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First National Indigenous Youth Political Discussion Held in Guatemala City.

As part of an ongoing initiative to include Indigenous youth voices in petitions put forward by Indigenous organizations and groups, the first national Indigenous youth political discussion was held in Guatemala City on July 17, 2015. Youth representatives of all three linguistic groups in Guatemala: Mayan, Xinca and Garifuna, were present during the meeting. Previous regional meetings were held earlier during the year throughout Guatemala where a political agenda was developed from the various work-groups. The goal of the national discussion was to polish the youth agenda before it is presented to Congress during this election year.

Due to recent political instability of the country, various Indigenous organizations and groups are mobilizing to introduce amendments to Congress that are beneficial to indigenous communities. One important proposal is the respect and protection of sacred land sites and Indigenous territories against mining and hydroelectric companies. “It doesn’t matter if these companies promise 100% economic return for exploiting our land, our answer will always be no, we will not damage our mother for money” one leader expressed, and murmurs of approval were heard throughout the room.

There are currently several petitions before Congress from various Indigenous and non-Indigenous NGO’s, organizations and groups demanding to suspend elections until realistic and necessary changes are made to the electoral system. Among these changes that specifically effect indigenous communities is the fair representation of indigenous people in Congress. It is estimated that over 50% of the population of Guatemala identifies as Indigenous yet they make up only 3% of Congress. At this particular Indigenous Youth Discussion, the participants talked about the necessity to respect, emphasize and demand bilingual education in all school systems so that they function according to the needs of each specific indigenous community.

The energy at the discussion was ambitious and hopeful as young indigenous leaders discussed the current political state of the country and their plans to confront it and redifne it. The event began and ended with a traditional mayan ceremony in honor of all the indigenous brothers and sisters who have given their life for a better Guatemala.