Guatemala’s National Strike Demands Structural Change

Giovanni Batz writes in NACLA about the latest protests in Guatemala which build on years of popular struggle and which deepen demands for a plurinational state.

In the last decade, national protests throughout Guatemala have symbolized a growing anger and mistrust towards a historically corrupt and genocidal government that has looked out for the interests of the oligarchs, criollos, gringos, foreign corporations, and landowners. On October 4, 2012, the Indigenous authorities of the 48 Cantones of Totonicapán organized thousands of people to block the Pan-American Highway to call for constitutional reforms and denounce high electricity prices, among other demands. The military and the police, sent in to brutally end the protests, fired on unarmed people at the Cumbre de Alaska, killing six and injuring over 40. It was the first known state-sponsored massacre since the end of the war in 1996.

Nine years after the Alaska massacre, those responsible continue to live in impunity. After repeated stalling, the case crawled forward on September 3 when a judge sent a colonel and eight soldiers involved to trial for extrajudicial executions. The case’s slow progress is a reminder that even though the war ended, the violence continues, and while peace was declared, there remains no justice for victims or accountability for the perpetrators of human rights crimes, who continue to hold considerable power in Guatemala. The end of the war also signaled an increasing invasion of extractivist industries, with the support of the oligarchs, and further displacement of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.

Despite the threat of violence, the communities of Totonicapán, and other Indigenous and campesino communities, continue to resist. Today, Maya, Xinca, and Garifuna communities and ancestral authorities from throughout Guatemala, and national organizations such as CODECA (Committee for Campesino Development), are at the forefront of protests that seek to challenge the colonial and dominant structures that have existed in Guatemala for the last 500 years.


Guatemala today is at another political juncture in a long trajectory that has seen repressive powers exploit, displace, and persecute Indigenous and oppressed peoples. Historical long-standing demands from social movements and calls for a plurinational constitutional assembly underline how real and effective change must be structural if the state is to respect the dignity and well-being of its people.

You can read the full piece, including links, here, Guatemala’s National Strike Demands Structural Change.

Para leer el artículo en español, haz clic aquí, El Paro Nacional de Guatemala Exige un Cambio Estructural.

Categories: Corruption, Criminalisation, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Legal, Lobbying, Migration, Military, Poverty, Resource Extraction, Solidarity in Action, Violence

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