Human Rights Violation in Guatemala Civil War


The Guatemala civil war was one of the longest civil wars – a thirty-six years-long conflict. One of the most brutal wars that spurred bloodshed and social turbulence. The main cause of the war was the “terror” and “bogey “of communism. War was fought between the Guatemala administration and leftist rebel groups. The population which was most affected was “Mayans”.The war lasted from 1960 to 1996. The participation of the United States lengthened the war and led toward more destructiveness. The outcome of the civil war was the Peace accord in 1996. The administration of Guatemala was castigated and excoriated over the racial killing of Mayans during the civil war, which prompted grave violations of human rights.



Guatemala was under Spanish control from 1523 to 1821for almost 300 years. In 1821, though Guatemala got freedom but living standards of populations deteriorated. This will eventually led towards the brutal civil war in Guatemala.The thirty sixyear civil war in Latin America – the longest civil war, was a conflict between the administration of Guatemala and leftist rebel groups(supported mainly by Ladino farmers and Maya native people) that embroiled the country in chaos, mayhem, turbulence and social disorder.

The war lasted from 1960 to 1996. The war resulted in huge human and economical loss. Guatemala was under the rule of Dictator Jorge Ubico during the years of 1931 to 1944. The United fruit company was welcomed to Guatemala, when Jorge was ruling and started the collection of taxes.Due to vehement protests in july1944.  Jorge resigned as a president and Federico Ponce Vaides came in power.

The October Revolution of 1944 created period of social reforms in the country. The revolution initiated by Juan Jose and Jacobo Arbenz put an end to the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico. Democracy was established. Democratic elections were held in Guatemala in 1945. Juan Jose was elected as the president and from 1945 to 1951, during his presidency several reforms started in Guatemala.

He permitted the freedom of expression. Several education, health and infrastructural projects were initiated. Many educational institutions were established. His policies were favorable for agricultural employees. In each town of Guatemala, he made democratic election for mayor or spokesperson. The transformations scared the united fruit company about the promulgation of Communism.


Jacobo Arbenz in Power:

In 1951 elections Jacobo Arbenz became elected president. His aim was to help the lower classes by taking lands from elites to farmers as well as from united fruit company.  Many companies were established in Guatemala by United States. Train Company, electrical company, new portswere created. Jacobo aimed to establish national company in order to compete with the companies by United States, which according to them was communism. Jacobo construct the Atlantic route in 1951. He also established the communist party in Guatemala. His reforms were denounced by United States,as he was taking initiative for nationalizing the Guatemala main industry.

He decided to take back some of land that united fruit company was not utilizing and granted it to farmers in Guatemala. At that time Cold war was going between United States and Soviet Union which formed the fear of communism. The biggest fear of United States was that Guatemala will become part of Soviet Union asCuba (which adopted Communism, in return of economic gains and territorial defense), so United States decided to bring down Guatemala administration.Owing to the, trepidation and apprehension of Soviet influence and dominancy in Guatemala, the United States limited the selling arms to the military of Guatemala.

Col Carlos Castillo:

United States through CIA instructed and equipped Guatemalan exiles for mutinyagainst Jacobo. In 1950 about One hundred and fifty CIA trained exiles led by Guatemalan Col Carlos Castillo attack Guatemala to overthrow Jacobo. It became a victorious attempt and Carlos Castillo came into power in 1953. The country experienced social tumult and public outrage, as was seen in middle – class as people felt that liberation of country was good thing while some thought it was illegitimate mutiny.

Though Castillo didn’t stay for long,he was assassinated in 1957 which led Guatemala to devastating and ruinous 36 years of Civil War. This war was not between two militaries but between the administration of Guatemala and Guerrilla forces. Two former army officers worked with Guatemala workers party PGT, they aimed the restoration of democracy in Guatemala. Under the name of rebel armed forces they initiated movement of terrorism.

General Efrain Rios:

Throughout 1960’s and 1970’s, the Guerilla warfare between rebels and the government sustained. In 1982 General Efrain Rios put in charge as outcome of influenced elections.Few months later he declared himself as the dictator of Guatemala. He cruelly censored press, who was responsible for massacre. It led towards terror as he became major power in the country. In early 1980 rebel forces initiate to bring clashes in urban parts. Rebel associations-initiated bombing on police, administration and business targets in Guatemala City.

In reaction to these attacks the government uses its strategy the administration would steadily demolish whole villages. They made the policy of sending Guatemala army to villages for arresting the young men to make them part in Guatemala army. All these terrible things were going on in villages of Guatemala. Media was highly in control of military and government. Huge massacres took place in Civil war.  In august 1983 Efrain Rios was removed from authority by military. In his tenure huge number of causalities happened 200 000 were killed or compel to leave Guatemala. His tenure was considered the bloodiest.

Jorge Serrano in Power:

Though tremendous aggression slowed but war sustained throughout 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1990 winning of Jorge Serrano as elected Guatemala president led towards end of war.  Though he was right wing leader he move towards peace and ended all wicked policies against farmers. In 1992 he made an agreement with Mexico for the return of forty thousand Guatemala refugees. Despite of his big attempts he was removed from office in 1993 as he made the try to suspend Guatemala constitution.Ramiro de Leon substituted Jorge Serrano. He started peace negotiations to end civil war. In 1993 and 1994 a lot of hope was being seen economy started getting slowly better.

Main Causes of Civil War:

There were multiple causes for greatest civil war in Guatemala. Main causes include terror of communism, racism and the greediness. The war of land ended as war for human rights, existence and fairness. The United States participation in the war deteriorated and lengthenedwar which led towards huge human loss and great damage for the country.

Signing Of Peace Accords in 1996:

The peace agreement of 1996 finally put an end to civil war .In civil war the most affected ones was Mayans. After 36 years of pain finally International Community was seen United Nation walk in. In 1994 peace keeping mission of United Nation arrived to country for supporting peace process. In 1996 peace accord sighedamong the administration of Guatemala and the GuatemalanNational Revolutionary Unity. Efforts were made for transformation of country into peaceful stable and more democratic place.

Clinton Apology to Guatemala:

United States for supporting right wing administrations in Guatemala that killed 10000 rebels and Mayan in Guatemala the president Clinton made an apology to Guatemala and clearly mentioned that United States will not repeat the mistake and what United States did was not right.

36 years of civil war ended even the internal conflict over for decades but still Guatemala is recognized as a violent country internationallyhaving political problems.In 2015 historical move was made by Guatemala people they defeated corrupt government by peaceful protest people stood up and raised their voices for resignation of Perez Molina. The peaceful protest registered led towards resignation of Perez Molina.

Nobel prize:

Rigoberta Menchu the human rights activist from Guatemala awarded the Nobel Prize. She was recognized by international community and her efforts were acknowledged for raisingvoice for indigenous people in Guatemala and to contribute her life for cause of exposingthe rights of native Guatemala people. She was present while peace accords were being sighed. In1992 she was awarded NobelPrize.



Guatemala had suffered a lot from 36 years of civil war which led towards great human loss. Tragic years for Guatemala its economy, social and political conditions were extremely effected. The country and its people suffered from great violence and hatred. The Mayans were the most affected ones from the longest civil war of Guatemala. The country is slowly moving in right the direction. The issues are complex. Country wanted to move in the right direction of progress. Guatemala 36 years of civil war has ended also the internal conflicts hasended since decades but still Guatemala is recognized as a violent country internationally also it is having some political problems. In 2015 historical move was made by Guatemala people they defeated corrupt government by peaceful protest people stood up and raised their voices for resignation of Perez Molina. The peaceful protest registered led towards resignation of Perez Molina.From peaceful steps changes can also be made . Guatemala is slowly going in right direction.  Let’s hope for peaceful stable and progressive Guatemala.

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