GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – On August 9th, the Students for Autonomy (Estudiantes por la Autonomía, or EPA) occupied part of the University of San Carlos (USAC). Their demand for autonomy and a return to elected student representatives for university governance has faced an onslaught of media and state manipulation and repression. After 23 days, the occupation continues.
Four days ago, a group of medical students in the Autonomous Committee of Medicine (CAM), took over another building, the Centro Universitario Metropolitano (CUM). As a result of the new occupation, a handful professors from the faculty of medicine assaulted students. On the night of August 29th, a couple of students left the CUM building and entered their vehicle to leave. After a confrontation with police, the students lost control of the vehicle and crashed, leaving one student dead and the other critically injured. Read more about the current situation on the EPA’s website, here (en Español).
A video communiqué from the EPA:
An open solidarity letter has been drafted by Cascadia Solidaria in English:
Solidarity with Students for Autonomy, San Carlos University, Guatemala (Estudiantes por la Autonomía, EPA)
As students, workers, and community members in the United States and Canada struggling in defense of public education, we have been immensely strengthened by the example of movements in resistance against the privatization and neoliberalization of higher education across the world: in the Phillippines, in South Africa, in Puerto Rico and El Salvador, in Greece, Austria and various countries in Europe. Now our solidarity and support turns to Guatemala and Students for Autonomy of the University of San Carlos (Estudiantes por la Autonomia, Universidad de San Carlos, EPA-USAC) and their allies, who have maintained the University under occupation since August 9 in protest against the systematic violation of the USAC’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights.
We state our support for the principle demands of EPA, and condem the reduction of student votes in the election of the University’s Board of Directors, due to a 2007 decision of the Guatemalan Constitutional Court, with the support of the University Administration (Consejo Superior Universitario, CSU). We support EPA’s opposition to the increase of tuition fees at Guatemala’s only institution of public higher education; as well as the imposition of entrance exams and punitive measures against students who must repeat courses. Policies which, in addition to increased fees, result in the progressive elitization of public higher education. We support EPA’s call for the full funding of San Carlos University, as guaranteed by the Guatemalan constitution.
We call on the USAC Administration to negotiate in good faith and immediately implement policies to protect and restore students’ rights and the political autonomy of the University. We reject the Administration’s calls to confrontation with students who have taken direct action in defense of their rights, and ask that no reprisals be carried out against these students. We denounce all threats against the students of EPA and their allies, as well as any actions by State security forces which would violate the physical autonomy of San Carlos University.
Public higher education is a right, not a privilege or a private commodity. We join EPA in calling for Universities which meet public needs and respect the rights of students and workers.