A new alliance called “This is just the beginning!”
This year’s massive social mobilizations in Guatemala won’t just become history; they have a future, as the October 15th event “This is Just the Beginning” showed in Guatemala City. The event was a gathering of young people from rural communities who have been monitoring the elections as part of the group Mirador Electoral, and young people from urban organizations and collectives that took part in organizing the recent demonstrations. The event was organized by DEMOS, the group that formed Mirador Electoral, and the UN Development Project in Guatemala (PNUD). Anabella Rivera, director of DEMOS, described the results:
In all my years of activism for human rights and the quest for democracy in Guatemala, I’ve never heard such good sense and calm seriousness in an interpretation of the reality of the country. I knew they were all young, but there were neither calls for adversarial confrontation nor the haste that allows the future to escape us for impatience. It was lucid awareness of what needs to be strengthened in the path of civic participation: education, organization, knowledge, reliable information, analysis, reflection, and determination to follow through because this is just the beginning. I thought it wouldn’t be like this, but it was. Hope and the spirit of struggle prevailed. They know that they have to defeat the demons of custom, of divisive beliefs, of egotism… but they’re willing to keep working together. They committed to meeting at 3PM on January 15th to continue the process of building the future.
Tony Pérez Guzmán of the VOS collective from Quetzaltenango, Rivera, and Catalina Soberanis, Coordinator of PNUD’s Strategic Analysis Unit, former Congresswoman, and the first female President of Congress, answered questions from EntreMundos about the event and next steps. This article contains a small part of their answers. Read the full responses at revista.entremundos.org.
Soberanis: We saw the need for bridges between young people from rural and urban backgrounds, from indigenous and ladino ethnicities, from leftist and rightist ideologies, so that young people could share their different perspectives with each other.
The activity included a “citizens’ coffee,” which consisted of a facilitated exchange between young people of their experiences. This is the first time in many years that young people are demonstrating while self-identifying as youth and that they’re mobilizing massively in urban areas.
As the participants have stated, “This is just the beginning.” And what we can expect is the creation of spaces for exchange, reflection, and education. What kinds of organization will arise? We don’t know yet, but with the participation of young people, Guatemalan society will have to face the challenges created by an economic model that thus far has generated high rates of poverty and a profound chasm between extreme poverty and extreme wealth.
Guzmán: We need to maintain the new public awakening to show the political class that we´ll be tightening the vices, monitoring every cent invested in the country. Otherwise, we’ll be nothing more than a fleeting hope.
Guatemala isn’t a poor country; it’s been ransacked since it was a Spanish colony by its successive governments. Otto Pérez Molina and Roxana Baldetti Elías aren’t the major corruption problem in Guatemala. They were puppets put in place to operate a network that benefits the interests of unscrupulous businessmen.
The VOS collective sees the movement developing in Xela in the medium term as a non-profit civic association whose aim is to monitor the city government.