Guatemala. On January 14, the newly elected President Alfonso Portillo was installed in his office. He has promised to invest in education and reactivation of the declining economy. Suspicions that Efraín Ríos Montt, leader of Portillo’s party FRG (Frente Republicano Guatemalteco) and who, as former dictator, were not allowed to run, will have a great influence on Portillo seemed to come true as Montt took advantage of his strong position as congressman to get some of their closest supporters to important posts in the Portillo government. As a reflection of the so-called Pinochet effect, the Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú has, in a Spanish court, brought charges against Ríos Montt for genocide and state terrorism during his time as dictator in 1982–83.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: Offers three letter and two letter abbreviations for the country of Guatemala. Also covers country profile such as geography, society and economy.
The 1962 guerrilla fight begins
In these circumstances armed revolutionary movements arose. In 1962, parts of the military revolted and a group of younger officers formed the country’s first guerrilla organization, the Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes (FAR). In 1975, Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres (The Guerrilla Army of the Poor, EGP) was formed, and in 1979 the Organización del Pueblo en Armas (Organization of the Armed People, ORPA). The FAR had initially concentrated its political and military activities among the Ladinoland workers and peasants in the country’s northeast, but had been defeated by the military in 1967-68. Instead, EGP and ORPA recognized the need to concentrate work on the country’s most repressed and at the same time largest population: the indigenous population, which accounted for just over 60% of the population.
In 1975, the highlands were ravaged by a violent earthquake. The rebuilding aid was predominantly in the pockets of the military, but the rebuilding provided the indigenous people with considerable experience in self-organizing, while at the same time receiving support from foreign auxiliaries and school teachers. Therefore, in the late 70’s, the guerrilla gained landslide-like connectivity and controlled over half the country in the early 80’s. In February 1982, the guerrillas joined the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit, URNG), which consisted of EGP, FAR, ORPA and Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo (Guatemalan Workers Party (Communist Party), PGT).
1985 Limited Democratic Opening
The limited political opening did not apply to the left, and URNG boycotted the election won by Christian Democratic candidate Vinicio Cerezo. From the outset, Cerezo declared openly that he initially had only 10% of the power, while the rest was concentrated in the military and in the bourgeoisie. But at the same time, he hoped that during his reign he would be able to acquire an increasing share. However, the process of democratization was limited. Every time he tried to make only limited concessions, he was subjected to coup attempts by the military. The coup attempts were fought every time, but the message went through that he should abstain from reforms. Power lay with the bourgeoisie and the military, and there it was to stay.
Instead, Cerezo embarked on activities in favor of the peace process in Central America – in the mid-1980’s, armed conflicts were underway in all Central American states. As part of the regional peace agreements, Guatemala also pledged to start negotiations with the opposition, but the military and the bourgeoisie were opposed, so it wasn’t until October 1987 that bourgeois and URNG representatives met in Madrid – after 27 years of armed struggle.
According to COUNTRYAAH, the population of Guatemala in 2000 was 11,650,632, ranking number 66 in the world. The population growth rate was 2.280% yearly, and the population density was 108.7229 people per km2.