You have likely heard of the political tension taking place in Guatemala. It can be hard, though, to receive accurate and up-to-date information on the events here, as it is a quickly changing situation and for some time now there has been an attack on journalism in the country, with many journalists jailed or forced into exile. So, I would like to take a few moments to tell you about what is happening and how it is affecting us here at WINGS.
Last Monday, the indigenous organization, 48 Cantones, declared a nation-wide strike, demanding the resignation of the attorney general, María Consuelo Porras, prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche, and judge Freddy Orellana, who have been interfering with the democratic process and peaceful transfer of power to the president elect. You can hear an English-language interview with the president-elect, Bernardo Arévalo, from last week here.
Throughout last week, the strikes gathered significant steam with tens of thousands of citizens protesting across the country. Nearly every major road all across the country was blocked starting last Wednesday, and we started hearing reports that electricity and access to gasoline and groceries was being interrupted in some communities. We canceled 12 mobile clinics last week due to roadblocks and to prioritize staff safety. All of our offices were closed on Friday as we watched and waited to see how things would progress. Over the weekend, the protests were peaceful and we decided we would keep our mobile teams at home today, but open our clinics in Antigua and Guatemala City, where our staff was able to safely get to work.
Today, the situation has intensified. Violent actors have infiltrated the peaceful protests. Businesses are being forced, under violence or threat of violence, to close all across the country. This morning, a group of hooded men stood outside our clinic in Guatemala City demanding that we close to the public. We did and our team members were able to return home safely, but as a consequence we have decided to close our clinics and offices in Guatemala City and Antigua and continue to keep our mobile teams at home. As the business day comes to a close here, we are reading reports that the airport is without fuel, major businesses like McDonalds have closed nationwide, and there have been armed attacks on water supplies to Guatemala City.
On Friday, when our team met virtually to discuss what was happening, our head nurse from Cobán, Ana, cried as she thanked us for allowing the team to stay at home while she watched her loved ones still have to risk their safety to go to work. We don't know what the weeks and months ahead may hold, but we need the comfort and support of our community now more than ever.
We hope deeply that this civil unrest will result in the guarantee of a new era of free democracy for Guatemala. And while we all work towards a brighter future for Guatemala, we will do what is in our hands to be respectful and responsible in the midst of a complex situation. We will do our best to take care of our team and of our patients. Thank you for standing with us during this difficult time.
Eleanor Unsworth she/her/ella
Executive Director/Directora Ejecutiva