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    What's Happening In Guatemala

    An easy breakdown of what's happening in the Central American nation.

    First of all, what's Guatemala?

    Guatemala is the first country of Central America, and it's better known for its coffee and Mayan heritage.

    Maybe you've heard about Antigua?

    Maybe you've seen pictures from a facebook friend's trip to lake Atitlan

    Maybe you saw Star Wars and saw the ruins of the Mayan city of Tikal

    Or, maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about!

    Anyway, you will probably hear about the small country in the next few days.


    Krista Lehnhoff

    Let's start from the beginning

    This is the Guatemalan president, Otto Perez Molina. If this were a movie, he would be the villain!

    He is a former general from the Guatemalan army and was involved in many of the army scandals that happened during the Guatemalan civil war. He was a part of the special forces called Kaibiles (think Navy Seals in the jungle.)

    So, why is it important that I know who this man is?

    Well, he is a very important man to know because he managed to unite a country famous for its division.

    Guatemala is a country with twenty three different ethnic groups with a different language and heritage. Each group hates the others and history has been marked by this hatred. In fact, it was this hatred and this division that made it so easy for the Spanish to conquer the land. They betrayed each other and killed each other, so the Spaniards didn't really have to do much to take control.

    This divide in society has been a driving force in the history of the country and it has been the cause of many tensions and conflicts: from the Spanish conquest to the thirty year civil war.

    Let me get this straight. He manages to unite a country famous for its division, but he's the villain? Did I miss something?

    You didn't let me finish!! Let me explain.

    This past April, CICIG (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala - think FBI-ish) found evidence that high officials in the Guatemalan government were part of a structure of organized crime, called La Linea, that were charged of customs fraud and contraband.

    This is nothing new for the country, we've dealt with many corruption scandals through the years, but something changed this time around.

    This time, there was enough evidence incriminating both the President and the Vice President. Many telephone conversations intercepted by CICIG placing Otto Perez and Roxana Baldetti as the heads of the organization.

    Roxana Baldetti and the beginning of the end

    Who's Roxana Baldetti you ask? Well, she was Otto Perez Molina's Vice President (and according to popular gossip, his lover! SCANDAL!!)

    Roxana had a great place in history by being the first female Vice President. Now, she is also a part of history because of her involvement with the La Linea scandal.

    Many of the phone conversations talked about La R or La 2, both code names for the Vice President.

    When the public got this information a movement was born. Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets demanding her resignation, pressuring the government to act on the accusations. #RenunciaYa was created and what would be five months of protests and demonstrations was started.

    May 8th 2015

    While Vanderbilt University was celebrating Commencement, Guatemala was celebrating the first victory as a united people! On May 8th, Roxana Baldetti hands in her resignation and looses immunity. A case against her opens and she faces the possibility of up to 50 years in prison.

    It's not over

    Guatemalans are not satisfied with the resignation and trial of the Vice President. Now they demand the President's head.

    The movement was just starting. Many demonstrations took place every Saturday gaining more and more participants each week.

    Social media played a very important role in this pacific movement of public uprising. Many hashtags started surfacing and many Memes were shared. No politician was safe. Disillusion, sadness and rage were the fuel for a people that was done with a political system that failed them once again.

    WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were covered with the mocking memes, showing how all respect for the President was lost.

    "Silence, he is about to say something stupid"

    "Who stole Otto Perez Molina's brain?



    Krista Lehnhoff

    It all leads to today, August 27th 2015.

    On Sunday, Otto Perez called for a press conference, making everyone believe that he would be resigning on live television. Expectations were high.

    At 8 pm, the scheduled time for the press conference, it was announced that the press conference had been cancelled and that the President would be addressing the nation through a pre recorded message. At 9 pm, the message starts and disappointment hit Guatemala like a slap to the face. The President said with his very military voice that he would not be resigning. Outrage covered Facebook and Twitter. This was the straw that broke the camel.

    Rumors of a national strike started circulating yesterday. Many businesses started announcing that they would be closed on August 27th in support of the strike. As time went by, more and more establishments were closing their doors for the day. No official national strike was instituted, but by noon today enough businesses were closed to paralyze the capital, and enough roads were blocked to paralyze the whole country.

    For the first time, the whole country united forces to fight a same enemy. From the poorest Mayan to the richest folk, all of Guatemala was roaring, demanding the President's head!

    The hashtag #YoNoTengoPresidente (I don't have a President) started circulating as a way to tell the leader that even though he doesn't want to resign, the people fired him. He lost all power.

    A massive demonstration was called and hope rose once again. People started arriving at the main plaza at around 9 am, and many walks started at different points around the city. All the major colleges united to walk towards the main plaza, where they joined the other thousands of demonstrators.

    Moises Castillo
    Walter Peña/elPeriódico
    Feliz Acajabón/elPeriódico

    More than 100,000 people gathered on the main plaza carrying signs and Guatemalan flags, chanting and screaming. White and blue covered the streets of the city and the sound of bubucelas and chants filled the atmosphere. The only moment of serenity and silence was when the national anthem was being sung. The 100,000 people joined voices with each other singing the beautiful lyrics of an anthem that illustrates the country's history so well. The five minute long anthem was sung once every hour, and every time it was met with pride, solemnity and joy.

    Even when it started raining in the afternoon, the demonstration continued, further showing the passion and the commitment of the people of Guatemala.

    Krista Lehnhoff
    Krista Lehnhoff
    Krista Lehnhoff
    Krista Lehnhoff
    Krista Lehnhoff
    Krista Lehnhoff

    Up until now the President hasn't resigned yet. The demonstrators are starting to retreat, exhausted but proud that today happened. A whole country stopped and went on strike. Hope filled the atmosphere and a weird sense of calm can be felt around the city.

    A country known for its violence united and showed the world that peace is the only way for change. They also showed that a nation that is united can never be stopped.

    Guatemala, today we celebrate! Today history was made. Today NOTHING can stop you!

    #YoNoTengoPresidente #YoEstoyConGuate #YoSoyGuate