I am keeping in touch with our artisans in Guatemala and getting updates to the political crisis that is unfolding and exploding throughout the country. Tens of thousands of people have joined the call of the 48 ancestral leaders of Totonicapan for an indefinite strike in Guatemala. The region of Totonicapan is made up of 48 self-governed communities (cantones). The work of ancestral authorities is to maintain social cohesion and maintain unity within the Indigenous communities from the spread of evangelical Christianity and capitalism. In addition, they play a critical role in defending communal resources within Indigenous territories. Click here for more on the role of ancestral leaders in Guatemala.
The strike began with 14 blockades. Two weeks later, the protests and blockades have expanded to block more than 120 roads as student activists, human rights defenders and angered workers have taken to the streets over the accusations of election fraud and irregularities in the winning party’s registration.
In August, the country elected Bernardo Arévalo when his party, Semilla came out of nowhere to overcome a political establishment that had silenced them for years. Arévalo is an anti-corruption activist who vows to take on elites that have weakened the country’s judiciary system and persecuted Guatemalan journalists and activists. Arevalo’s party, the Seed Movement hopes to grow a new spring for democracy.
Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Guatemala’s Attorney General Consuelo Porras and prosecutors who, in an attempt to destroy Arevalo's party and prevent his presidency, ordered raids on electoral offices and illegal seizures of ballots and suspended the Semilla (Seed Movement ) — without any evidence to support their claims. Porras, who’s backed by the Guatemalan political and business elites, has been repeatedly accused of corruption.
The protests entered their 12th straight day on October 13th. Guatemala's president-elect Bernardo Arevalo said the government is using violence to counter protests and create tension which could be used as an excuse for declaring a state of "siege," even as the government announced tighter measures. Classes are suspended around the country; banks are closing because of little cash; markets are closed in protest and there are shortages of gas and food. President Giammattei is dispatching riot police and the military to break up the roadblocks. The protestors stood their ground and pushed back many troops withdrew.
Last night, 8 ancestral leaders met with Giammattei and he would not agree to fire the Attorney General. In their press conference they asked the people if they wanted to continue the protest, and all shouted yes. He said the people have decided, we will continue. The indigenous population is tired of the corruption, tired of being left out of society and tired of their concerns for the nation and the environment being ignored. The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) said last week he accepted an invitation to mediate between Guatemalan officials and street protesters seeking an orderly transfer of power to Arevalo.
Here is a link to an interview with President elect Arevalo on PBS
Please keep our artisan and all other Guatemalans in your hearts! Our wonderful ceramicist Roberto said there is a gas shortage in San Antonio so production of our Guatemalan mugs and serving ware will be slowed as many citizens and workers are attending the protests. This is a tough time for everyone in the country as they sacrifice their earnings to join the protests. Our hearts and solidarity are with them! It is more difficult for the protestors, but the strike has the oligarchy on their knees. As the continue to citizens rise up in solidarity, the oligarchs will eventually push for the firing of the AG as they have too much to lose financially every day that their economy is stifled.
With every image I see I get tears in my eyes. There really can be a chance for change if President elect Bernardo Arevalo takes power.
Below are a few pictures from San Antonio Palopo, the city where our ceramics are produced.
As always, thank you for supporting fair trade, fair wages, and our wonderful artisans.