The US Treasury Department will now be responsible for restructuring Guatemala’s tax collection agency (the Superintendency of Tax Administration, or SAT). That announcment came last week from the US Ambassador and Guatemala’s President and follows weeks of public outrage and political fallout after a customs bribery ring was exposed in a UN-backed investigation.
Leading activists in the Social and People’s Assmembly in Guatemala are more than skeptical regarding the US role in “fixing” Guatemala’s corrupt agencies, given a long history of US intervention in the country. The Assembly – formed by a diverse group of social movements including our partner Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and other sectors of the civil society – has been using the public corruption scandal to call for deep transformations to the corrupt system that is oppressing rural, indigenous and other people in Guatemala.
People in Guatemala already know how US intervention feels. Just to mention recent intervention – without touching the disturbing history of US support for dictatorship, death squads and indigenous genocide – people are forced to live with the deployment of US military forces carrying their intimidating military equipment and weapons on the country’s borders with Mexico and Honduras. In addition, peasants and indigenous people continue to endure the negative impacts brought on by Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
According to the Assembly, the US intervention violates their national sovereignty, and if US really intended to support a process of change and democracy, it would not interfere and intervene. Guatemalan grassroots movements view the intervention as another means of US defending its own interest rather than the wellbeing of the Guatemalan people.
The social movements believe that this is an important political juncture to create real change. In the words of Maria Josefa Macz from CUC: “The wheels of the Mayan Calendar started to turn to mark the beginning of a new cycle. This is a moment of peoples’ awakening, and the confluence of historical movements – peasants, indigenous peoples and their traditional authorities, labor and women – with other sectors like the middle class and students. [This] is the reunion of the countryside and the city, everyone raising their voices and speaking as one voice, protesting against the failed system, demanding justice, major reforms to the electoral law and political parties and the establishment of a diverse National Constituent Assembly that allow us to start the path for the reestablishment of the state.”
The Social and People’s Assembly continues pushing their demands and call all women and men and youth in rural and urban areas to make a common front and build a new Guatemala.