The Guatemala the rest of the world has seen over the past few months doesn't match up with the Guatemala of the past. For a country that has endured three long, deadly decades of a civil war and a city whose claim to fame is making the list of the most violent cities in the world, the last few months have been unprecedented.
That's because the Latin country has made it through one of the biggest government scandals in history almost completely in peace.
When reports of corruption by the Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and Molina's former Vice President Roxana Baldetti began to surface last April — revealing that the government leaders allegedly led a fraud ring where they individually benefitted from customs revenue at the expense of public services — people were outraged. But they didn't turn to violence. They turned to peace. And protested accordingly, a movement all started with one emailed call to action.
Aurora Lopez — whose family lives in Guatemala and visits every four months — told A Plus that the scandal brought together two different groups with vastly differing political opinions together. That, paired with the media's active coverage, she says, helped pressure action. USA Today reported that many rallied under the hashtag #RenunciaYa, which translates to "Resign Now."
"There was no way for her to escape," Lopez told A Plus in an interview.
The result? A resignation. Molina, who faces charges of corruption, became the first Guatemalan president to step down — and it's due majorly in part to the actions of a unified public.
"It was first time Guatemalans who have been known to be fundamentally different joined forces," Lopez said.
And once they succeeded with the president's resignation, the country underwent elections for the next president — five days later. The results have yet to come in.
The building pressure by the constituents was definitely a role reversal, and a ground-breaking one at that.
"Imagine, 20 years ago they were assassinating people in the streets," a resident named César Oveido, 32, told The New York Times. "Now, they are the ones who feel the fear."
Of course, no one would ever protest if the process did not evoke some sort of change, but for a country so rooted in violence to accomplish such a feat in so little time is unusual.
"Thats the coolest part," Lopez told A Plus. "[Guatemala] is one of the most violent countries in the world. The fact that the protests were peaceful is pretty historic."
Cover image via hrvargas / Flickr