Protests, prayer provoke change in Guatemalan government

Mass at the Divine Providence Parish, celebrated shortly after polls closed in this country's recent elections, included intentions. The parishioners prayed for the "people and pastors" of Guatemala, along with the country itself -- where citizens, protesting peacefully for months, forced a president accused of corruption to resign in the days prior to the Sept. 6 vote.

"Please rid us of this corruption and the leaders who have taken us down the wrong paths," prayed Father Hugo Estrada, Mass celebrant. "We ask that you be with this great nation of Guatemala."

Advertisement

Guatemalans have protested and prayed and achieved unprecedented political change in their country.

In the election, a plurality of them then voted for comedian-turned-candidate Jimmy Morales, 46, an Evangelical Christian with no political experience, hoping his lack of a past in a politics would prove a plus in a country with an unhappy history of politicians enriching themselves at the expense of a mostly poor population.

The vote proceeded peacefully, as church officials had hoped.

Morales, known for a previously popular TV program, offered few specifics in his campaign.

"For me, Jimmy is a blank check," said Alejandro Quinteros Cabrera, an analyst for the election with Emisoras Unidas radio. "He presents himself as someone who will renew the system, but his proposals are pretty superficial."

Morales won 24 percent of the vote in a field of 14 candidates and will likely face former first lady Sandra Torres in an Oct. 25 runoff election. Torres divorced then-President Alvaro Colom in 2011 to avoid restrictions on running for president that year.

Elections followed the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina, whom Congress stripped of immunity from prosecution. He faces corruption charges in a customs office fraud case known as La Linea (The Line) in which government officials, including his former vice president, allegedly accepted bribes from business owners wanting to pay lower import duties.

Quinteros, who participated in anti-government protests, credits timing with pushing out the president; he said many lawmakers previously on the president's side "were afraid of not being re-elected."

Many priests and religious participated in the protests, too, although Quinteros called the church hierarchy response timid, with only an indirect call for Perez Molina to resign.

Other Guatemalans prayed for change.

"We joined (with Evangelicals) in a single cry to pray for Guatemala," said taxi driver Samuel Marroquin, who worships in a charismatic renewal congregation.

"We know that there's always been corruption," Marroquin said. "But in this government, it was excessive, so we had to put an end to it."

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Youths attending a pre-synod meeting participate in the Way of the Cross at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on March 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The meeting of the Synod of Bishops on young people is an opportunity for an ongoing conversation between everyday lived experience and church teachings.
Michele DillonSeptember 21, 2018
Pope Francis ends his official visit to Vilnius on Sunday evening at the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, housed in the former headquarters of the K.G.B.
Edward W. Schmidt, S.J.September 21, 2018
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he stay at home to remain with them during this "time of crisis" in the U.S. church.
Catholic News ServiceSeptember 21, 2018
Girls gather for celebrations marking the feast of the Assumption in August 2012 in Aglona, Latvia. Twenty-five years after St. John Paul II visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Pope Francis will make the same three-nation visit Sept. 22-25, stopping at a number of the same places as his saint-predecessor. (CNS photo/Ints Kalinins, Reuters)
He is the second pope to visit these Baltic nations. John Paul II came to the region in September 1993, after the collapse of communism, and was welcomed as a hero. Pope Francis comes exactly 25 years later, but much has changed since that first papal visit.
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 21, 2018