[US to El Salvador and Guatemala 2012] Rachel Hoff on the Youth of Guatemala
Guatemala has a rich heritage in every aspect — from its culture and history to its people and politics. One of the themes that emerged during many of our meetings was the important role of Guatemala’s young people in shaping the country’s political landscape. During our meetings with government officials and political leaders from different parties, I was struck by how involved young people are in Guatemala’s politics and how committed the parties are to encouraging this active involvement.
We had the pleasure of meeting with several Members of Congress and other officials from GANA (the Grand National Alliance) which is Guatemala’s center-right party. In addition to interesting discussions about U.S.-Guatemala relations and the country’s domestic political situation, these leaders presented our delegation with a youth outreach plan that rivaled anything I have seen in the States. The party recently went through a reformation that served to empower its young members to be leaders and impact change. We met with the GANA National Youth Secretary and a 29-year-old Congressman who are bringing fresh energy and new perspectives to their party and their country.
Our delegation also met with representatives from the Patriotic Party (the party of President Pérez Molina) including the President of the Congress, the Private Secretary to the President, and the First Deputy Minister of the Interior. The leaders of this party also demonstrated a real commitment to involving and empowering the youth of Guatemala — not just relying on young people during campaigns, but also appointing them to positions in government — something of which the First Deputy Minister of the Interior was particularly proud. At 33 years of age, he was appointed to the second-ranking position in the government agency charged with Guatemala’s top priority: security. Having formerly served as the National Youth Secretary for the Patriotic Party, the Minister believes his appointment to this key position is evidence of President Molina delivering on his promise to include young people in his government.
Guatemala’s young people are also making a difference in the judicial branch. We met with a Magistrate (Supreme Court Justice) who was only 42 years old and is helping bring important changes to strengthen Guatemala’s constitution and legal system. Our delegation also met another young judge who was recently put in charge of Guatemala’s new court responsible for seizing property from drug traffickers. So far, this judge has seized $80 million in his first year on the job.
Forty percent of Members of Guatemala’s Congress are under he age of 35. Last year, a young man was elected at 18 years of age — the country’s youngest ever Congressman. Guatemala is truly a country that embodies ACYPL’s commitment to fostering young political leaders.