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Fighting for democracy in Guatemala

Tuesday 10th October 2023

I think this is the first time I have ever written a blog about the political situation here and do so in the hope that those who read this will pray for the peace of Guatemala, as we are far from that right now.

The world´s attention has been on horrific scenes of death, destruction and violence in Israel and also in Ukraine and the scale of loss of life there as well as those who lost their lives in Afghanistan is almost too hard to take in right now.

Here in Guatemala it is rare to find international news agencies picking up the story of what is happening in Guatemala and some supporters have messaged to ask how we are doing, hence this blog update.

Protests broke out across Guatemala two weeks ago following one of the most contested elections in the country´s history.  At the route of the disquiet from most Guatemalans I have spoken to is the political interference in the natural democratic process of electing a new President.

To everyone´s surprise the anti-corruption candidate, Bernardo Arévalo, won the second electoral round and sent shock waves through the political elite who had hoped that a supportive candidate will keep the status quo.

The Attorney-General, Consuelo Porras, has been seen to be actively discrediting Mr Arévalo and preventing him taking office in January, while working to disband his party saying that it was not properly registered.

guatemala demonstrations2The protests are aimed at the resignation of the Attorney-General who, together with other prosecutors, have been sanctioned by the U.S. government and also have had their entry visas withdrawn.  The accusations of the U.S. government are that she and others working with her are obstructing the fight against corruption and undermining the security and democracy of the country.

Two weeks ago 14 blockades were established on key transport routes by mainly Indigenous groups who were calling for an indefinite strike.  The blockades grew to 80 yesterday and this morning most of those remain in place.

Yesterday afternoon I walked to one of the blockades to talk with protesters and to understand their complaints and support a friend of mine who was taking part.  It all seemed very harmless and their determination to fight for what they feel is a just cause could lead to a prolonged period of unrest in the country.

The Guatemalan President, Alejandro Giammattei, addressed the nation last night and asked for protesters to lift the blockades as they were “illegal, generate supply shortages [and] put Guatemalans' lives at risk".  This morning, government spokesman, Napoleón Barrientos, stated that police would act today to liberate some of the major routes into and out of the city.

Already there is some panic buying and the Guatemalan City airport has reported a desperate lack of aviation fuel, which would affect flights in the coming days.  One airline, Volaris, has already cancelled all its flights to and from Guatemala and others could follow suit if fuel cannot get through.

Protestors remain committed to bringing about change in the country that has seen years of corrupt officials stealing huge sums of money from the public purse, leaving schools and hospitals in a pitiful state.

However, last night things turned ugly in front of the national palace where hundreds of protestors were peacefully demonstrating.  A small group of “infiltrators” began to turn the things violent and police responded by firing tear gas into the fleeing crowd.  Masked men threw stones and broke windows and threatened protestors with sticks and continued to clash with police into the night.

We are living in a country under siege and each day will impact our work and the lives of the poorest people we work with.  The SKD team will meet today to evaluate the situation and see what help we can offer those whose livelihoods are now affected by the blockades.

Please pray for peace in Guatemala.



Another tragedy in Guatemala City

On the afternoon of Monday 25th September 2023 heavy rains caused a huge swell of water that filled the river that runs through the city and together with a landslide has caused the death of many people including children.

The ongoing crisis to find suitable homes for people on very low incomes forces many to build simple tin shacks on land that has been designated as uninhabitable.  The need for 2.2 million homes exacerbates the desperation that many families living in poverty feel and there is no wonder why they grab any land they can find on which to build their home.

Yesterday´s tragic landslide under the El Naranjo bridge buried many people and numbers are still being counted, but at this early stage it looks like 6 dead and 13 people unaccounted for.

The community, named "God is Faithful", has suffered the greatest loss and includes the very sad news that Karla de Paz and her young son Benjamin, named after Benjamin Soden who worked with her and her family for many years, lost their lives in the landslide.  The SKDGuatemala charity is coordinating support for the family and organising the burial of Karla and still hoping that Benjamin´s body will be found.  The funeral is planned for tomorrow morning in Guatemala City.

Many local and international organisations have been saying that these types of dwellings, precariously clinging to the mountainside around the capital, are a time-bomb waiting to go off.  Most of the shack communities are built on land that has a 30% incline, making it very difficult to build on and when the rains come their homes are are very great risk of being washed away.  The charity Techo, have discovered 150 such settlements around the city, all built on land that has been designated as uninhabitable.

Local rescue organisations (photos Prensa Libre, used with permission) continue the rescue efforts today to find victims, but hope has been lost of finding any more alive.

Street Kids Direct continue to work in such communities, focussing on helping children and families at risk.  Your support really does help us make a difference and respond to needs and tragedies on a weekly basis.

(Photos Prensa Libre 2023 used with permission)


The Camino por Amor walk 2023

The annual Camino por Amor (Walking for Love) sponsored walk returned this August 19th in Guatemala, Honduras and the UK.

CarmodysWe are very thankful to all those who took part in the walks to raise funds for the ongoing work with at-risk children in Central America.

In the UK the Windsor Section walked to Windsor Castle.  The Section was made up of Paul, Helen, Michael & Coline who achieved the 25K walk in the heat and raised 152% of their target, which was of great encouragement to the team.

The Proyecto Alas team in Honduras were joined by Proyecto ROHI and Project New Life, walking the 50K from Tegucigalpa to Talanga.  The walk culminated in a parade through the town of Talanga and many of the children who benefit from funds raised were able to participate in the walk.

In Guatemala the SKDGuatemala project coordinated three versions of the walk, 10K, 30K and 50K.  They were joined by Go Guatemala, Puerta de Esperanza, MOJOCA and Cada Niño and walked laps around the Erick Barrondo Park in Guatemala City.

Thank you to Open Marketing in Guatemala City for your sponsorship of the event and for providing the publicity, water bottles and t-shirts.  Thanks to all who donated at the various events and who supported by donating online.  

We managed to raise £1,750 and are planning to repeat the event next year.

If you missed the Camino por Amor walk this year, don´t worry.  You can still donate online here and also you might like to consider taking part in one of the many fundraising events throughout the UK during the year by checking out the events page on our website.



Most Transformational Child Rescue Charity

Street Kids Direct is very thankful to Acquisition International for the award of the Most Transformational Child Rescue Charity 2023 for the South East of England.


We are grateful to all our supporters and the project we partner with in Honduras and Guatemala whose work is acknowledged in this award.

award ai23