A New Revolution in Guatemala

“I think there’s going to be another revolution.” Hermano Pedro spoke these words to me, nodding slowly, as we sat at the kitchen table drinking sweet coffee and eating bread. That was in early July of this year. We were talking about Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and the protests that were happening in the capital calling for his resignation. I had asked him what he thought would happen--would Guatemala just wait it out until the September elections or would Molina be forced to resign, just as his vice-president had done a few months earlier?

Hermano Pedro’s answer, though, went beyond my question about the then-current president and upcoming elections. His response belied a fear for his people, a fear rooted in the memory of the last time there was a revolution that led to a 20-year armed conflict that killed 200,000 Maya. His response belied this fear of violence, but also an abiding hope that change was possible, a belief that Guatemalans deserve to live in a country where their tax dollars go to fund social programs instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy elite, where foreign companies are not allowed to displace people and strip the land of its resources for profit, where war criminals cannot serve as president.

Perez Molina is a graduate of the School of the Americas, the U.S. military base that has trained hundreds of Latin American soldiers in tactics that the graduates have consistently used against their own people, assassinating, massacring, and torturing thousands. It is not a secret that Perez Molina is almost certainly responsible for many war crimes, including ordering and orchestrating massacres against indigenous communities in the Guatemalan armed conflict during his tenure in the military. He is also implicated in the 1998 murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala City. A few days ago, though, after months of protests in Guatemala City and more recently in other parts of the country, Perez Molina resigned and was arrested on corruption charges for crimes he has committed while in office over the past four years. 

This week I have realized that Hermano Pedro’s words are already being realized. I continue to hope and pray that the revolution as it is being lived out now before our very eyes continues--a nonviolent revolution that stands up to corruption and stands for government reform and liberation from oppression for the Guatemalan people. I pray and believe that true changes and lasting peace will happen through this nonviolent revolution.