Sandra Cuffe writes in The Intercept about the national strike that took place on 29th July in response to the events surrounding the sacking of Juan Francisco Sandoval and his flight out of Guatemala. The ‘Paro Nacional’ was called by indigenous authorities and was widespread across Guatemala.
The highway was still enveloped in fog as thousands gathered in Guatemala’s western highlands Thursday morning. Paulina González was one of the first to arrive in Los Encuentros, a key juncture along the Pan-American Highway. The local Indigenous Maya Kaqchikel mobilization, which she and a few of her fellow Indigenous Maya Tz’utujil ancestral authorities attended, was one of dozens of protests taking place across the country.
“People can’t take it anymore,” said González. “We have united today to shut things down all over.”
Last week, the ouster of a Guatemalan prosecutor leading embattled efforts against high-level corruption sparked an explosive new chapter in the country’s long-simmering political crisis. The move provoked widespread condemnation, suspension of some U.S. aid, and protests. Heeding calls by Indigenous leaders for a “paro nacional,” or nationwide shutdown, on Thursday, communities and social movements marched, rallied, and blocked roads around the country to demand the president and attorney general resign.
The tipping point came on July 23, when Attorney General María Consuelo Porras fired prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, head of the Special Anti-Impunity Prosecutor’s Bureau, or FECI by its Spanish acronym. In a somewhat ambiguous public statement announcing Sandoval’s termination, Porras’s office referred to bias and disrespect. Sandoval responded with a press conference and laid out detailed allegations that Porras obstructed FECI’s work in order to protect high-level officials, particularly those in the president’s circle, from prosecution for corruption. Porras and President Alejandro Giammattei have both refuted the allegations.
“Today I am the latest in a string of prosecutors who have suffered consequences for seeking truth and justice,” Sandoval said at his press conference last Friday. “History will judge us. The results are there.” Fearing for his safety, he fled the country later that night.
“Who would not be angry? They took our last defender away,” Tomás Saloj, a former Indigenous mayor of Sololá, told The Intercept in La Cuchilla, where protesters were taking cover under plastic sheets, umbrellas, and trees as the rain picked up. “We need to understand the situation we are facing. Now there is nothing. And if we leave things as they are, if we ignore it, imagine what they could do. What would become of Guatemala?”
You can read the full article, with links and photos, here, Guatemalan Communities Turn Out for Indigenous-Led Nationwide Shutdown.