“Y lograron sin choque sangriento, colocarte en un trono de amor, que de patria en enérgico acento dieron vida al ideal redentor”
This verse is taken from the Guatemalan National Anthem. It says, “they achieved it without a bloody fight, putting you (Guatemala) on a throne of love, a country/people in an emphatic manner/ gave life to a redemptive ideal.”
It’s been an exciting few days in Guatemala City. These beautiful words are happening.
Back in April, a UN backed investigative group in Guatemala informed the public that they discovered a widespread customs scandal that benefited many businesses, made government officials extremely wealthy, and stole millions of dollars from Guatemala.
The Vice President resigned, and Guatemalans have spent the last 19 Saturdays in the Central Park protesting against government corruption and impunity.
Last Friday, the implications of the scandal deepened. The VP was arrested and put in jail, and for the fist time the President (Otto Perez Molina) was officially implicated in the scandal.
Guatemalans had enough.
People began calling for his resignation immediately through public protest and social media. Hashtags like #YoNoTengoPresidente (I don’t have a president) and #RenunciaYa (resign now) were trending.
The president scheduled a press conference for this past Sunday night and people were expecting a resignation. They didn’t get it. Instead, they got denial (“my conscience is clear”) and attack (blaming the UN group for destabilizing the country and threatening democracy).
So, people turned to social media and to good old fashioned peaceful protests. On Thursday, there was a nation wide strike. Schools were cancelled. Over 350 businesses closed (just when a girl can officially hate McDonald’s and all it stands for, it goes and closes all restaurants in the whole country for a whole day – it was the first of fast food chains to close – Pollo Campero and Taco Bell followed soon after – only big evil Walmart stayed open). People organized marches from all over the city to central park. Over 100,000 people peacefully protested against the president and the corrupt candidates trying to win their votes in the next elections.
They sang the national anthem every hour. They chanted. They waved flags. They raised their voices together against the corrupt systems of injustice that are oppressing this country. My favorite sign: “Today we don’t have pizza, hamburgers, or tacos, but we are HUNGRY for JUSTICE.”
Get this, my US friends and family – the police sent to watch over the rally had NO GUNS. Batons, yes, but NO GUNS. There was NO VIOLENCE.
The protest was successful, but the people saw no results. In fact, the President affirmed at the end of the day that he would not be resigning and would see his term through until January.
But, Thursday was not the end of the story. Earlier this week the Supreme Court
approved stripping the President’s immunity whether or not he resigned. On Thursday, the decision was passed to a small group of five congressman (and women) – three of whom were either in the President’s party or an ally. It seemed the fight for justice would stop there. But, Nineth Montenegro became a new national hero when she said, “I’m sleeping in congress until we make the right decision.” She packed a suitcase. Pictures began circulating of her fighting government corruption decades ago. She’s a hero.
And just this afternoon, this small group of five surprised a nation and voted to recommend to congress that the President’s immunity should be taken away – now at least 105 congressmen and women need to agree.
We’ll see what happens, but this tiny country has been full of surprises in the past few days.
This tiny country has been making history.