Army Day or Remembrance Day?

The last day of June every year for the past 137 years has been marked as Army Day in Guatemala. For the previous 136 years this has also been the occasion for a military parade throughout the capital city. However, this year there will be no parade, due to "budgetary constraints", according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence.

The branches of the armed services in Guatemala are known to be hypersensitive to what the perceive as affronts to their dignity, and the spokesperson may just have been speaking out of turn to cover up the fact that the parade had been cancelled by order of a civilian, and at the behest of a human rights group at that. The celebration of the day will now take place in private.

Members of the group HIJOS – Sons and Daughters for Identity and against Forgetting and Silence – have been pressing for many years for the ending of the military parades, considering them to be an affront to the memory of the thousands of dead and disappeared and their relatives whose lives have been so affected by the actions of the armed services. As this item, drawn from a blog makes clear, "Nada hay que celebrar en un país en que el aún no se han juzgado a un ejército culpable de la desaparición de más de 20 mil personas, y de masacrar o mandar al exilio a medio millón de guatemaltecos". (There is nothing to celebrate in a country in which an army guilty of disappearance of more than 20,000 and massacring or sending into exile half a million Guatemalans, still remains to be judged").

Last year members of HIJOS, who lost parents to the internal conflict, organised a parade of their own, the March of Memory, to remember their relatives and interrupt the military one, which led
to violence apparently provoked by military dressed as civilians. They are planning to run this again this year, but they are already experiencing a backlash from those who don’t believe the Ministry of Defence’s explanation for the lack of a military parade this year. On 21 June, the National Day of the Disappeared, a member of HIJOS was threatened. The person was beaten and advised to stop "messing about" or he and his colleagues would be killed. It remains to be seen what will happen on 30 June.

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Categories: Culture, Justice, Military

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