Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mission Moment: September

These are the articles I write for my sending church's newsletter.  This one, in place of being titled "Mission Moment" was titled "Political Panorama."  Guatemala has been undergoing a lot of changes in the last few months which has caused a slow season for my project.

Frustrating.  That’s a word I don’t use a lot, but that’s the word I’m using to describe right now.  This article will have nothing to do with actual mission work and a lot to do with why things sometimes don’t work.
In February of this year, it was discovered that money was being stolen from the country of Guatemala via a customs scam.  When goods are imported to the country, the importer has to pay taxes.  The customs scam was allowing importers to pay much lower taxes for their goods with a nice “donation” to someone else.  In April, it was discovered that that “someone” was probably a couple high-ranking government officials, specifically the president and vice president of Guatemala.  And so began the protests.  Since April, people have been protesting at least once per week all over the country.  In May, the vice president resigned saying that she had nothing to hide and that by resigning she was allowing herself to be investigated.  The Guatemalan people called her bluff, and she went on the run.  The president said that despite the pressure of “a few” people, he had been charged with the post of president by the Guatemalan people and that he would not let them down by giving up.
Jump forward to August 21st.  Protests have become daily but remain peaceful simply blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  In a moment of bad luck, the former vice president checks into a hospital, and she leaves in handcuffs.  Protests become constant with travel becoming essentially impossible.  The president sticks with his resolve that he has a job to do and will complete his promise to the Guatemalan people.  Then congress votes to remove the president’s political immunity meaning he can now be investigated as part of the custom’s scheme which has robbed the Guatemalan government of hundreds of thousands of dollars which affected the salaries and resources of hospitals, schools, and police among others.  The president resigns the next day, apologizing to the Guatemalan people, saying that he has some personal situations he needs to take care of.   The new vice president steps up to become president, and as he was one of the judges who overturned the ruling concerning General Rios Montt of the genocide cases during the Guatemalan civil war, no one is really sure if he’s just going to complete the last 4 months of the term he has been granted or if he’s just going to overthrow everything and turn the country back into a military dictatorship.  Indigenous people are not impressed.

One week later, normal elections are held to pick the new president of the country.  (Don’t be confused.  This has nothing to do with anyone resigning.  Just like the US, presidential elections take place every 4 years.)  A man who no one expected to win 4 months ago becomes the front-runner…probably solely because he’s not a politician and has no history of corruption anywhere in his family.  The fellow who everyone expected to win is in third place but demanding a recount of ballots.  If no candidate wins 50.1% of the votes, a run-off between the top two candidates follows in late October.  (Guatemala has somewhere around 18 political parties; not all of which necessarily had a presidential candidate running this year.)  But Mister Third Place was not the only one upset.  In many places, the vote was close, and in the weeks following, those who were not happy with the outcome had less-than-peaceful protests.  Ballot boxes were burned.  Police were shot.  And the mayor’s house in Solola might be torched for the third time in ten years and my community contact, Manuel, isn’t answering his phone…which is why I’m not traveling out to Solola to visit my families.  I don’t consider myself to be at any risk; however, the people in Solola are swift to carry out justice (i.e. lynching) against anyone they feel has wronged them…and Manuel is an advisor to the mayor.  So, until I can get a hold of him and until things have calmed down, I have no plans of going anywhere.

Please note: In most places, things are calm and orderly at this point.  Mister Third Place has dropped out.  However, many higher-ups are still being arrested as the story opens wider and wider.  Please be praying for Guatemala, but in no way, shape, or form should you think that I am in any danger.   

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