Forget Big Brother and The Bachelor. Instead of watching people brush their teeth or go on a date, Guatemalan television viewers are going to see tough former gang members become small business owners.
The five-episode reality gang show dubbed Challenge 10: Peace for the Ex, sponsored by area businesses and the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, will air on Guatemalan television in March.
Viewers will witness how 10 former gangsters lived together for two weeks in the same house, where volunteers taught them basic skills in accounting, customer service, human resources, sales, marketing, and motivation.
At the end of the show, the gangsters establish a car wash and a shoe repair business, both of which were set to be inaugurated yesterday.
"Killing them and making them disappear is not the solution. Nor are there sufficient jails to put them all behind bars," said project participant and USAID representative Harold Sibaja. "So we have to give them a chance."
The gang members participating in the show already had abandoned gang life, some by joining an evangelical church. Under gang rules, religion and death are the only legitimate ways to get out of gangs.
One of the churches is located in the city of Palin, about 30km southeast of the capital, Guatemala City. Several gang members there adopted Christianity last year after an angry mob of residents killed three fellow gang members for allegedly threatening local students.
Carlos Zuniga, president of Guatemala's usually conservative agricultural association, sponsored five of the gang members for the reality show.
"I'm not the same person I was [before the show] and I want this change that I experienced to reach other Guatemalans," Zuniga said, adding that the most important part of the social experiment was teaching the gang members motivation.
"They have grown up hearing that they are scum, and for them to be successful as businessmen, they have to believe in themselves," he said.
Half of the gang members will dedicate themselves to washing cars in the parking lot of a home appliance store in the center of the capital, while the other half have established a small shoeshine and repair shop to be located in an upscale office building in a residential neighborhood.
"Many young people are able to give up gangs by joining a church, but no one will give them jobs," Sibaja said. "They are just there with bibles in their hands ... The lack of opportunities motivates them again as gangsters."
Local businesses donated clothing and shoes to the effort, while a hotel organized a dinner for the 10 ex-gang members.
Luis Marroquin, 24, used to belong to the Mara Salvatrucha gang, but was putting the finishing touches on the car wash on Thursday.
"I wanted to join the Mara because they had money, drugs and women," Marroquin recalled. "I became the leader of my gang, but God finally found me and thanks to Him, my mother worries less and can see I'm working now."
Sergio Gutierrez, who will be in charge of the car wash, knows that running a small business will be harder then the two-week taping period. "Now that the [taping of] the show is over, is when the hard part will come," Gutierrez said. "We have to make the business work, but I know if we trust in God, He will help us."
Recent opinion polls show that gangs and gang-related crime are among Guatemalans' chief concerns.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do