Indigenous leaders apply Mayan justice to officials hindering democracy in Guatemala

Photo by Emmanuel Andrés, used with permission.

This article by Regina Pérez at Prensa Comunitaria (Guatemala) was republished by Global Voices under a media partnership.

Indigenous authorities from different communities have symbolically applied Xik’ay, or ancestral Mayan justice, to officials considered corrupt, among them Attorney General Consuelo Porras, the head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) Rafael Curruchiche, and Judge Fredy Orellana.

On August 20, 2023, sociologist and ex-diplomat Bernardo Arévalo of the progressive Movimiento Semilla party won the Guatemalan presidency by a wide margin, marking the beginning of a new era in a country that has lately been characterized by democratic backsliding and attacks against critical voices.

However, his party is in the crosshairs of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is investigating potential irregularities in the gathering of the signatures necessary for the formation of Movimiento Semilla several years ago. Both the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Rafael Curruchiche, and the judge who ordered the suspension, Fredy Orellana, are on a list of corrupt actors compiled by the United States. Guatemala’s electoral authorities temporarily blocked Semilla’s suspension, but Arévalo has denounced ongoing attempts to prevent him from assuming his mandate.

For many Guatemalans, these are unwarranted attacks against the president-elect and his party. With a ceremony performed before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the Indigenous authorities performed this act, under the energies of Jun T’zi, an appropriate day in the Indigenous cosmovision for the application of Mayan justice to the operators of justice, public servants, and officials who, in their opinion, have been responsible for consolidating corruption in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, about 40 percent of the population identifies as Indigenous, composed of 23 different ethnicities. Through Indigenous movements and organizations, they have sought greater political representation and the promotion of their interests in a context in which they have historically faced socioeconomic challenges and discrimination. One Indigenous leader, Thelma Cabrera, tried to seek the presidency in these elections, but a court banned her candidacy, together with other progressive candidates.

Sebastiana Par, an ancestral authority of the Maya K’iche’, indicated that in her community, when a person steals a chicken or an ear of corn, they face justice. “That’s why we are calling on all authorities on the national level to also apply justice, not just to people who steal corn, but to these corrupt politicians who are robbing the country of its life, robbing the next generations of their future,” she said.

#Ahora ✊🏽 Indigenous authorities address Congress.

This is the first time in Guatemala that Indigenous authorities apply Xik’ay to corrupt officials.

Among them are included President Alejandro Giammattei, the Board of Directors of Congress, Consuelo Porras, and Judge Fredy Orellana, among others

Alida Vicente of the Indigenous Mayor’s Office of Palín, Escuintla, suggested that the use of Xik’ay is due to the fact that officials have failed to fulfill their mandates and have acted irresponsibly in their positions, in addition to bearing responsibility for weakening democracy and failing to observe the rule of law.

“According to the principles and values of our worldview, we observe K’ixib’al (shame), a principle that these officials do not have, and they are responsible for the injustice which is lived in Guatemala today,” they mentioned in a press release.

Par explained that in the Mayan justice system, applying Xik’ay involves a process, starting with the Pixab, which means advice, to prevent problems or conflicts.

Then they proceed to dialogue and listen, but if the person does not understand, one of the sanctions is Xik’ay, for which quince or willow branches are used. They are applied to the person’s body “to reactivate their energy or to straighten their path, as a corrective measure.”

Photo by Emmanuel Andrés, used with permission.

Xik’ay is applied to Porras and other officials

Following the ceremony at the TSE, the ancestral authorities proceeded to the Presidential House, a few blocks from the TSE, where they read a statement addressed to President Alejandro Giammattei, whom they accused of having reelected Porras despite the fact that she did not fulfill the requirements of suitability and honesty, as established in Article 113 of the Political Constitution.

There, the Indigenous women authorities used willow branches to strike a vinyl mantle with the faces of Porras, Curruchiche, Monterroso, Orellana, and Walter Mazariegos, appointed rector of the San Carlos University (USAC).

#JusticiaMaya ✊🏽 In front of the Presidential House, Indigenous women authorities apply Xik’ay, or ancestral justice, to corrupt officials.

Among these figure Attorney General Consuelo Porras, Rafael Curruchiche, head of FECI, and Judge Fredy Orellana.

🎥 @EmmanuelPixab

They also delivered a memorial at the Private Secretariat of the Presidency; however, they were not allowed entry. “We ask you to open the door of this office. We are not delinquents, the delinquents are very often inside the institutions,” explained Vicente.

At the entrance of the Presidential House, security guards placed chains and padlocks on the bars of the building, preventing them from getting closer.

#JusticiaMaya ✊🏽 Indigenous authorities deliver a memorial at the Private Secretariat of the Presidency.

“We ask you to open the door of this office, we are not delinquents, the delinquents are very often inside the institutions,” says Alida Vicente, an Indigenous authority.

The march ended in the Congress of the Republic, where they also enacted Mayan justice. “Today the Indigenous ancestral authorities are exercising Indigenous justice. Today the sacred Xik’ay is being applied in a historic manner to shame those corrupt criminals,” they declared.

The action of the authorities of the K’iche’, Ch’orti’, Poqomam, and Kaqchikel peoples took place amid a wave of protests across the country to demand the resignation of the officials of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) and Judge Orellana for their judicial attacks against the electoral process. According to the authorities, this is the first time that Mayan justice has been applied to officials in Guatemala.

#JusticiaMaya ✊🏽 The sacred Xik’ay is applied to Attorney General Consuelo Porras and other officials.

The Indigenous authorities are exercising Indigenous justice to shame these corrupt officials, they said.

🎥 @EmmanuelPixab

This symbolic action took place in the nawal Jun Tz’i to begin to demand the application of Mayan justice to corrupt officials, “because the Maya justice system is not only for Indigenous people, but wherever in the land of Iximulew where an error is committed,” Par explained.

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