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Menchu Announces Run for Guatemala Presidency

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu will run again for the presidency of Guatemala this year on the Winaq Party ticket. While the party has been in existence for several years it was just formally recognized by the Guatemalan Supreme Electoral Tribunal on April 14 to present candidates for the upcoming elections in all levels of government. Winaq is one of 27 political parties in Guatemala recognized for this campaign season.

Menchu’s running mate is Anibal Garcia, a congressman from the New Republic party. Garcia is a labor lawyer, professor and advocate for political transparency who was elected to the national congress in 2007 from the Winaq Party and Encounter for Guatemala movement.

Menchu is the only indigenous presidential candidate to ever run for high office in Guatemala. The Winaq Political Party, founded by Menchu, is also the only indigenous based party in the country, and one of only three in Latin America which includes: Pachakutik from Ecuador; Wallmapuwen, the Mapuche Nationalist Party of Chile; and the Alternative Alliance for Humanity Party in Peru, founded by the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Rainforest or AIDESEP.

The candidacy of the Mayan activist and writer was formally announced on May 7 at the Winaq Party’s National Assembly in her home in Mixco, a region outside of the capital Guatemala City. According to Winaq press statements, two hundred participants gathered at the assembly to vote on the presidential choices, formalize their relationship with the Broad Front Alliance who also voted at the event, and select candidates for Congress as well as district and municipal offices.

As with her prior run in 2007, where she collaborated with the Encounter for Guatemala movement, Menchu and Winaq are working together with the leftist coalition known as the Broad Front which includes the New Alternative Nation (ANN), the Guatemalan Revolutionary National Unity Party (URNG), the New Republic Movement and the National Front of Struggle.

While candidate Menchu has not yet presented a detailed platform, one of her advisors, Attorney and Winaq congressional candidate Amilcar Pop, did mention a few general directions in which the party is headed.

“Dr. Menchu has the backing of the party to put forth a legislative agenda,” Pop stated, “along with the members of Congress. They are in the process of prioritizing themes such as the rights of indigenous women, institutionalizing proposals for solutions to the agrarian conflicts and rural development, among others.”

“I also want to mention,” he added, “that Mr. Garcia was an advisor to the campesino (rural peoples) movement and, although he is not indigenous, he is very sensitive to the issues of indigenous people.”

Pop is the Second General Secretary of Winaq’s Executive Committee and an experienced political and legal activist; he was one of Menchu’s advisors in her 2007 campaign. He is the leader of the Guatemalan Association of Mayan Lawyers, a former member of the Public Prison Defense Institute and the Presidential Commission Against Discrimination and Racism. The activist attorney is also a plaintiff in a series of human rights suits against former military and government leaders.

The Lead General Secretary of the party is Attorney and Congresswoman Otilia Lux Garcia and the Winaq candidate to the Central American Parliament. Congresswoman Garcia is also an internationally renowned indigenous activist; she was a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, a permanent representative from Guatemala to UNESCO, a member of the Commission for the Historical Investigation on the Violation of Human Rights and Acts of Violence in Guatemala from 1997-1999, the Minister of Culture and Sports from 2000 to 2004 and a board member of the Political Association of Mayan Women.

There were not any announcements regarding either Pop or Garcia’s campaigns but Menchu and a “caravan” of Winaq party members did go to the town of San Martin Jilotepeque earlier in the week to campaign on behalf of Winaq candidates for local municipal offices. The group walked throughout the streets of the town on May 2 where, according to a Winaq press release, Menchu encouraged voters to select the Winaq municipal slate, headed by candidate Bartolome Chocoj, of Mayan and Kaqchiquel heritage.

In a March press statement, Winaq official Eduardo de Leon said, “For now, our priority is building the party and fortifying its bases.”