree with Mr. Anleu Fernández in his suggestion that people withdraw their money from a bank that people suspect of corruption. I would withdraw my money if I were in Guatemala. I also think the people should probably withdraw themselves from Guatemala if at all possible since it is quite obviously moving toward total collapse. If Guatemala thinks I’m creating panic, then I would suggest that people actually run screaming from the country because panic is exactly what should be happening there. When police start arresting people for telling other people to pull money out of a bank, then it’s all over.