by Elena Zeledon
San Jose, Centroamerica
Since April, the people of Guatemala have been engaged in a mass protest demanding the removal of the corrupt government of President Perez Molina. Each Saturday, the streets of the principal cities have been jammed with protesters, up to 65,000 in Guatemala City alone, each demonstration seeming to build off the last. An estimated 1,500,000 have taken part in these protests, nearly 10% of the population of 15.8 million.
The trigger in the case of Guatemala has been a string of corruption cases exposed through the arrests of dozens of officials charged with a seemingly unending litany of corrupt practices involving everything from bribery and kickbacks in the awarding of contracts to outright embezzlement from the national social security system.
The political fallout has been devastating for the country’s oligarchs. Starting with the forced resignation of the Vice-president, and four Cabinet members including the Interior Minister (a very close confidant of the President), dozens of officials associated with the regime have been dragged before the courts with each new revelation further delegitimizing the political structures of the post -1996 pact ending the previous dictatorship.
The demands from the mass movement are far more than the removal of the current regime. Despite the fact that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has scheduled elections for September, and the minions of US imperialism in the Organization of American States are pleading for calm and order, so “that nothing disrupts the integrity of the process”, the social actors in Guatemala are demanding not just a change of regime, but a change of system.
Central to their struggle is the convening of a National Constituent Assembly, where the corrupt present structures would
be replaced with a new constitution, guaranteeing a political role for the indigenous peoples’ organizations, for women, youth, and the poor and working masses of the country. This demand runs headlong into the aims of imperialism and its ruling class puppets — a vicious and fascistic ruling class responsible for the deaths and disappearance of a documented 200,000 persons in the decades of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s who, above all else, require an executive system of domination which can maintain the relations of exploitation and misery.
North American socialists have a special responsibility to the peoples of Latin America. The building of a continental solidarity movement with those fighting the economic and political/military wars of North American imperialism, the building of bridges to those in struggle is needed. The creation of a new “Organization for Latin American Solidarity”, involving the organized anti-war movement in North America, can be one concrete step in forging the links necessary to give material meaning to the great motto of solidarity: an injury to one is an injury to all!