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E. IV.8. Guatemala 1954-96

The population enjoyed 10 years of democratic rule from the civil resistance of 1944 to the CIA-backed overthrow of President Arbenz in 1954. After the coup human rights and popular protest came under savage attack. The repression was highlighted by the 1992 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Rigoberta Menchu, the indigenous woman involved in the struggles of the Peasant Union against the genocidal policies towards the indigenous Mayan people.

There was prolonged guerrilla warfare from 1962 to 1996, in which several different groups took part, and the US backed the right wing commanders of the armed forces. This bitter conflict resulted in over 200,000 deaths. It is estimated that 93 per cent of the atrocities committed were by the security forces. Since 1996 there have been multi-party elections, but the military remain powerful.

Brockett, Charles D., Political Movements and Violence in Central America, Cambridge MA, Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 404

Analyses the confrontation between popular movements – urban and rural – and repressive regimes, especially in Guatemala and El Salvador, in particular discussing the ‘repression-protest paradox’.

Ecumenical Program on Central America (EPICA), ; Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CHRLA), Out of the Shadows: The Communities of Population in Resistance in Guatemala, Washington DC, EPICA and CHRLA, 1993

Levenson-Estrada, Deborah, Trade Unionists against Terror: Guatemala City, 1954–1985, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1994, pp. 288

Includes account of 1984 workers’ occupation of Coca-Cola factory.

May, Rachel A., ”Surviving All Changes is Your Destiny”: Violence and Popular Movements in Guatemala, Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 26, issue 2, 1999, pp. 68-91

Examines the impact of violence on popular movements and how they adapted.

Menchu, Rigoberta, I Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, edited and introduced by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray, London, Verso, 1984, pp. 252

North, Liisa I. ; Simmons, Alan B., Journeys of Fear: Refugee Return and National Transformation in Guatemala, Montreal, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000, pp. 352

Just as the massive exodus of Guatemalans, mainly indigenous people, in the early 1980s was externally the most visible symptom of the terror that had befallen the country, so their organized return put into focus the need for and hopes of a transformation affecting land, gender, identity, and rights. Also includes Barry Levitt ‘Theorizing Accompaniment’, pp. 237-54.

Stanfield, Pablo, When Spring turns to Winter, In McManus; Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (E. IV.1. General and Comparative Studies), Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, pp. 14-32

Covers earlier post-war period.

See also:

Liam Mahony; Luis Enrique Eguren, Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights, (A. 5. Nonviolent Intervention and Accompaniment), discusses international accompaniment in Guatemala, especially of returning refugees in 1989.