Guatemala: Between Electoral Racism and Indigenous Apoliticism

Ollantay Itzamná Forum. Totonicapán. O.I.

I have just witnessed a “Presidential Forum”, with the participation of 9 candidates, organized by 48 Cantons, in the Central Park of Totonicapán. It is the oldest and most renowned indigenous Mayan organization at the national level.

The context of the June 16 general elections, in which three indigenous candidates for the Presidency of the Republic (out of a total of 19 candidates) participate, increased the volume of news on the unresolved issue of daily racism in the country inhabited by indigenous people, but governed by Creole people.

Is the problem racism or is it indigenous apoliticism?

Presidential Forum. Totonicapán.O.I.

The Forum was organized to “listen” to the presidents, their proposals on indigenous peoples. None of the questions posed by the organizers addressed issues such as: Self-determination of Peoples, Plurinational State, Plurinational Constituent Process…

The indigenous people, in their “capacity as subjects” of the Republican Creole State, gathered to “listen” to the teachings on the “purity of Creole politics”. To the extent that two of the candidates, from the front, as if they were candidates for kings, resonated, rebuked and insulted those present, in the name of God.

“In Guatemala we are one people. We have one faith. We believe in one God. Beware of those who speak of different peoples. “Just as God chose Samuel, now He has chosen us to continue to lead you to development. Beware of those who question private property, beware of those who are against the death penalty, beware of those who are in favour of abortion? “You’re much better off than you were before. The opening to private investment (privatizations) brought development to you. Beware of questioning privatization. If you don’t want development then who knows what you will become,” were some of the phrases of the angry candidates wearing ties at the Forum that still echoes in my eardrums.

At one point, one of the elders, who could not contain his indignation in the face of so much insult, ran to the main entrance shouting and pointing at the lordly candidate: “Out, out of here, out of here, you are no longer welcome”. But the Mayan sheriffs of the 48 Cantons censored him and removed the old man from the place for “failing to observe protocol”, while the man wearing a tie looked at them with contempt and disgust.

Why do ancestral indigenous organizations not propose autonomies, nor a Plurinational State?

Presindenciables Forum. Totonicapán. O.I.

The internal colonization (of the last two centuries) managed to almost completely annul processes of accumulation of indigenous resistance struggles during the time of the Spanish colony. The liberals and conservatives were more bloody than the Spanish in their cultural and political domination of the Indians.

The “consciousness” of indigenous identity is relatively recent. It dates back to the last decades of the last century (fertilized by such factors as the memories of the last 500 years, the multiculturalism implemented in some countries, the collective rights promoted in the UN, etc.). Were our grandparents and parents indigenous? Yes, but they were politically dominated, culturally enthralled by the mirage of modernity.

In the case of Guatemala, as a result of the signing of the Peace Accords (1996), international cooperation and funding of organizational/formative policies to stimulate cultural rights appeared. Disregarding political rights. And the indigenous workers, researchers or co-operators felt comfortable in the cultural sphere.

Thus, indigenous and peasant organizations were trapped by the deceptive mirage of folklorism. Entering the dispute for political rights meant renouncing the comfort that folklorism brought. And, the State-company continued the neoliberal looting (post-Peace Accords) in indigenous territories lacking political awareness.

I believe this is one of the reasons why, after 30 years of observance of the collective political rights of peoples such as: self-determination, political exercise, territory, prior consent, etc., indigenous organizations are not able to get out of “providentialism” or the indentured attitude of “political incidence”.

Such is the only way to explain, never justify, the positions and attitudes of Mayan presidential candidates who resist (silently) the proposal for the creation of a Plurinational State with indigenous autonomies, or the proposal for a popular and plurinational constituent process promoted by peasant indigenous communities, recently organized, and articulated in the Movement for the Liberation of Peoples (MLP).

Translation by Internationalist 360°