Guatemalan Civil War
Overview
 
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 began as a grassroots
Grassroots
A grassroots movement is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures...

, popular response to the rightist and military
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 usurpation of civil government (state and public institutions), and the President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population. In 1944, the "October Revolutionaries" assumed government and instituted liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 economic reform benefiting and politically strengthening the civil and labor rights of the urban working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 and the peasants.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960-1996. The thirty-six-year civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 began as a grassroots
Grassroots
A grassroots movement is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures...

, popular response to the rightist and military
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 usurpation of civil government (state and public institutions), and the President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

's disrespect for the human and civil rights of the majority of the population. In 1944, the "October Revolutionaries" assumed government and instituted liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 economic reform benefiting and politically strengthening the civil and labor rights of the urban working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 and the peasants. Elsewhere, a group of leftist students, professionals, and liberal-democratic government coalitions were led by Juan José Arévalo
Juan José Arévalo
Juan José Arévalo Bermejo was the first of the reformist presidents of Guatemala. Preceded by military junta interregnum after a definitive pro-democracy revolt in 1944...

 and Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as Defense Minister of Guatemala from 1944–1951, and as President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954....

.

In consequence, the U.S. government ordered the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 to launch Operation PBSUCCESS
Operation PBSUCCESS
The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état was a covert operation organized by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, the democratically-elected President of Guatemala....

 (1953–54) and halt Guatemala's “drift to the Left”, as perceived by the corporate fruit companies such as United Fruit and the U.S. State Department. The CIA chose right-wing Guatemalan Army Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas
Carlos Castillo Armas
Carlos Castillo Armas was a Guatemalan Colonel who came to power in a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1954. He held the title of President of Guatemala from July 8, 1954 until his assassination in 1957.-The coup:...

 to lead an "insurrection" in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état. Upon deposing the Árbenz Guzmán government, Castillo Armas began dismantling a decade of socio-economic reform and legislative progress, and banned labor unions and left-wing political parties, a disenfranchisement that radicalized left-wing Guatemalans.

A series of military coups d’état followed, featuring fraudulent elections offering only military officers as candidates to civil government office. Aggravating the general poverty and political repression motivating the civil war was the socio-economic discrimination and racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 practiced against the Guatemala's indigenous peoples, such as the Maya
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

; many later fought in the civil war. Although the dark-skinned native Guatemalans constitute more than half of the national populace, they are landless, whilst the landlord upper class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

es of the oligarchy
Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

, white-skinned descendants of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an immigrants to Guatemala, controlled most of the land.

40,000 to 50,000 people were disappeared
Forced disappearance
In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the...

 during the war and approximately 200,000 were killed. Felipe Cusanero became the first person to be sentenced for this in 2009 when he received a 150-year jail term, 25 years for each of his six missing victims. This was hailed a landmark prison sentence in Guatemala.

From 1960 to 1996, the Guatemalan Civil War was mostly fought between the Government of Guatemala and insurgent
Insurgent
Insurgent, insurgents or insurgency can refer to:* The act of insurgency-Specific insurgencies:* Iraqi insurgency, uprising in Iraq* Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, uprising in India* Insurgency in North-East India...

s. The Historical Clarification Commission
Historical Clarification Commission
The Historical Clarification Commission was Guatemala's truth and reconciliation commission.The creation of the CEH was ordered by the Oslo Accords of 1994 that sought to bring an end to the Central American nation's three-decade-long Civil War, during which an estimated 200,000 people lost their...

 reports that the influence of the Guatemalan military over the government occurred in different stages during the years of the civil war. Because it dominated the executive branch of the civil government during the 1960s and the 1970s, the military infiltrated every institution of Guatemalan national government and civil society. Subsequently, during the 1980s, the Guatemalan military assumed almost absolute government power for five years, having successfully infiltrated and eliminated enemies in every socio-political institution of the nation, including the political, social, and ideological classes. In the final stage of the civil war, the military developed a parallel, semi-visible, low profile, but high-impact, control of Guatemala's national life. In the military, itself, the Guatemalan Military Intelligence system became the force with which it exercised totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 control of the town and country populaces, the urban society, the State, and the armed forces, themselves; dictatorship was total, but subtle.

The first phase of the Guatemalan Civil War was the 1960s insurrection by the urban Guatemalan Labour Party
Guatemalan Party of Labour
The Guatemalan Party of Labour was a communist party in Guatemala. It existed from 1949 to 1998. It gained prominence during the government of Col. Jacobo Arbenz...

 (Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo — PGT) composed and led by middle-class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 intellectual
Intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

s and students; the Guatemalan military easily defeated such urban guerrillas in combat, given its U.S. training and CIA advisors.

Afterwards, on 13 November 1960, a group of left-wing junior military officers of the Escuela Politécnica national military academy, revolted against the autocratic
Autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 government (1958–63) of General Ydigoras Fuentes, who usurped power in 1958, after assassinating the incumbent Colonel Castillo Armas. The survivors of the failed revolt hid in the hills, and later established communication with the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Those surviving officers then established the Movimiento Revolucionario 13 Noviembre
Revolutionary Movement 13th November
Revolutionary Movement 13th November was a leftist movement in Guatemala. MR-13 was founded in 1960 by a group of dissident officers. It was led by Luis Augusto Turcios Lima, Marco Antonio Yon Sosa and Luis Trejo Esquivel. Alejandro de León, co-founder of the group, was captured and shot by the...

(MR-13) whose insurgent
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

 forces fought a thirty-six-year guerrilla war against the right-wing military government
Military government
Military government can refer to conditions under either Military occupation, or Military dictatorship.-Military Government:Military government is the form of administration by which an occupying power exercises governmental authority over occupied territory.The Hague Conventions of 1907 specify...

 who had usurped Guatemala; the 13 November Revolutionary Movement was named after the date of the officers’ revolt. The operational base of MR-13 was the mountainous Oriente (East), the southeastern region of the country, comprising Izabal, Puerto Barrios
Puerto Barrios
Puerto Barrios is a city in Guatemala, located within the Gulf of Honduras at. The bay in which the harbour is located is called Bahia de Amatique. Puerto Barrios is the departmental seat of Izabal department and the administrative seat of Puerto Barrios municipality.Puerto Barrios was named after...

, and Zacapa
Zacapa
Zacapa is a city in eastern Guatemala, along the Río Grande de Zacapa. It is renowned locally for its manual crafting of cigars, hard dry cheese and a flavored cake made with said cheese ....

. The U.S. Government sent Green Berets military advisors to instruct the Guatemalan military in counterinsurgency (anti-guerrilla warfare), to fight MR-13.

In November 1965, U.S. security adviser John P. Longan arrived to Guatemala and with a Guatemalan Army élite launched Operation Cleanup
Operation Cleanup
Operation Cleanup can refer to:*Operation Cleanup in Guatemala *Operation Cleanup in Pakistan...

a death squad
Death squad
A death squad is an armed military, police, insurgent, or terrorist squad that conducts extrajudicial killings, assassinations, and forced disappearances of persons as part of a war, insurgency or terror campaign...

 that throughout the year 1966 effected kidnapping
Kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

s and assassination
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

s constituting “the first systematic wave of collective counterinsurgent ‘disappearances
Forced disappearance
In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the...

’ in Latin America” that killed the leaders of Guatemala's labour unions and peasant federations during Árbenz Guzmán Government. In 1966, soon after President Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro was the Revolutionary Party President of Guatemala from 1 July 1966 to 1 July 1970. The only civilian to occupy Guatemala's presidency during the long period of military rule between 1954 and 1986, Méndez was not allowed to act independently of the military and was...

 (1966–70) assumed office, the Guatemalan Army launched a counter-insurgency campaign that successfully combated and dispersed the left-wing guerrilla organizations fighting in the mountains and country. The guerrillas, including the Rebel Armed Forces
Rebel Armed Forces
The Rebel Armed Forces was a Guatemalan guerrilla organization established in 1961 and lasting until the peace agreements in 1996.FAR is most significantly known for having killed the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, John Gordon Mein, in 1968. Also killed that year were two U.S...

 (Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes — FAR), then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City
Guatemala City
Guatemala City , is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Guatemala and Central America...

, assassinating many leading representatives of the military government, U.S. military advisors, and the American ambassador John Gordon Mein
John Gordon Mein
right|frame|Ambassador MeinAmbassador John Gordon Mein was the first United States ambassador to be assassinated while serving in office.He served as the Ambassador of the United States to Guatemala...

, in 1968.

The third phase warfare of the Guatemalan Civil War was the 1970s, when old and new insurgent organizations joined and fought in the urban and rural fronts, especially in the Mayan Highlands, against military government
Military government
Military government can refer to conditions under either Military occupation, or Military dictatorship.-Military Government:Military government is the form of administration by which an occupying power exercises governmental authority over occupied territory.The Hague Conventions of 1907 specify...

, that then was the rule in Central American countries.

Burning of the Spanish Embassy

On the morning of 31 January 1980, a group of K'iche' and Ixil
Ixil people
Ixil is the name of a Mayan people in Guatemala. The Ixil live in three municipalities in the Cuchumatanes mountains in the northern part of the department El Quiché...

 peasant farmers occupied the Spanish Embassy
Diplomatic missions of Spain
This is a list of diplomatic missions of Spain, excluding honorary consulates. Spain has a large global diplomatic presence, with a netwok of 118 embassies.- Europe :** Tirana ** Andorra la Vella ** Vienna...

 in Guatemala City to protest the kidnapping and murder of peasants in Uspantán
Uspantán
Uspantán is a municipality in the Guatemalan department of El Quiché. It is one of the largest municipalities of El Quiché and stretches from the mountainous highlands in the South to the tropical lowlands in the North. The municipal seat is in Villa de San Miguel Uspantán with a population of 2,800...

 by elements of the Guatemalan Army. The subsequent police raid, over the protests of the Spanish ambassador, resulted in a fire which destroyed the embassy and left 36 people dead. Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 severed its diplomatic relations with Guatemala for four years. The funeral of the victims (including as yet obscure Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

's father, Vicente Menchú), attracted hundreds of thousands of mourners, and a new guerrilla group was formed commemorating the date, the Frente patriotico 31 de enero (Patriotic Front of 31 January). The incident has been called "the defining event" of the Guatemalan Civil War.

Resumption of democracy

Ríos Montt was deposed on 8 August 1983 by his Minister of Defense, General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores
Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores
Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores was the 27th President of Guatemala from 8 August 1983 to 14 January 1986. A member of the military, he was President of Guatemala during a time of increased repression and death squad activity...

. Mejía became de facto president and justified the coup, saying that "religious fanatics" were abusing their positions in the government and also because of "official corruption". Ríos Montt remained in politics, founded the Guatemalan Republican Front
Guatemalan Republican Front
The Guatemalan Republican Front is a right-wing political party in Guatemala.It was created in 1989 by former president and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, and formally registered in 1990...

 party, and was elected President of Congress in 1995 and 2000.

In 1983, indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K'iche' ethnic group. Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the plight of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War , and to promoting indigenous rights in the country...

 wrote a testimonial account, I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala, which gained worldwide attention. She was later awarded the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 for her work in favor of broader social justice. In 1998 a book by U.S. anthropologist David Stoll
David Stoll
David Stoll is an American anthropologist. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and completed his Master's and Ph.D. at Stanford University. He spent much of the nineteen-eighties and nineties in Latin American countries such as Colombia and Guatemala,...

 challenged some of the details in Menchú's book, creating an international controversy.

Cerezo Administration: New Constitution, but continued violence

General Mejía allowed a return to democracy in Guatemala. On 1 July 1984 there was an election for a Constituent Assembly
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

 to draft a democratic constitution. On 30 May 1985 the Constituent Assembly finished drafting a new constitution
Constitution of Guatemala
The Constitution of Guatemala is the supreme law of the Republic of Guatemala. It sets the bases for the organization of Guatemalan government and it outlines the three main branches of Guatemalan government: executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch.External References=*...

, which took effect immediately. Vinicio Cerezo
Vinicio Cerezo
Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo is a Guatemalan politician. He served as President of Guatemala from 14 January 1986 to 14 January 1991 and currently sits in Congress.-Career:...

, a civilian politician and the presidential candidate of the Guatemalan Christian Democracy
Guatemalan Christian Democracy
The Guatemalan Christian Democracy , founded 24 August 1955, was a political party in Guatemala. It was a moderate reformist party, although also anti-Communist. It first won congressional seats in [Guatemalan parliamentary election, 1955|1955]]. In 1957, it contested presidential elections but...

, won the first election held under the new constitution with almost 70% of the vote, and took office on 14 January 1986. It took, however, another 10 years of conflict, before there was an end to the violence.

Historian Susanne Jonas writes that while "the Reagan State Department cheerfully proclaimed Guatemala a "consolidated"/"post-transitional" democracy after nothing more than the 1985 election
Guatemalan general election, 1985
General elections were held in Guatemala on 3 November 1985, with a second round of the presidential elections taking place on 8 December. The presidential election resulted in a victory for Vinicio Cerezo, who had received $650,000 towards his campaign from media owner Remigio Ángel González...

. More sober academic analysts attempting to include Guatemala in the "democratic family" had to resort to inventing new categories of democracy (restricted, pseudo-, "tutelada," "facade," "democradura," etc.). Jonas claims that "for the most part from 1986 through 1995, civilian presidents allowed the army to rule from behind the scenes." Elections, however, were deemed to be free and fair- a notable improvement on the military-dominated governments of the previous 30 years.

Upon its inauguration in January 1986, President Cerezo's civilian government announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

 and amparo
Amparo (law)
The writ of amparo is a remedy for the protection of constitutional rights, found in certain jurisdictions...

(court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman. The Supreme Court also embarked on a series of reforms to fight corruption and improve legal system efficiency.

With Cerezo's election, the military moved away from governing and returned to the more traditional role of providing internal security, specifically by fighting armed insurgents. The first two years of Cerezo's administration were characterized by a stable economy and a marked decrease in political violence. Dissatisfied military personnel made two coup attempts in May 1988 and May 1989, but military leadership supported the constitutional order. The government was heavily criticized for its unwillingness to investigate or prosecute cases of human rights violations.

The final two years of Cerezo's government also were marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption. The government's inability to deal with many of the nation's problems – such as infant mortality, illiteracy, deficient health and social services, and rising levels of violence – contributed to popular discontent.

Presidential and congressional elections
Guatemalan general election, 1990
General elections were held in Guatemala on 16 November 1990. with a second round of the presidential election held on 6 January 1991. The presidential election resulted in a victory for Jorge Antonio Serrano Elías of the Movement of Action in Solidarity, whilst the National Centre Union won the...

 were held on 11 November 1990. After the second-round ballot, Jorge Antonio Serrano Elías was inaugurated on 14 January 1991, thus completing the first transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another. Because his Movement of Solidarity Action (MAS) Party gained only 18 of 116 seats in Congress
Congress of Guatemala
The Congress of the Republic is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of Guatemala.It comprises 158 deputies, who are elected by direct universal suffrage to serve four-year terms . Twenty-nine of these are elected from nationwide lists, with the rest on a district list basis...

, Serrano entered into a tenuous alliance with the Christian Democrats and the National Union of the Center (UCN).

The Serrano administration's record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control
Civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P...

 over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. He took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize
Belize
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

, which until then had been officially, though fruitlessly, claimed by Guatemala. The Serrano government reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.

Serrano government dissolution and recovery

On 25 May 1993, Serrano illegally dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The autogolpe (or autocoup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, international pressure, and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Court of Constitutionality, which ruled against the attempted takeover. In the face of this pressure, Serrano fled the country. An Intelligence Oversight Board report states that the CIA helped in stopping this autocoup.

On 5 June 1993, Congress, pursuant to the 1985 constitution, elected the Human Rights Ombudsman, Ramiro de León Carpio
Ramiro de León Carpio
Ramiro de León Carpio was the President of Guatemala from 6 June 1993 until 14 January 1996.-Career:He studied law at the University of San Carlos and then at the Rafael Landívar University, where he ran the Sol Bolivariano newspaper...

, to complete Serrano's presidential term. De León was not a member of any political party; lacking a political base but with strong popular support, he launched an ambitious anticorruption campaign to "purify" Congress and the Supreme Court, demanding the resignations of all members of the two bodies. Shortly taking office, his cousin Jorge Carpio Nicolle
Jorge Carpio Nicolle
Jorge Carpio Nicolle was a prominent Guatemalan politician and newspaper publisher. He was the founder of the Unión del Centro Nacional in 1984, and ran as the party's candidate for president in the elections of 1985 and 1990. He came in second in both elections...

, leader of the liberal UCN and two-time presidential candidate, was assassinated.

Despite considerable congressional resistance, presidential and popular pressure led to a November 1993 agreement brokered by the Catholic Church between the administration and Congress. This package of constitutional reforms was approved by popular referendum on 30 January 1995. In August 1994, a new Congress was elected to complete the unexpired term. Controlled by the anti-corruption parties – the populist Guatemalan Republican Front
Guatemalan Republican Front
The Guatemalan Republican Front is a right-wing political party in Guatemala.It was created in 1989 by former president and dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, and formally registered in 1990...

 (FRG) headed by Ríos Montt, and the center-right National Advancement Party
National Advancement Party
The National Advancement Party is a political party in Guatemala. It was founded in 1989.In the 1990 and 1995 elections its presidential candidate was Álvaro Arzú who won in 1995, becoming Guatemala's 32nd president ....

 (PAN) – the new Congress began to move away from the corruption that characterized its predecessors.

Renewed peace process (1994 to 1996)

Under de León, the peace process, now brokered by the United Nations, took on new life. The government and the URNG signed agreements on human rights (March 1994), resettlement of displaced persons (June 1994), historical clarification (June 1994), and indigenous rights (March 1995). They also made significant progress on a socio-economic and agrarian agreement.

National elections for president, Congress, and municipal offices
Guatemalan general election, 1995
General elections were held in Guatemala on 12 November 1995, with a second round of the presidentail elections held on 7 January 1996. Álvaro Arzú of the National Advancement Party won the presidential election, whilst his party also won the Congressional elections...

 were held in November 1995. With almost 20 parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a 7 January 1996 run-off in which PAN candidate Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen
Álvaro Arzú
Álvaro Enrique Arzú Yrigoyen was the 32nd President of Guatemala from January 14, 1996 until January 14, 2000...

 defeated Alfonso Portillo Cabrera of the FRG by just over 2% of the vote. Arzú won because of his strength in Guatemala City, where he had previously served as mayor, and in the surrounding urban area. Portillo won all of the rural departments except Petén
Petén (department)
Petén is a department of the nation of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest in size — at it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores...

.

Under the Arzú administration, peace negotiations were concluded, and the government and the guerrilla umbrella organization URNG, which became a legal party, signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. The General Secretary of the URNG, Comandante Rolando Morán
Rolando Morán
Comandante Rolando Morán is the nom de guerre of Ricardo Arnoldo Ramírez de León, a former leader of Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity , an armed Guatemalan resistance organization...

, and President Álvaro Arzú
Álvaro Arzú
Álvaro Enrique Arzú Yrigoyen was the 32nd President of Guatemala from January 14, 1996 until January 14, 2000...

 jointly received the UNESCO Peace Prize for their efforts to end the civil war and attaining the peace agreement. The United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 adopted Resolution 1094
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1094
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1094, adopted unanimously on January 20, 1997, after expressing support for the peace process in Guatemala which had been monitored by the United Nations since 1994, the Council authorised the attachment of 155 military observers to the United Nations...

 on 20 January 1997 deploying military observers to Guatemala to monitor the implementation of the peace agreements.

Human rights abuses

By the end of the war, it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been killed.

The internal conflict is described in the report of the Archbishop
Archbishop
An archbishop is a bishop of higher rank, but not of higher sacramental order above that of the three orders of deacon, priest , and bishop...

's Office for Human Rights (ODHAG). ODHAG attributed almost 90.0% of the atrocities and over 400 massacres to the Guatemalan army (and paramilitary), and less than 5% of the atrocities to the guerrillas (including 16 massacres).

In a report in 1999, the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission
Historical Clarification Commission
The Historical Clarification Commission was Guatemala's truth and reconciliation commission.The creation of the CEH was ordered by the Oslo Accords of 1994 that sought to bring an end to the Central American nation's three-decade-long Civil War, during which an estimated 200,000 people lost their...

 (CEH) stated that the state was responsible for 93% of the human rights violations
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 committed during the war, the guerrillas for 3%. They peaked in 1982. 83% of the victims were Maya
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

. Both sides used terror as a deliberate policy.

Guatemalan intelligence was directed and executed mainly by two bodies: One the Intelligence Section of the Army, subsequently called Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the National Defense and generally known as "D-2". The other the intelligence unit called Presidential Security Department, also known as "La Regional" or the "Archivo". The Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution based in the city of San José, Costa Rica. Together with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it makes up the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States , which serves to uphold and...

 has stated that the intelligence services in Guatemala have been responsible for multiple human rights violations. The Truth Commission writes that their activity included the "use of illegal detention centres or 'clandestine prisons', which existed in nearly all Army facilities, in many police installations and even in homes and on other private premises. In these places, victims were not only deprived of their liberty arbitrarily, but they were almost always subjected to interrogation, accompanied by torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the majority of cases, the detainees disappeared or were executed."

The CEH stated that at no time during the internal armed confrontation did the guerrilla groups have the military potential necessary to pose an imminent threat to the State. The number of insurgent combatants was too small to be able to compete in the military arena with the Army, which had more troops and superior weaponry, as well as better training and co-ordination. The State and the Army were well aware that the insurgents’ military capacity did not represent a real threat to Guatemala’s political order. The CEH concludes that the State deliberately magnified the military threat of the insurgency, a practice justified by the concept of the internal enemy. The inclusion of all opponents under one banner, democratic or otherwise, pacifist or guerrilla, legal or illegal, communist or non-communist, served to justify numerous and serious crimes. Faced with widespread political, socio-economic and cultural opposition, the State resorted to military operations directed towards the physical annihilation or absolute intimidation of this opposition, through a plan of repression carried out mainly by the Army and national security forces. On this basis the CEH explains why the vast majority of the victims of the acts committed by the State were not combatants in guerrilla groups, but civilians.

For more than two decades Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 has reported on Guatemala. A report from 1984 discussed “the murder of thousands by a military government that maintains its authority by terror. HRW have described extraordinarily cruel actions by the armed forces, mostly against unarmed civilians. One example given is the massacre of over 160 civilians by government soldiers in the village of Las Dos Erres in 1982. The abuses included “burying some alive in the village well, killing infants by slamming their heads against walls, keeping young women alive to be raped over the course of three days. This was not an isolated incident. Rather it was one of over 400 massacres documented by the truth commission – some of which, according to the commission, constituted "acts of genocide."

Convicts

In 1999, paramilitary Candido Noriega was jailed for fifty years for his role in the deaths of dozens whilst employed by the Guatemalan army.

In August 2009, a court in Chimaltenango
Chimaltenango
Chimaltenango is a town in Guatemala of some 43,900 people . It serves as both the capital of the department of Chimaltenango and the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name....

 sentenced Felipe Cusanero, a local farmer, who was part of a network of paramilitaries who gave information about suspected leftists living in their villages to the army during Guatemala's counterinsurgency campaign, to 150 years for his part in the disappearance of half a dozen indigenous members of a Maya
Maya peoples
The Maya people constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region who share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term...

n farming community over the two-year period of 1982–1984. He was the first person to ever be convicted for carrying out acts of forced disappearance during the Civil War. He appeared before three judges to face his sentence. He received a 25-year prison sentence for each of his victims. It was hailed as a "landmark" sentence. Hilarion López, the father of one of the victims, said: "We weren't looking for vengeance but for the truth and justice". The families have called on Cusanero to tell them where their bodies are. Cusanero was photographed being carried away by police afterwards. Most recently, as of August 3, 2011 four former officers from the Guatemalan Special Forces (Kaibiles) were charged with 6,060 years each for their involvement in the Dos Erres Massacre.

U.S. involvement

Declassified CIA documents report that the U.S. Government organized, funded, and equipped the 1954 coup d’état deposing the elected Guatemalan presidential government of Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán
Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was a Guatemalan military officer and politician who served as Defense Minister of Guatemala from 1944–1951, and as President of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954....

. Analysts Kate Doyle and Peter Kornbluh report that “after a small insurgency developed, in the wake of the coup, Guatemala's military leaders developed and refined, with U.S. assistance, a massive counter-insurgency campaign that left tens of thousands of massacred, maimed or missing [people].” History Prof. Stephen G. Rabe, reports that "in destroying the popularly elected government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1950–1954), the United States initiated a nearly four-decade-long cycle of terror and repression.” The coup d’état installed lead usurper Colonel Castillo Armas as head of government, and then he and “the United States began to militarize Guatemala almost immediately, financing and reorganizing the police and military.”

Guatemalan specialist Susanne Jonas has alleged that U.S. Special Forces set up a secret military training base in 1962, and that the program became massive after Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro
Julio César Méndez Montenegro was the Revolutionary Party President of Guatemala from 1 July 1966 to 1 July 1970. The only civilian to occupy Guatemala's presidency during the long period of military rule between 1954 and 1986, Méndez was not allowed to act independently of the military and was...

 signed a pact with the army in July 1966. Accordingly, "although it was categorically denied by official U.S. sources, the presence of U.S. Green Berets (estimates ranged from several hundred to 1,000) was documented by careful observers and even acknowledged by a high Guatemalan police official." Jonas claims that the ratio of military advisers to local military officials in Guatemala was the highest of any Latin American country in the late 1960s and 70s, and moreover that "there is substantial evidence of the direct role of U.S. military advisers in the formation of death squads: U.S. Embassy personnel were allegedly involved in writing an August 1966 memorandum outlining the creation of paramilitary groups, and the U.S. military attaché during this period publicly claimed credit for instigating their formation as part of "counterterror" operations."

McSherry alleges that after a successful (U.S. backed) coup against president Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes
Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes
General José Miguel Ramón Ydígoras Fuentes was President of Guatemala from 2 March 1958 to 31 March 1963. He took power following the murder of Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas....

 in 1963, U.S. advisors began to work with Colonel Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio
Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio was President of Guatemala from 1 July 1970 to 1 July 1974.Carlos Arana was born in Barberena, in the department of Santa Rosa....

 to defeat the guerrillas, borrowing “extensively from current counterinsurgency strategies and technology being employed in Vietnam.” Between the years of 1966–68 alone some 8,000 peasants were murdered by the U.S. trained forces of Colonel Arana Osorio. Sociologist Jeffrey M. Paige alleges that Arana Osorio "earned the nickname "The Butcher of Zacapa" for killing 15,000 peasants to eliminate 300 suspected rebels."

In 1977, the Carter administration announced a suspension of military aid to Guatemala, citing the Guatemalan government as a "gross and consistent human rights violator" while noting that the situation was improving under the administration of president Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García
Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García
Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García was President of Guatemala from 1 July 1974 to 1 July 1978. He was the son of a Norwegian father and Guatemalan mother....

. Despite this prohibition however, covert and overt US support for the Guatemalan army continued. In fiscal years 1978, 1979 and 1980 (the three years for which the Carter administration can be held responsible), the US delivered approximately $8.5 million in direct military assistance to Guatemala, mostly Foreign Military Sales
Foreign Military Sales
The U.S. Department of Defense's Foreign Military Sales program facilitates sales of U.S. arms, defense equipment, defense services, and military training to foreign governments...

 credits, as well as export licensing for commercial arms sales worth $1.8 million, a rate which differs very little from that of the Nixon-Ford Administrations. In fiscal years 1981, 1982 and 1983, overt US military aid deliveries totaled $3.2 million, $4 million and $6.4 million respectively; a combined total of approximately $13.6 million. These official figures on military aid during this period do not take into account the transshipment of aircraft spare parts and other military equipment between the US and Guatemalan militaries. Nor do these figures account for the $20 million sale of two Lockheed-built C-130 transport planes or the $25 million provision of approximately twenty-three helicopters to the Guatemalan military between December 1980 and December 1982, delivered primarily under contracts licensed by the US Department of Commerce. In addition, the United States authorized the provision of American-made equipment through third party sources such as Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Chile, and Argentina. In late 1981, with explicit authorization from the State Department and the Pentagon
Pentagon
In geometry, a pentagon is any five-sided polygon. A pentagon may be simple or self-intersecting. The sum of the internal angles in a simple pentagon is 540°. A pentagram is an example of a self-intersecting pentagon.- Regular pentagons :In a regular pentagon, all sides are equal in length and...

, ten American-made M41 Walker Bulldog
M41 Walker Bulldog
The M41 Walker Bulldog was a U.S. light tank developed to replace the M24 Chaffee. It was named for General Walton Walker who died in a jeep accident in Korea...

 light tanks were delivered to the Guatemalan Army by Belgium at a cost of US $34 million.

In fiscal year 1979, the U.S. also provided Guatemala with $24 million in economic aid, including $5.3 million in PL 480 funds. The reaction of U.S. policy makers in multilateral lending institutions was at best ambiguous during the Carter administration. The U.S. only voted against 2 of 7 multilateral development bank loans for Guatemala between October 1979 and May 1980. In August 1980, it was reported that the U.S. had reversed its position entirely on multilateral development assistance to Guatemala. At that time, the U.S. refused to veto a $51 million loan from the IDB that was earmarked for government use in the turbulent Quiché area of northern Guatemala.

Although some of the training of the Guatemalan Army shifted to Israel and Argentina during the embargo, US training persisted on a covert level. In an investigative report, American newspaper columnist Jack Anderson
Jack Anderson
Jack Northman Anderson was an American newspaper columnist, syndicated by United Features Syndicate, considered one of the fathers of modern investigative journalism...

 revealed in August, 1981, at the height of the aid prohibition, that the United States was using Cuban exiles to train security forces in Guatemala; in this operation, Anderson wrote, the CIA had arranged for "secret training in the finer points of assassination." The following year, it was reported that the Green Berets had been instructing Guatemalan Army officers for over two years in the finer points of warfare at Guatemala's main military academy. Jesse Garcia, a 32-year-old Green Beret captain functioning in Guatemala at the time, described his job as "not much different" than that of US advisors in El Salvador in an interview with the New York Times, during which he was on an armed patrol with forty Guatemalan officers in training. By 1983, it was also confirmed that Guatemalan military officers were once again being trained at the US School of the Americas in Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

.

Human Rights Watch in 1984 criticized U.S. President Ronald Reagan for his December 1982 visit to Ríos Montt in Honduras, where Reagan dismissed reports of human rights abuses by prominent human rights organizations while insisting that Ríos Montt was receiving a "bum rap". The organization reported that soon after, the Reagan administration announced that it was dropping a five-year prohibition on arms sales and moreover had "approved a sale of $6.36 million worth of military spare parts," to Rios Montt and his forces. Human Rights Watch described the degree of U.S. responsibility thus:
During the Guatemalan Civil War, the CIA consistently worked inside of a Guatemalan army unit known as D-2, which was responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of Guatemalan citizens and operated a network of torture centers. The CIA's collaboration with D-2 was described by U.S. and Guatemalan operatives, and was confirmed by former Guatemalan heads of state. Colonel Julio Roberto Alpirez, a Guatemalan officer implicated in murders of guerrilla leader Efrain Bamaca Velasquez and Michael Devine discussed in an interview how the CIA advised and helped to run D-2. He claimed that U.S. agents trained D-2 men. Alpirez described attending CIA sessions at D-2 bases on "contra-subversion" tactics and "how to manage factors of power" to "fortify democracy." The CIA also helped to provide "technical assistance" including communications equipment, computers and special firearms, as well as collaborative use of CIA-owned helicopters that were flown out of a piper hangar at La Aurora
La Aurora
La Aurora may refer to:*La Aurora de Chile, the first periodical in Chilean history*La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala...

 civilian airport and from a separate U.S. Air facility.

On a trip to Guatemala in 1999 after the publication of the Truth Commission report, U.S. President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 declared that "It is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong," and further apologized for "support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report".

An Intelligence Oversight Board report from 1996 writes that military aid was stopped during the Carter administration but later resumed under the Reagan Administration. "After a civilian government under President Cerezo was elected in 1985, overt non-lethal US military aid to Guatemala resumed. In December 1990, however, largely as a result of the killing of US citizen Michael DeVine by members of the Guatemalan army, the Bush administration suspended almost all overt military aid." "The funds the CIA provided to the Guatemalan liaison services were vital to the D-2 and Archivos." The CIA "continued this aid after the termination of overt military assistance in 1990." "Overall CIA funding levels to the Guatemalan services dropped consistently from about $3.5 million in FY 1989 to about 1 million in 1995." The report writes that "the CIA's liaison relationship with the Guatemalan services also benefited US interests by enlisting the assistance of Guatemala's primary intelligence and security service – the army's directorate of intelligence (D-2) – in areas such as reversing the 'auto-coup" of 1993'" "In the face of strong protests by Guatemalan citizens and the international community (including the United States) and – most importantly – in the face of the Guatemalan army's refusal to support him, President Serrano's Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori
Alberto Fujimori Fujimori served as President of Peru from 28 July 1990 to 17 November 2000. A controversial figure, Fujimori has been credited with the creation of Fujimorism, uprooting terrorism in Peru and restoring its macroeconomic stability, though his methods have drawn charges of...

-style 'auto-coup' failed."

See also

  • Colombian Armed Conflict
    Colombian Armed Conflict
    The Colombian armed conflict or Colombian Civil War are terms that are employed to refer to the current asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict in Colombia that has existed since approximately 1964 or 1966, between the Colombian government and peasant guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed...

  • List of civil wars
  • MINUGUA
    MINUGUA
    MINUGUA was a ten-year United Nations humanitarian mission in Guatemala that involved, at the most critical point in the peace process, a three-month peacekeeping mission....

    : United Nations verification/peacekeeping mission in Guatemala, 1994–2004

Further reading

  • Jonas, Susanne. The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power, 1991.
  • Wilkinson, Daniel. Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala, 2002.

External links

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