Human Rights in Guatemala

Guatemala is a country left in pieces due to a long-lasting civil war. The Guatemalan Civil War lasted from 1960-1996. The Marxist revolutionaries fought a violent conflict for control of the country with the government in power.

The CIA trained the Guatemalan government for war against the communist insurgency, and thus, they easily dispatched the Guatemalan Labour Party’s forces in the beginning of the civil war. Several other communists and far-left socialist militaries rose up against the autocratic government of Guatemala.

Marxist ideology swept across South America, inspiring the poor and inspiring more revolts in Guatemala. An estimated number of 40,000 to 50,000 people disappeared in the war, kidnapped by Death Squads on both sides of the conflict, though the Guatemalan government was responsible for more human rights violations than the revolutionaries.

Reports from the Human Rights Watch reveal that over 83% of the victims of extrajudicial killings and kidnappings were of the Mayan ethnicity. Members of the Guatemalan national military committed unspeakable atrocities: the rape of captured women, the brutal beating of infants, burying thousands of villagers alive, burning villagers alive, dismembering limbs, mutilating genitalia, and cutting off noses on living victims.

Modern day Guatemala is a fragmented democracy. Government corruption makes any real advances in social policy and infrastructural reform a remote possibility. 2% of the population of Guatemala owns over 90% of the economy, with 98% of the population owning less than 10%.

While there has been much uproar across the world to bring justice to the progenitors of the current government, there have only been a limited number of investigations into the mass disappearances of villages and rebels. Felipe Cusanero was sentenced to a 150-year jail term in 2009, which was a enormous step forward for the justice movement in Guatemala.

New declassified documents released by the CIA show that the United States was well-aware of the human rights violations in Guatemala as early as 1960. Since the US had their foreign interests in mind, they ignored the wanton slaughter of the populace, caring more about the spread of communism than the sickening violation of rights in the nation.

We can only hope that the coming decades will show change for Guatemala. International human rights organizations promise that they will keep a close eye on the transitional government, and prevent any gross violations from ever happening again.

“We can only hope for a better union,” says Carlos Piente, leader of the South American Union for Peaceable Living.