25 Years After the Peace Accords, Democracy Weak in Guatemala

In Guatemala, safeguards against corruption, impunity, and state violence are being dismantled by the politicians, elites, and military and some fear the return of an authoritarian state.

Giovanni Batz writes in NACLA on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords, putting an end to the internal armed conflict that had rendered Guatemalan society for more than thirty years. However, peace is not merely the absence of war nor the absence of genocide.

Sit Po’p, an Ixil Maya authority from Nebaj, was six years old when the Guatemalan Peace Accords were signed on December 29, 1996, officially ending one of the longest civil wars in Latin America. Reflecting on what peace means today, Sit P’op stated that there is peace in Guatemala because there is “no more war or genocide.” But at the same time, she acknowledged the country is still “far from a peace as it should be.” The end of the war signaled a promising future for democracy, justice, and human rights, but the government has often impeded progress in these areas.

“The peace accords were a hope for the country, the possibility of a multiethnic, multilingual, and multinational Guatemala in a modern democratic state,” said Pap Me’k, an Ixil Maya ancestral authority from Nebaj. But now, 25 years later, they are a source of frustration. “The word peace became political discourse rather than reality,” he said. He contended that the Guatemalan state was given the responsibility in implementing the Peace Accords, but that they have instead destroyed the little progress that has been achieved since then.

The comments from Sit Po’p and Pap Me’k came after the people of Nebaj held a community assembly in mid-December to denounce the municipal mayor Virgilio Gerónimo Bernal Guzmán and demand his resignation. Bernal Guzmán, who was invited but did not attend the community assembly, has been accused of engaging in various illicit and corrupt activities, which include “approving the regulation for the right of way and construction of electric power towers that was rejected by residents; as well as overvaluing food and products delivered during the pandemic.” The community assembly is part of the Ixil’s historical struggle to pursue peaceful and local community-based solutions and transparency to institutional, governmental, and structural corruption and impunity at all levels of government.

You can read the full piece here, 25 Years After the Peace Accords, Democracy Weak in Guatemala.

Pueden leer el artículo en español aquí, A 25 Años de los Acuerdos de Paz, Democracia Débil en Guatemala.

Categories: Corruption, Gender, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Military, Poverty, Violence

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