Guatemala: State Restricts Political Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Ollantay Itzamná
MLP demonstration in front of the TSE. Guatemala

Before the indigenous and peasants organized politically in Guatemala, whenever these impoverished sectors took to the streets to protest, the corporate media and the middle classes shouted at them: “Make your political party. Go to the polls. Win elections”…

Guatemala is one of the most culturally megadiverse countries on the continent. According to the 2018 national senso, more than 44% of Guatemala’s population declares itself indigenous. Although for an anthropological view, more than 90% of the population is genetically indigenous.

Guatemala, territorially of a little more than 108 thousand Km2, cohabited by 17 million people, has approximately 10 million of its inhabitants below the impoverishment line, almost entirely of Mayan indigenous origin.

In two centuries of the Republic, in Guatemala, the native peoples and peasants, despite being demographically the majority, were never allowed to organize politically, much less participate, nor were they elected as governors.

In 2016, the peasant communities and native peoples in resistance, articulated in the movement Comité de Desarrollo Campesino (CODECA), after extensive and historic assembly debates, decided to create their political organization to participate electorally in the elections and implement their project for the transformation of the country. In 2018, they achieved the registration of the political organization Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples (MLP). In the 2019 general elections, MLP came in 4th place in that electoral contest.

Elections 2023, Guatemala limits political participation of indigenous peoples.

Cartoon from a media that summarizes Guatemala’s electoral political culture.

Before the creation of MLP, and during the last three years, the communities and peoples have not ceased to organize, raise awareness and politicize the popular sectors of the country.

But, in the midst of the ongoing electoral process of 2023, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) denies the registration of the presidential binomial of MLP in spite of the fulfillment of the requirements demanded by Law. Consequently, the communities and peoples of the MLP undertook the contested “legal path”, appealing, filing injunctions… Although by this route they are clear about the final result: to exclude indigenous people and peasants from the electoral contest.

In this way, the State of Guatemala not only limits or violates the political rights of the “denied” vice-presidential candidate Jordán Rodas, former Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), but also the collective political rights of the indigenous peoples as subjects with socio-political entitlements.

“We are not going to hold an extraordinary assembly to elect a new presidential binomial”.

Poster published by MLP on the refusal of the TSE to register its binomial.

Given the TSE’s refusal to favorably resolve the appeals presented by MLP, and to register its presidential binomial, the communities and peoples decided not to hold any extraordinary assembly as a political organization to register a new candidate for the vice-presidency.

“We are not going to hold a new national assembly, nor are we going for a new binomial. Our current binomial complies with all the requirements of the Law… To hold a new assembly would be to be complicit with the criminal and illegal conduct of the magistrates”, according to Mauro Vay, member of the political committee of the MLP.

Having exhausted the legal remedies in the country, they will resort to international instances such as the IACHR, and others, to enforce the fulfillment and implementation of the political rights that they have as individuals and peoples.

There is condemnatory international jurisprudence by the IACHR against the states of Venezuela and Colombia in similar cases of violation of individual political rights by the states.

In this way, a socio-political movement nucleated by indigenous and peasants, with laws in hand, places the Guatemalan electoral authorities organizing the 2023 general election process in a difficult situation.

“They are afraid of us because of our project of a plurinational country”.

The proscription of political organizations in Guatemala is not new. Political parties of communist tendency suffered this punishment for being ideologically “different” from the conservative or liberal parties, or for being contrary to North American interests, during the two centuries of the Republic.

But, MLP is not communist, so why does the Guatemalan political system seek to outlaw this organization?

Basically the communities and peoples of Guatemala politically organized in MLP propose:

  • To promote a process of Popular and Plurinational Constituent Assembly for the creation of a Plurinational State with territorial autonomies.
  • To review all the privatization contracts of public goods and services in force in the country, with a view to the re-nationalization of such goods.
  • Incorporate Guatemala into regional integration processes such as CELAC, ALBA, etc., and thus free the country from North American control.

However, what really terrifies the country’s hegemonic elites is the real possibility of losing the cultural hegemony and the privileges accumulated during two centuries of Creole Republic.

If the nearly 80 billion dollars of Gross Domestic Product that Guatemala counts with was and is the result of the semi-slave labor of the great social majorities, and the constant plundering of the territories, the future of this patrimony also depends on the overexploitation and plundering of these goods. And, to allow the liberation of the peoples and their respective territorial autonomies is and will be a suicide of the opulent elites of the country.

From the streets to the ballot boxes, from the ballot boxes to the streets.

Plurinational Assembly MLP. 28/12/22

Before indigenous people and peasants organized politically in Guatemala, every time these impoverished sectors took to the streets to protest, the corporate media and the middle classes shouted at them: “Make your political party. Go to the polls. Win elections”…

Now that indigenous and peasants are politically organized, with the probability of winning general elections in 2023, they are denied the possibility of participating with their own candidates and winning at the polls.

In this way, the State itself forces the impoverished to take to the streets with protest actions as one of the last ways to assert their rights.

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