EspañolGuatemala, fortunately, is not home to any pressing political or social problems these days. There are no established guerrilla in the country, and even though the political system leaves much to be desired, freedom of the press, free elections, and political debate are generally present despite institutional limits.
However, as recent events show, minority groups want to stir instability within the country with new kinds of terrorism.
Recently, residents of a town near the Guatemalan capital committed acts of violence that resulted in the deaths of 10 people, along with the destruction of cars, homes, and other property. The reason? Although it may be difficult to believe, this group wanted to express their opposition to the construction of a freeway that would alleviate the country’s national and international transit issues. They also meant to protest a cement plant that would increase Guatemala’s production capacity in a country with obvious homelessness issues.
For some time, people across Guatemala have responded to proposals to build highways in the same way: acts of aggression causing death and injury.
Cloaked in radicalism, an angry mob assaulted and killed their neighbors, without provocation, accusing them of selling their land to help build the highway or simply working in cement factories. As a result, the government decided to restrict some constitutional rights in the municipality where peace had been so violently disrupted.
This was not a spontaneous reaction to an injustice, nor an outburst caused by provocation or personal conflicts. For a long time now, people across Guatemala have responded to proposals to build highways in the same way: acts of aggression that cause death and injury. Consequently, there have been numerous confrontations between protesters and police, causing tensions within local communities and preventing residents from going about their daily activities.
There are many organizations that claim responsibility for these actions or that endorse them through public statements to the press.
Some of these groups, like the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), were created during the days of the guerrilla to support the actions of the armed groups fighting to impose totalitarian socialism. The CUC was the organization that created the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), a Maoist guerrilla whose leadership continue to work toward destabilizing the country.
What is the motive behind these violent protests? All signs point to a concerted effort by a network of organizations, attempting to destabilize the country and impose a socialist authoritarian regime, such as the one currently in power in Venezuela.
All signs point to a concerted effort by a network of organizations, attempting to destabilize the country and impose a socialist authoritarian regime.
This is not paranoia: these groups have attacked mining companies, hydroelectric plants, roads, and development projects of all kinds throughout Guatemala. These organizations openly promote stealing electricity, and some in recent years have blown up energy transmission towers.
They seek to maintain the tension by any means necessary, and even though these protesters are a small minority, the effects of their violent and intimidating actions reach millions of citizens.
The government is trapped between the demands of the majority, which want a stop to the violence and for those responsible to be prosecuted, and their fear of being accused of violating human rights. Some progressive NGOs, many of which receive international funding, have already levied such accusations at the Guatemalan government.
It is understandable that politicians, concerned over the next general election in 2015, want to be extremely careful not to appear as if they are repressive towards a “popular” protest.
The real problem, however, is that if they don’t put a stop to these violent activities, the country could find itself overwhelmed by guerrilla subversion, as it was in the past. This would cause any potential trading partners to flee and slow economic growth, creating the ideal breeding ground to recruit more people into violent protests and guerrilla warfare.
In light of these events, it is extremely important to make clear that, while peaceful protest is accepted and welcome, violence of any kind will be met with the full force of the law.