Like most countries in Latin America, Guatemala has a long-running history of public demonstrations and a sometimes overwhelming need to take to the streets (for whatever reasons) and demand measures to be reversed or enforced. Monday`s violent confrontation between public school students and police forces is a painful reminder that things can escalate pretty quickly: all you need is a spark to fuel a fire.
As the BBC reports:
“Dozens of people have been injured in Guatemala in clashes between police and students protesting against education reform in the capital, Guatemala City.
Among those injured are the ministers for education and the interior, who were caught up in the clashes .
The protesters, who are studying to become teachers, object to changes which would see the length of their university course increase.
President Otto Perez Molina has called a meeting to end the protests.
Under the new plans, university courses for students studying to become primary school teachers will go up from three to five years.
Protests against the measure began more than two months ago, and still no agreement has been reached.
Police said Monday’s clashes kicked off when the protesters confronted Education Minister Cynthia del Aguila”.
One of those injured is a colleague of mine, Luis Soto, a photo-journalist who was assigned to the Industry Park (Parque de la Industria), where Monday`s violent clash took place. Thankfully, he survived a head injury, after being struck by a rock thrown by a student, aimed at members of the riot police .
Now, as the easy-going and courageous photographer recovers (a day after brain surgery), we are left to ponder where will all parties involved in this education crisis will draw the line. How many more people need to get hurt? Do we, God forbid, need to see dead bodies as a result, for Government authorities, students, civil organizations to put their differences aside and reach an understanding? I fear that the political leverage used by people manipulating both sides of the conflict will contemplate more sinister consequences.