In a symbolic display of solidarity, roughly 12,000 Guatemalan citizens formed a human chain on Saturday around Volcán de Agua, one of Guatemala’s 37 volcanoes, to protest the high level of domestic violence throughout the country. This volcano, referred to as Hunapú by the Indigenous Mayan population, is extinct and its peak stands at 3,765 meters (12,352 feet) high.
Using the slogan “Rompe el Ciclo” (Break the Cycle), protestors spanned all ages and genders. The demonstration was well attended by foreign and domestic politicians, including Guatemala’s new president and vice president, Otto Pérez Molina and Roxana Baldetti. President Pérez Molina said, “We want violence to end in this country, we don't want Guatemala to be one of the most violent countries in the world.” Pérez Molina campaigned on a platform of drastically reducing violent crime.
The protest called to attention Guatemala’s rising rate of domestic violence. Government statistics indicate that 646 women were murdered in 2011—almost half of them inside their own homes. Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre notes that domestic violence is the crime most reported to the Ministerio Público (Public Ministry). The ministry is led by Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz and, despite showing signs of reform, Guatemala still holds one of the highest rates of impunity; less than 4 percent of crimes result in successful conviction of perpetrators.
Nonetheless, this weekend’s protest shows promising signs for the future, especially with the youth in attendance. British Ambassador to Guatemala Julie Chappell, who helped organize the human chain, commented, “We are trying to bring about a generational change of attitudes.”
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.