Lockdown. Again?

The people are not happy.

12th October 2023

RAM Boatyard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Silent roads, conspiracy theories, a population under control, food shortages, empty shelves, uncertainly. This was the situation all over the globe at the height of Covid in the spring of 2020 and its now the situation in Guatemala. This time however, the country isn’t locking down due to a internal biological threat, its locking down because of anti-corruption, regime change and the will of the people.

The first we knew of this new eerie situation in the Rio was the silence. Gone was the constant soundscape of lorries and their noisy air-brakes crossing the bridge, gone were the launchas that zip in every direction on the water and the motorbikes that buzz about like busy bees. The airwaves and WhatsApp were alive with news where misinformation and confusion reigned.

After hours of research it transpired that far away in Guatemala City the incumbent government, despite the election already being certified, are questioning the validity of the president elect Bernardo Arevalo and his party, and the incumbent authorities seem to be trying to void the election. The new president had run on an anti-corruption ticket and it seemed as if the existing corrupt government was showing its true colours by being corrupt. In the face of this blatant disregard for the people, local mayors called for the resignation of the attorney general and her two deputies, when this didn’t happen they called a general strike and within hours their power was shown.

Every road around the country was blocked, endless queues of lorries stacked up full of goods bound for far flung places and people were stranded mid journey, far from their homes and far from security. As quickly as the queues built up shops started running out of food, petrol stations, ran low on fuel and the economy, along with everything else was at a standstill.

We felt disconnected from all this news of strife until we started walking through the eerily quiet town. Fronteras has been turned into a pedestrian zone where people wandered at will over the tarmac, where normally they would have found themselves under the wheels of articulated lorries. The roadblocks weren’t just stopping the lorries, they were stopping everything.

Closing in on the first blockade a carnival feeling flooded the air. Vendors sold ice cold drinks to the assembled crowds, lorry drivers sheltered under their vehicles either gently swinging on hammocks or playing cards around impromptu tables and speakers pushed out their messages against the government, for the people, for democracy and for the fight.

Far and wide the impact of this blockade was being felt and it was having a real impact on us and our plans. All our packages* were sitting in Guatemala City, all their status were changed to ‘on hold’ and no information was available as to, when or if, they would arrive and therefore, when or if, we will ever be able to fix Ruffian.

Turning our attention back to Ruffian we busied ourselves with more of our jobs list and jobs that didn’t require the parts stuck far away. Under the baking sun decks were sanded, made smooth and new coats of paint applied. Toiling under the bright sun with no shade, Fiona slowly went paint blind while Iain looked like he should be in Skegness having put a folded up a hankie on his head. The transformation of paint was remarkable as Ruffian’s decks turned smooth and bright and she started looking like the loved boat that she is.

Along with the rest of the country the cruising community was in lockdown so we had to amuse ourselves away from town. The cruising community has a vast wealth of knowledge so we setup an ad hoc lecture series. Andy wowed us all the the magic that turns salt water into drinking water and that left the floor open to Iain.

Kicking off a slide-deck** Iain got geeky talking about COM ports, system integration, file management and how it all comes together to give every sailor free chart-plotting software and free charts of all the far flung parts of the world. For his efforts not only did he receive 5 beers (pretty good hourly rate), he was also crowned king geek of the day.

The protests and the painting continued and politically things started to feel serious. Negotiations in Guatemala city were breaking down, the government was talking about bringing in the army and the people were talking about uprising and resisting. Market shelves were growing increasingly bare, reserves of drinking water were starting to run low and the convivial carnival feeling was ebbing away.

With uncertainly in the air it feels like we are once again living the Covid lockdowns. Covid proved deadly for many 1000’s around the globe and we fear that this situation may prove deadly for the people of Guatemala and with Ruffian broken, like Covid, we cannot run away from the danger.

* After dropping the mast, RAM Marina true to their word had ordered every broken thing that needed replacing, these parts had arrived promptly at Guatemala City, where they now floundered and became stuck behind the blockades.

** The only thing that Iain like more that a spreadsheet is a slide-deck.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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