Thelma Cabrera and Neftaly Lopez, the presidential and vice presidential candidates under the MLP party in Guatemala. Photo, Esbin Garcia.
At 49-years-old, Thelma Cabrera is the only Mayan woman running for the Presidency of Guatemala. The candidate grew up in Sinabá, one of the poorest villages in the coastal municipality of El Asintal, Retalhuleu, 195 kilometers from Guatemala City. She identifies herself as a human rights defender, a Mother Earth advocate, a feminist and an activist seeking the first office for the newly formed, People’s Liberation Movement (MLP) party.
The presidential candidate tours without bodyguards and is financing her campaign through the contributions of her supporters.
In last week’s interview with Guatevision, Cabrera detailed her political views:
“I am an advocate for Guatemalan people’s rights and for mother earth. I was chosen by an assembly of indigenous communities to represent them as the next president of Guatemala. We are the forgotten, impoverished, people who inhabit abandoned territories. From our point of view, we have no state. We are Mayans, Garifunas, Xincas, and mestizos and together, we are calling for the formation of a plurinational state. I am the candidate who would represent this state.”
Opponents of Cabrera’s campaign argue that she has no credentials and holds radical views against private companies, specifically the hydro- electrical and mining industries.
“I, Thelma Cabrera do not have an academic title, but what I do have is political training and first-hand understanding. My knowledge of the issues is rooted in personal and shared community experiences. Living in harrowing conditions and knowing how to speak about inhumane circumstances does not require a title,” defended Cabrera.
“We have been governed by titled leaders and graduates, yet we remain at the bottom of an abyss.”
“The Guatemalan population faces serious problems. In our territories there is no access to healthcare. We have no medications and when we reach hospitals, we receive no adequate attention. In fact, we take the first place in malnutrition. Our children die of hunger, and so many of the diseases affecting our communities are rooted in lack of healthcare.
The education system for our children lags equally behind. We believe that our ancestral values ??must be included in the educational system. We also want a guarantee of access to education, from primary school through the university system. We seek a dignified education system for all.”
Para la sociedad guatemalteca Thelma Cabrera nació con tres pecados encima: mujer, indígena y pobre. El @GtMlp migró de la calle a las urnas al convencerse de que la única manera pacífica para cambiar al Estado era jugar bajo las propias reglas de este. https://t.co/CgGQn5OKB3
— Plaza Pública (@PlazaPublicaGT) June 11, 2019
“For Guatemalan society, Thelma Cabrera was born with 3 sins: Being a Woman, Being an Indigenous Woman, Being a Poor woman,” Plaza Publica.
“When it comes to the security problem, it is also a serious one. In our communities the level of violence is on the rise.
Our land is being mistreated and neglected. It should generate food and employment. It does not.
Our campaign proposes the principles of good living, which includes: health, education, dignified housing and the protection of Mother Earth ensuring that territories are free from pollution.
Guatemala’s current constitution does not represent the impoverished peoples. We do not have a participatory or representative democracy. Delegates from the Mayas, Garifunas, Incas towns are needed. We want to discuss the proposals of our peoples and have a voice.”
— MLP . Movimiento para la Liberación de los Pueblos (@mlp_gt) June 12, 2019
“Currently, mines and hydroelectric companies have more rights than individuals in this country. Private businesses do not consult with us. We are absent as peoples. We do not exist. Private property has more guaranteed rights than the indigenous communities.
We call on the respect for the collective and individual rights of the peoples. We call on the revision of contracts that were given to private companies without the opinion of the peoples affected.
We advocate for the representation of each town. Like the rest of the population, we deserve a decent life. There are communities that have been dispossessed of their lands.”
While playing “ping pong,” a word game by Guatevision, the journalists took turns asking the candidate for a gut reaction to key words. When asked about current president, Jimmy Morales, she expressed, “shame at the international level.” Regarding Donald Trump, Cabrera said, “a violator of migrant rights.” When prompted about the import business in Guatemala, the candidate stated, “they are exploiters of cheap labor.” Regarding her thoughts on Congress, she answered, “they answer to a boss, not the people.”
Thelma Cabrera believes that access to affordable electricity is a fundamental human right and not a commodity. The communities she represents have been critiqued as “electric power thieves, traffic stoppers and criminals.” When asked about these charges, Cabrera denounced the high electric costs as “a violation of our communities,” who protest excessive charges and want to see electricity managed by the state.
“Every day I am living injustices, marginalization, humiliation, and the suffering of indigenous women. I don’t need credentials. My experience is my university.”
Guatemalas will vote for their next president on June 16th, 2019.