Guatemala's thirty-six-year-long civil war ended in 1996. Probably more than
200,000 people were killed, mostly civilians. Probably as much as 80% of the
slaughter was carried out by the Guatemalan military. The political leaders
of the day apparently condoned the killing — while various branches and
agencies of the US government had some knowledge of it as well. Now, six years
after the end of the war, high-ranking military personnel are for the first
time being put on trial for human-rights abuses. Has
Justice finally come to Guatemala?
Our guest, Alfredo Ché, will discuss the work he and others have done to
demilitarize Guatemalan society, to bring about land reform, to guarantee
the rights of rural workers, and to build a model for sustainable development
that includes respect for human rights. He will also tell us about the
continuing campaign of political killing in Guatemala: in the last week of
June, 2002 alone, 3 indigenous land-rights activists were murdered, bringing
the total to 6 in the last 15 months. Who are the assassins and what are
they afraid of?
Background information on economic development in Guatemala:
Background information on human rights:
An overview of
the history of human rights in Guatemala, provided by Trudy and Andrew Miller.
Guatemala: Memoria del Silencio, the final report of the Guatemalan Historical
Clarification Commission (1999), which condemns the United States government for aiding
a "criminal counterinsurgency" against the indigenous Mayan population. (A revised version in Spanish is also available.)
current Guatemala campaign:
"Six years after the signing of the United Nations-brokered
Peace Accords that ended 36 years of civil war in Guatemala,
the country is once again descending into lawlessness and
terror. In the past year, Guatemala has experienced a sharp
increase in abuses against activists, journalists, lawyers,
and judges working to combat corruption and impunity. […]
Human rights violations in modern-day Guatemala include
those committed in the context of the so-called 'corporate
mafia state.' These crimes occur when certain economic
actors, including subsidiaries of some multinational
corporations, collude with sectors of the police, military,
government officials and common criminals to pursue mutual
Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang was murdered in 1990
— she had just published a study on the millions of Guatemalans,
mostly indigenous Maya Indians, who were treated brutally by the
military during the civil war. This year, high-ranking military
personnel were prosecuted
for the crime; one of them has been found guilty.
The trial was the first in Guatemala to use declassified US government records
as legal evidence against Washington's former allies.
US human-rights attorney Jennifer Harbury
sued the US government
for misleading her about its knowledge of human-rights abuses in
Guatemala. In June, 2002, the US Supreme
Court decided against her.
The Guatemala Accompaniment Project,
organized by the Network in Support with the People of Guatemala, places U.S. volunteers
who are willing "to live side-by-side with at-risk communities and organizations in an
effort to deter human rights violations."