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.
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?