Guatemala: call of 48 cantons and 105 days of protest

For all those who believe and fight for a different Guatemala, dignified, just and equal.

On Sunday, January 14, in the midst of a scenario that seemed impossible, Bernardo Arévalo took office as President of the Republic of Guatemala. The path has not been easy, with obstacles created amid illegal subterfuge and excessive delays on the part of opposition parties, “traditional” legal operators and those included in the “corruption pact.” They conspired to prevent Arevalo from taking office and to prevent respect for the will of the people. However, after almost a 10-hour delay to the officially planned program, this was achieved. Bernardo Arevalo is now the President of Guatemala. The presence of the international community and Guatemalan society, which did not give up, was invaluable.

The new government is hope for Guatemala and the region. The task will not be easy, some of the main problems it faces are related to a crooked prosecutor’s office and judicial system, devoid of autonomy and independence, which act more like executioners against those who fought corruption and defended human rights. . The attorney general has now been named the most corrupt person of 2023 by the OCCRP Global Network: Corruption and Organized Crime Reporting Project, and the judiciary has been the subject of numerous international observations for abandoning its independence. He will also have to face the strength of historical de facto powers – the oligarchy and the military – who oppose democratic government and will try by all means to restore power that will only benefit them.

However, the Guatemala that spoke out, the Guatemala that defended its democracy and fought until the last moment, taught us a great lesson for Mexico and the entire region: democracy is not taken for granted, it is built, it demanded and it defends itself. Democratic Guatemalan society put an end to this, and from various trenches, in the country, in forced exile or unjust imprisonment, they demanded what was theirs: their country and their rights.

Among all the actors, one stands out that can hardly go unnoticed: the indigenous peoples gathered at the call of the 48 cantons of Totonicapan.

They began with a nationwide strike, locking down 142 establishments throughout the country, and continued their symbolic resistance to the Public Ministry (MP) in the Girona building, aware that it was the corrupt architect who was using the power of the criminal law to persecute, imprison and intimidate those who fight for a decent Guatemala, free from corruption. In his opinion, the deputy is the working apparatus of the coup attempt, a criminalizing weapon for the authorities and leaders of indigenous peoples. They demanded the resignation of Consuelo Porras, Rafael Curruches and the participants in the impunity pact.

Why defend democracy and a colonial system that has historically suppressed them? Because there is still in our minds and from a more Western system (but not necessarily theirs) a system that still allows some freedoms and leaves room for its own system that complements and tries to force them to coexist. Because it is the only organization that has so far demonstrated that it can protect human rights. Because this is not a done deal, we must continue to fight to transform what is not working, what is preventing us from fully enjoying all our rights.

According to historian Ana Luisa Arévalo: “… it’s not about Bernardo, for me it’s a structural phenomenon. This is a defense of democracy, and although – I have had to explain this many times – a democratic system is half plus one. This is the majority, but not all, so dissent is normal. It is structural because we are fighting to preserve a system that is very precarious, that more or less exists and is designed to avoid falling into dictatorship.”

Indigenous peoples demanded respect for the will of the Guatemalan people as expressed in the elections. They took what belonged to them, civic space. Incredibly, but in an organized and peaceful manner, they rebelled against the corrupt institution that repressed and excluded them.

They showed us one of the most important aspects of defending democracy: social and community organization, grassroots organization. Without thinking that it was woven from the capital and the table, it was they and they, from the territory that was often taken and snatched from them, organized themselves to become a single presence, to become one, to become one. resisting is something they finally know how to do because they have been doing it for centuries; taking turns, feeding and sustaining themselves for 105 days of peaceful resistance.

They sacrificed the little that allowed them to survive from day to day: they slaughtered their chickens, cattle and pigs; They gave up some of their crops and property so that the resistance could survive. The logic is very different from the West, where goods may exist in abundance but are protected, shared little, and difficult to accept collectively. It has been shown that the forms of existence between the village and the city are completely different. Mayan communities are prepared, they are saving their harvests in case of crisis.

In the most general, closest terms, they agreed and formulated what was national.

Guatemala will never be the same again. It doesn’t have to be the same. This region is a place to watch, learn and allow yourself to be touched by the wealth of ancient Mayan wisdom. The leaders of the transformation were those whom many consider invisible. They won, they vindicated themselves once again and deserve national and international respect.

The new government will have to demonstrate that it can make a difference compared to other governments; which can remove the stones and destroy the imposed colonialism, which can be inclusive, horizontal and respectful towards those who created Guatemala and the region. Integrate, respect, provide decent living conditions, without trying to Westernize, without imposing. They will have to face corporate corruption and organized crime in collusion with the authorities, which threatens their social life, the local economy, their integrity and their territories.

His peaceful calling shows us that it is possible to build on the basis of solidarity, love, inclusion, respect and equality.

A memorial plaque installed near the prosecutor’s office building, which was removed shortly afterwards by a deputy, forces us not to forget what happened:

“In this place, from October 2, 2023 to January 15, 2024, seven indigenous peoples, convened and led by the authorities of the 48 cantons of Totonicapán, joined by other indigenous peoples, mestizos, Guatemalan communities abroad from in several countries and different sectors of the country, we DEFENDING DEMOCRACY AND THE GUATEMANA VOTING.”

Guatemala, January 15, 2023

Tribute to the 48 cantons of Totonicapán, the local mayor’s office of Solola, the Mám, Xinque and other indigenous peoples; to those who fought to build a democratic and dignified Guatemala for all, whether in the country, in exile or in unjust prison. Let this be the beginning of a new reconstruction.

Source: Aristegui Noticias