Indigenous Guatemalan Women Condemn Racism, Violence, and Neoliberalism

By Dialogo
May 08, 2009

Today indigenous women in Guatemala condemned racism, discrimination, violence, and neo-liberal policies that threaten that sector, and demanded that Álvaro Colom’s government respect their human rights. Following a conference held at the headquarters of the National Coordination of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA) in the capital, the natives reclaimed their rights and strongly condemned neoliberalism, which, in their view, has appropriated and looted cultural heritage. "The culture of racism and discrimination imposed by the neoliberal system creates violence and death, and violates our ancestral worldview and identity," they said in a statement. They claimed that the Maya people continue to suffer persecution and punishment by the state, which has bowed to the neoliberal policies and "militarized" communities in order to allow private capital to develop and set up projects for international corporations. The natives reiterated their opposition to the trade as it has affected their development and to the welfare programs promoted by the Social Democratic government of President Álvaro Colom. The last census of 2002 reveals that Guatemala has a population of about 11.23 million, out of which more than 2.24 million are Mayan women. In their statement, they demand of the authorities the freedom for self-determination of communities and the abolition of conventions, laws, and treaties that promote the interests of international corporations such as mining, hydroelectric plants, and cement producers. It also demanded respect for human rights integral to women, the application of justice against all forms of violence, and an end to acts of femicide. A leader of Conavigua, Magdalena Sarat, explained at a press conference that the National Congress of Mayan Women was conducted just before the First Summit of Indigenous Women of the Americas, which is to be held on May 28 and 27 in Puno, Peru. Sarat said that a delegation from several organizations of Mayan women will travel to this meeting to report the problems that affect them, then will participate in the Fourth Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities, which will also be held in Puno on May 29 and 31.