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.
By virtue of a very high average annual demographic increase (28 ‰), Guatemala with its 10. 801,000 residents (1998) is, in the context of Isthmian Central America, the most populous country, and, at the same time, one of the least developed and most contradictory realities.
The crucial issue is the profound inequality existing between the living conditions of the majority of the population, of Mayan origin and language, estimated at around 60 % of the total, compared to the minority formed by Whites (about 4 %), Mestizos and Creoles, the so called Ladinos. The Indians, who in the other Central American countries are in a clear minority, mostly live in the tierras frías, where agricultural soils are less fertile and productive, and where the lack of infrastructures and social services is greater, or they work on large estates. landowners, however in conditions of poverty and marginalization. Therefore, the low indices of socio-economic development mainly concern indigenous peoples.
According to UN estimates, in Guatemala about 75 % of family groups live in conditions of poverty; the 60 % of the population has no access to drinking water; about 44 % of the population over the age of 15 is illiterate, a percentage that rises to 70 % in women; infant mortality exceeds 40% and it is estimated that 66 % of pregnant women suffer from chronic malnutrition. The per capita income is equal to 1,500 US dollars per year (1997) and it is estimated that the wealthiest 10 % of the population earns 44% of GDP, while 10 % of the poorest would ‘benefit’ from 0, 5 %. In the departments of Quiché, Huehuetenango, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz and Sololá there are the highest levels of poverty, social exclusion and isolation, also in relation to the lack of social and health services and communication infrastructures.