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Twitterer cuffed for provoking 'financial panic'

Possible jail time for Guatemalan twittero

A Guatemalan who apparently threatened his country's financial stability by posting a provocative tweet regarding the Banrural bank faces up to three years in jail, Chile's El Mercurio reports.

Jean Anléu Fernández last week said: "First concrete action, withdraw cash from Banrural, bring down this corrupt bank."

Police cuffed the twittero on Friday and confiscated his computer on the grounds he might cause "financial panic" and "undermine the confidence" of the bank's clients.

The arrest follows a recent declaration by Guatemala's superintendent of banks, Edgar Barquín, that legal action would be taken against anyone rocking the financial boat - specifically "writing, reporting or reproducing false or innacurate information by any means of communication which undermines confidence in a banking institution".

However, some are suggesting the arrest was motivated less by a genuine fear that uncontrolled Twittering could bring Guatemala to its fiscal knees, and more by a desire on the part of president Alvaro Colom to send a strong message to those who exercise the right to free speech online.

Colom is currently embroiled in a major scandal following the assassination earlier this month of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, who left a sensational video, to be released in the event of his murder, which places the blame firmly on the president's doorstep.

Unsurprisingly, Colom is taking plenty of flak from outraged citizens, with the local blogosphere contributing plenty of unfriendly fire. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to Nigel Callaghan for the tip-off.

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