Between 1962 and 1996, Guatemala experienced one the most violent and horrific armed conflicts in Latin American history. The Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), the country’s UN backed “truth commission”, in its 1999 report, Guatemala: Memory of Silence, estimated the balance of deaths and disappearances during the internal armed conflict at more than 200,000. The commission found that, as part of its counterinsurgency strategy, the Guatemalan state committed forced disappearances, extra judicial executions, rape of women and genocide against indigenous Mayan groups.
The scale of the violence and brutality, with thousands of human rights violations committed, has left deep wounds on the victims and survivors, as well as on the Guatemalan society as a whole. Although the Guatemalan state has made efforts since the signing of the Peace Accords to support the victims’ rights to know, justice and reparation and to promote measures of non-recurrence, these have been incomplete and promoted without a comprehensive perspective, rendering their impact weak. Little progress has been made to bring to justice those individuals responsible for the most serious violations committed during the internal armed conflict, or to implement the institutional reforms needed to remove those suspected of involvement from public office.
Nowadays, Guatemala remains a dysfunctional state, racist and discriminatory, responsive to the interests of economic, political and military elites which prevents any effort to break the institutionalized impunity and unable to overcome the structural causes that led to the conflict. The continuity of the causes of the present and past impunity leads to a culture of impunity where citizens expect an accept impunity as the norm.
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