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Gray skies in Guatemala City
Gray skies in Guatemala City
Zaira Lainez

-OpEd-

GUATEMALA CITY – In Guatemala, we know about the damage done by gangs and drug traffickers. We see them paraded across the national and international media as the embodiement of "evil," with their steely glares and tattooed arms.

But too often, simply blaming the gangs and drug trade ignores the complex set of elements that feed the cycle of violence that has driven too much of Guatemala’s history. It’s not just about who the media showcases as “evil”:

Of course, gangs and drug trafficking are responsible for horrific events that lead to the dehumanization of society. But that should be measured against the dehumanization of an employer who barely pays minimum wage and exploits his workers; or the landowner, who with the help of the authorities, forcibly evicts dozens of families; or even of those who sell the land where indigenous people had lived for generations to foreigners who came to suck the blood out of the soil, leaving it devastated.

Gray areas, long histories

Here in Guatemala there are many white collar workers who will eliminate anyone who gets in the way of their interests. They won’t dirty their own hands; they need someone else to do the dirty work, someone else to blame.

In the same way as in the 1990s when the legendary chupacabras (goat suckers) served to explain the mysterious deaths of livestock, the audience cheered on the show for entertainment value while the media minimized the human toll of the violence among drug traffickers and gangs. Every day we see the results of violence in the high death counts, without looking for any explanation or logic behind it. This is not just today's news, this violence has been going on for hundreds of years.

We can see the formula the media prefers in the first statements that came from the Interior Minister, after the Sept. 7 killings of members of the indigenous Kaqchikel community, which was attributed to gangs.

It’s a gray area; here and in other places where Guatemalans are defending their lives and land against officials and businesses who want to set up their own projects and drain everything -- in the name of productivity, competitiveness and entrepreneurship. Regardless, the blood that must flow has already been calculated into all the environmental impact assessments.

The big businesses don't always get to where they are on their enterprising spirit alone. They also rely on violence, whether direct or indirect, but yes; you’ll never see the business magazines or people of the year with dirty hands. There are others who will do the job for them.

I have no doubt that there are those who benefit from violence. More than gangs and drug traffickers, those who profit the most wear suits and ties. These are the so-called dark powers, which someday we may hopefully bring into the light.

This column was first published in plazapublica.org

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Geopolitics

Women, Life, Freedom: Iranian Protesters Find Their Voice

In the aftermath of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police mid-September for not wearing her hijab properly, many Iranians have taken the streets in nationwide protests. Independent Egyptian media Mada Masr spoke to one of the protesters.

Students of Amirkabir University in Tehran protest against the Islamic Republic in September 2022.

Lina Attalah

On September 16, protests erupted across Iran when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested and beaten by morality police for her supposedly unsuitable attire. The protests, witnesses recount, have touched on all aspects of rights in Iran, civil, political, personal, social and economic.

Mada Masr spoke to a protester who was in the prime of her youth during the 2009 Green Movement protests. Speaking on condition of anonymity due to possible security retaliation, she walked us through what she has seen over the past week in the heart of Tehran, and how she sees the legacy of resistance street politics in Iran across history.

MADA MASR: Describe to us what you are seeing these days on the streets of Tehran.

ANONYMOUS PROTESTER: People like me, we are emotional because we remember 2009. The location of the protests is the same: Keshavarz Boulevard in the middle of Tehran. The last time Tehranis took to these streets was in 2009, one of the last protests of the Green Movement. Since then, the center of Tehran hasn’t seen any mass protests, and most of these streets have changed, with new urban planning meant to make them more controllable.

Remembering 2009 triggers many things, such as street strategies, tactics and the way we could find each other in the middle of the chaos. But this is us now, almost at the back. Up front, there are many younger people, especially girls. They are extremely brave, fearless and smart.

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