PBI-Guatemala observes University of San Carlos student association elections

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On October 5, the Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project posted, “From today until Monday, October 7, the elections of the board of directors and work commissions of the AEU ‘Oliverio Castañeda de León’ will be held. PBI observes this important democratic act of the Guatemalan student movement.”

There has already been some controversy with respect to this election.

El Periodico has reported, “This year, prior to the electoral process, a complaint was filed against an FCN [Frente de Convergencia Nacional] militant professor who would have influenced the classrooms where he teaches.”

The FCN (National Convergence Front) was formed in 2008 by a group of retired army officers whose candidates reportedly include a commander of counter-insurgency operations in the early 1980s during which massacres against the Ixil Mayas took place.

The AEU (Association of University Students) is a politically engaged group.

This summer, Waging Nonviolence reported, “On July 29, students from Guatemala’s only public university, the University of San Carlos, took control of the university’s museum in Guatemala City’s historic center. Their goal was to block the country’s congress from holding sessions there, as the congressional building undergoes remodeling.”

That article explains, “The occupation was launched in part due to fears that the Guatemalan Congress could hear debates and possibly pass the controversial ‘safe third country’ agreement with the Trump administration…”

Furthermore, “The AEU and other student organizations have called on other students to join in the protest against the privatization of the country’s only public university. The student groups have built off the occupation of the museum and organized a national movement for access to public higher education.”

“Upon taking control of the museum, students accused officials of attempting to ‘privatize the university’ through cost increases — which have steadily risen — and transforming the university’s culture by signing agreements that students argue cede more space to private companies.”

In terms of historical background, the report Organization and Repression in the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, 1944 to 1996 documents the “cases of 492 students, professors and university employees [of the University of San Carlos], all of them extra-judicially killed or disappeared” between 1944 and 1996.”

“1956 marked the beginning of a series of attacks on activist members of the University of San Carlos. But it was not until over two decades later, with the June 1977 murder of professor and labor adviser Mario López Larrave, that the State began a systematic campaign of violence against the University.”

“The terror against the university community continued until the return to civilian rule in 1986. However, even with a civilian in the National Palace the student movement continued to suffer a series of extra-judicial killings, notably the massacre of most of the AEU leadership in 1989.”

In terms of further understanding the context of this election, Karin Slowing recently commented in La Prensa, “USAC went from being seen as an ‘enemy entity’ to attractive financial loot and strategic clientele political control, because of its role in defining critical issues of national interest.”

She adds, “We must vote to ensure that students arrive at the AEU that are not at the service of the privatizing interests of the USAC; of interests that will veto access to public education to you and to those who come behind seeking to realize your dreams.”

As noted above, the election is taking place October 5-7.

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