Guatemala's Nobel Peace candidate

Posted by Tim Johnson on October 9, 2013 

Guatemala is one of the most violent Latin American countries. But first female Attorney General Claudia Paz Y Paz is fighting the tide of crime. For downloads and more information visit: Guatemala is one of the most violent countries in Latin America. But with the help of its first female Attorney General, Claudia Paz Y Paz, the authorities are now fighting back the tide of violent crime. "We are sending a message that no one is above the law". With an estimated 15 murders every day, Claudia Paz Y Paz is determined to put drug lords and criminal gangs behind bars. "They didn't give them any money so they paid with their lives", cries Gloria Esperanza De Rodriguez, whose daughter and daughter's boyfriend were gunned down when criminals tried to extort the family. But for Claudia Paz Y Paz, it's the unfinished prosecution of the former dictator Rios Montt that will pose her biggest challenge. With the case now in limbo she remains undeterred. "The victims have certain rights and these do not expire with the passing of time." SBS Dateline


The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced Friday, and one of the candidates hails from Guatemala. She is Claudia Paz y Paz, the crusading attorney general who is a hero to those who believe justice has long been denied in Guatemala but anathema to those who defend the status quo in one of Latin America’s most inequitable societies.

The 15-minute video above is a bit long but gives background on the work that Paz y Paz has done since taking office three years ago.

Paz y Paz is not a frontrunner for the Prize, as far as I know. It may be Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, according to this news account.

Yet Paz y Paz is certainly a notable candidate. Click here and here for news stories about her.

This reminds me of 1992 when I was based in Nicaragua and on a hunch wrote a profile of another Guatemalan, Rigoberta Menchu, days before the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize. Since the U.N. International Year of Indigenous Peoples was around the corner, it seemed like Menchu had a shot. She won that year.

Afterward, though, allegations surfaced that the biography that launched Menchu as an indigenous icon contained falsities about her past. Menchu has been a two-time presidential candidate in her country, losing badly both times, and hasn't been able to capture a broader role as a spokeswoman for indigenous peoples.

She’s not alone as a laureate who’s been questioned. Read this thought provoking essay on whether the Nobel “Peace” Prize is even relevant anymore, given recent awards.

If Paz y Paz were to win the prize, she'd be Guatemala's third Nobelist after Menchu and poet/writer Miguel Angel Asturias. Mexico, a nation with eight times the population, also has three: writer Octavio Paz (1990), chemist Mario Molina (1995) and diplomat Alfonso Garcia Robles (1982).

What gives with that?

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