Guatemala: Violence Continues 12 Years After Peace Accords

After many years of negotiation, the Peace Accords in Guatemala were finally signed on December 29, 1996, putting an end to 36 years of low-intensity armed conflict between the Guatemalan Army and various guerrilla groups. This year marks the 12th anniversary of the event and the situation remains anything but peaceful, as violence continues to play a large role in the society.

The blog from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)writes::

Guatemalan civil society, from human rights workers to journalists, bishops to private sector investors, union leaders to prosecutors, does not have it easy. The country sees increasing rates of crime and violence, and powerful forces operate what many call the “parallel state,” using their influence to shield their activities and ensure outcomes throughout the government that fill their pockets and guarantee their impunity, at the expense of the rest of Guatemalans.

Heidi describes her views on the reasons for the violence in a country at peace at her blog Advocacy Project Blog:

Heightened levels of violence, both in Rabinal and throughout the country, certainly stem from a multitude of sources, only a few of which include staggering unemployment and poverty, or lack of adequate healthcare and education. These societal realities notwithstanding, the internal conflict has left behind a legacy of institutionalized fear and normalized violence that cannot be dismissed.

When the Peace Accords were signed, a special commission was created by the United Nations to oversee the implementation of the accords. The commission called United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) remained in the country for ten years, but its success is still far from certain. The blogger Buscando a Syd [es] remembers the “MINUGUA” blues:

La democracia, o libertad colectiva, más que una conquista de la razón, es un estado de gracia de la historia. No es producto del esfuerzo, no es producto del capital, no es producto del discurso, no es producto de la lucha, no es producto de la tecnología, y no es vigilable. De esa cuenta, organizaciones como MINUGUA no pasan de ser meros decorados de la civilización reciente, que es nada sin esos decorados. Se nos educa para pensar que detrás de tales fachadas, esas capas o cáscaras, existe una democracia mesiánica, incluso esencial, transhistórica. Grandísima superstición.

Democracy or civil liberties, more than a conquest of reason, is just a graceful state of history. It is not a product of the effort, it is not a result of capital, it is not a product of rhetoric, it is not the result of the struggle, or technology and you can not “watch” it. That is why organizations like MINUGUA are less than merely decorative objects of modern civilization, that is nothing without such decoration. We are taught to think that behind such facades, envelopes or skins there is the messianic democracy, fundamental, and transhistorical. Big superstition.

In order to deal with the increasing levels of violence, which is leading to some, who are calling Guatemala a failed state, another commission was created to deal with this challenge as described by the blog from the Guatemala Solidarity Network,GSN Blog [es]:

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, better known by its Spanish initials CICIG, has now been operating for a year. It was created following an agreement between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government, charged with investigating clandestine organisations and collaborating with the state in prosecuting their members, suggesting ways in which Guatemalan law might be improved to help the fight against them and generally contributing to strengthening the rule of law.

Combatting the violence, especially those acts against women, is not an easy task. Statistics place the number of violent crimes against women as one unsolved murder every 16 hours [es]. The government has proposed to increase the number of military soldiers to help fight this crime, even though the Guatemalan Army was blamed for much of the violence that led to the Peace Accords, which also stipulates that the Army should be reduced. However, Guatemalans are pushing for more results, rather than more signed documents and more international commissions.

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Stay up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details. Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site