Location: I believe in the transcendental qualities of friendship.
The history of Guatemala can be traced back to the arrival of the first human settlers, presumed to have migrated from the north at least 12,000 years ago. For much of that time, the civilization that developed there flourished, with little to no contact with cultures from outside of Mesoamerica. The Maya civilization dominated the region for nearly 2000 years before the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, although most of the Great Classic Maya cities of the Petén region of Guatemala's northern lowlands were abandoned by the year 1000 AD. The states of the central highlands, however, were still flourishing until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who subjugated the native states, beginning in 1523.
Guatemala remained a Spanish colony for nearly 300 years, before gaining its independence in 1821. It was then a part of the Mexican Empire until becoming fully independent in the 1840s. Since then, Guatemala's history has been divided into periods of democratic rule and periods of civil war and military juntas. Most recently, Guatemala emerged from a 36-year civil war, reestablishing a representative government in 1996.
* 1 Pre-Columbian era
* 2 Conquest era
* 3 19th century
* 4 Early 20th century
* 5 The "Ten Years of Spring"
* 6 Operation PBSUCCESS
* 7 Earthquake of 1976
* 8 Civil war
o 8.1 1986 to 1996: from constitution to peace accords
* 9 1996 Peace Accords to Present
* 10 See also
* 11 Notes
* 12 References
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links
 Pre-Columbian era
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Human settlement in Guatemala dates back to the Paleo-Indian period, ca. 9000 BP and earlier. There is archaeological proof that early Guatemalan settlers were hunters and gatherers, but pollen samples from Petén and the Pacific coast indicate that maize cultivation was developed by 3500 BC . Archaic sites have been documented in Quiché in the Highlands and Sipacate, Escuintla on the central Pacific coast (6500 BC).
By 2500 BC, small settlements were developing in Guatemala’s Pacific lowlands, including such places as Tilapa, La Blanca, Ocós, El Mesak, and Ujuxte, where the oldest ceramic pottery from Guatemala has been found. A heavy concentration of pottery on the Pacific coast has been documented dating from 2000 BC. Recent excavations suggest that the Highlands were a geographic and temporal bridge between Early Preclassic villages of the Pacific coast and later Petén lowlands cities .
Recent excavations in the Antigua Guatemala Valley, at Urías and Rucal, have yielded stratified materials from the Early and Middle Preclassic, the first pottery in the Antigua Valley is very well-made and not simply a copy of either coastal or Piedmont types. Their paste analyses, however, indicate that the vessels were made of clays from different environmental zones, suggesting these were people from the Pacific coast who expanded into the Antigua Valley . There are at least 5000 archaeological sites in Guatemala, 3000 of them in Petén alone.
In Monte Alto near La Democracia, Escuintla, giant stone heads and potbellies (or barrigones) have been found, dating from 1800 BC. description of discovery (in Spanish) These are ascribed to the Pre-Olmec Monte Alto Culture, and some scholars suggest the Olmec Culture originated in this area of the Pacific Lowlands . However, it has also been argued the only connection between these statues and the later Olmec heads is their size. Nonetheless, it is likely the Monte Alto Culture was the first complex culture of Mesoamerica, and predecessor of all other cultures of the region. In Guatemala, there are some sites with unmistakable Olmec style, such as Chocolá in Suchitepéquez, La Corona, in Peten, and Tak'alik A´baj, in Retalhuleu, the last of which is the only ancient city in the Americas with Olmec and Mayan features.
Richard Hansen, the director of the archaeological project of the Mirador Basin, believes the Maya at Mirador Basin developed the first true political state in America, (The Kan Kingdom), around 1500 BC; and further believes the Olmec were not the mother culture in Mesoamerica, as is often thought. Due to recent findings at Mirador Basin in Northern Petén, Hansen suggests the Olmec and Maya cultures developed separately, and merged in some places like Tak'alik Abaj on the Pacific lowlands. There is no evidence yet to link the Preclassic Maya from Petén and those from the Pacific coast, but undoubtedly, they had cultural and economical links.
Nakbé, Mid Preclassic palace remains, Mirador Basin, Petén, Guatemala
Northern Guatemala has particularly high densities of Late Pre-classic sites, including Naachtun, Xulnal, El Mirador, Porvenir, Pacaya, La Muralla, Nakbé, El Tintal, Wakná (formerly Güiro), Uaxactún, and Tikal. Of these, El Mirador, Tikal, Nakbé, Tintal, Xulnal and Wakná are the largest in the Maya world, Such size was manifested not only in the extent of the site, but also in the volume or monumentality, especially in the construction of immense platforms to support large temples. Many sites of this era display monumental masks for the first time (Uaxactún, El Mirador, Cival, Tikal and Nakbé ). These masks often seem to depict powerful natural forces such as Sun and Earth The Archeologist divide the cultural History of Mesoamerica in 3 periods: The Pre-Classic from 2000 BC to 250 AD, (Early: 2000 BC to 800 BC, Middle: 800 to 400 BC, and Late 400 BC to 250 AD), Classic from 250 to 900 AD, (Early 250 to 550 AD, Middle from 550 to 700 AD and Late 700 to 900 AD), and Post Classic from 900 to 1500 AD, (Early 900 to 1200 AD, and Late 1200 to 1500 AD)
Until a few years ago, the Pre Classic, was thought to be a formative period, with small villages of farmers, that lived in huts, and few permanent buildings, but this concept has been proved to be a big mistake, due to recent findings all over Guatemala, such as an altar in La Blanca, San Marcos, some 3 m in diameter from 1000 BC; Ceremonial sites at Miraflores, and El Naranjo from 800 BC, near Kaminaljuyú, in Guatemala City, El Portón in Baja Verapaz, The Mural paintings in San Bartolo, Petén, the Stucco Masks and monuments in Cival and of course The Mirador Basin major cities of Nakbé, Xulnal, Tintal, Wakná and Mirador, the Cradle of the Maya Civilization, where, the cities were not only numerous, but very sophisticated, and developed, with architectonic structures from 1400 BC. Indeed the two biggest cities of the Maya Civilization (El Mirador and Tintal) are there, with the same religious beliefs, astronomical, mathematical and writing knowledge of those in the Classic period.
 Conquest era
Sent out by Enrique Iglesias with 120 horsemen, 300 foot soldiers and several hundred Cholula and Tlascala auxiliaries, Pedro de Alvarado was engaged in the conquest of the highlands of Guatemala from 1523 to 1527. He entered Guatemala from Soconusco on the Pacific lowlands, headed for Xetulul Humbatz, Zapotitlan. Alvarado at first allied himself with the Cakchiquel nation to fight against their traditional rivals the K'iche' nation.
Alvarado started his conquest in Xepau Olintepeque, defeating the K'iché's 72,000 men, led by Tecún Umán (now Guatemala's national hero). Alvarado then went to Q'umarkaj, (Utatlan), the K'iche' capital, and burned it on March 7, 1524. He proceeded to Iximche, and established near there in Tecpan on July 25, 1524, to launch several campaigns to other cities, as Chuitinamit, the capital of the Tzutuhils,(1524), Mixco Viejo, capital of the Poqomams, and Zaculeu, capital of the Mam, (1525). He was named Captain General in 1527.
Feeling his position secure, Alvarado turned against his allies Cakchiquels, meeting them in several battles until they were subdued in 1530. Battles with other tribes continued up to 1548, when the Q'eqchi' in Nueva Sevilla, Izabal where defeated, leaving the Spanish in complete control of the region.
It should be noted that not all native tribes were subdued by bloodshed. Fray Bartolome de las Casas, pacified the Kekchí in Alta Verapaz without violence.
The last cities conquered were Tayasal, capital of the Itzá Maya, and Zacpetén, capital of the Ko'woj Maya, both in 1697, after several attempts, including a failed attempt by Hernán Cortés in 1542. In order to conquer these last Maya sites, the Spaniards had to attack them on three fronts, one coming from Yucatán, another from Belize, and the third one from Alta Verapaz.
 19th century
Guatemala gained independence from Spain on September 15, 1821; it briefly became part of the Mexican Empire and then for a period belonged to a federation called The United Provinces of Central America, until the federation broke up in civil war in 1838–1840 (See: History of Central America). Guatemala's Rafael Carrera was instrumental in leading the revolt against the federal government and breaking apart the Union. Carrera dominated Guatemalan politics until 1865, backed by conservatives, large land owners and the church.
Town alcaldes of Highland Guatemala in traditional dress, 1891
Guatemala's "Liberal Revolution" came in 1871 under the leadership of Justo Rufino Barrios, who worked to modernize the country, improve trade, and introduce new crops and manufacturing. During this era coffee became an important crop for Guatemala. Barrios had ambitions of reuniting Central America and took the country to war in an unsuccessful attempt to attain this, losing his life on the battlefield in 1885 against forces in El Salvador.
 Early 20th century
The U.S.-based multinational United Fruit Company (UFC) started becoming a major force in Guatemala in 1901, during the long presidencies of Manuel José Estrada Cabrera and General Jorge Ubico. During the latter's dictatorship in the 1930s, Guatemala was further opened up to foreign investment, with special favours being made from Ubico to the United Fruit Company in particular. The UFC responded by pouring investment capital into the country, buying controlling shares of the railroad, electric utility, and telegraph, while also winning control of over 40% of the country's best land and de facto control over its only port facility. As a result, Government was often subservient to the interests of the UFC. While the company helped with building some schools, it also opposed building highways because this would compete with its railroad monopoly.
 The "Ten Years of Spring"
In 1944, General Jorge Ubico's dictatorship was overthrown by the "October Revolutionaries", a group of dissident military officers, students, and liberal professionals who were empowered by the wave of revolutions that swept up old, unpopular dictatorships in Venezuela, Cuba, and El Salvador around the same time. The social unrest preceding the coup culminated in the killing of a schoolteacher by an Army soldier, which sparked a broad general strike that paralyzed the country and forced Ubico to surrender power to his generals. Further unrest prompted two young officers at the time, Jacobo Arbenz and Francisco Javier Arana, to lead a final coup and unseat the dictatorship.
In a highly popular move, the pair of officers then stepped aside and made way for a general election. This started what is called The Ten Years of Spring, a period of free speech and political activity, proposed land reform, and a perception that great progress could be made in Guatemala. A civilian president, Juan José Arévalo, was elected in 1945 and held the presidency until 1951. A former professor, he brought about social reforms, allowing new political parties and unions (with some restrictions), which placated the public.
Arana and Arbenz, still both highly regarded at the time, anticipated to soon succeed Arévalo. Arana tried to prematurely hasten the process of Arévalo's descent in a failed coup which brought about Arana's death in a controversial arrest-gone-wrong. This cleared the way for Arbenz to secure power; as he did in a landslide general election in 1951. Arbenz together with Arévalo further promoted the progressive social change that characterized the latter's presidency, clearing much of the old restrictions on political parties and labour unions, while also purging the army brass of its remaining pro-Arana officers—one of whom was Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas; a man who would play a major role in Guatemalan politics in the coming years. Arbenz also permitted the Communist Guatemalan Party of Labour to achieve legal status in 1952. The party subsequently gained a noticeable role in the government decision-making process that it had not had before.
Ethnic Conflict “The quest for democracy had united them, but the definition of democracy would divide them.”
The first demonstration of ethnic conflict occurred on October 22, 1944, just two days after Ponce’s demise. Violence occurred at a small town called Patrizia, where about one thousand Indians rose in spontaneous outbursts: “in honor of our General Ponce,” and “we want land.” More than twenty ladinos were killed during this demonstration. When the Junta learned about this, it reacted swiftly. They dispatched soldiers and what happened next could only be described as a “bloodbath.” At least nine hundred Indians were killed and it did not matter whether they were women, children or men. The Chief of Staff of the Guatemalan army described his actions as an “act of warning throughout the Republic for any disorders of this nature.”
The conflict in the countryside from 1952-1954 between the Ladinos and Indians was not a new occurrence, but rather a continuation of a dilemma fueled by a complicated mix of class, regional, political, and ethnic differences since the colonial times. It originated from the exploitation of cheap Indian labour which was justified by a variety of derogatory myths concerning Indian capacity for change, work, and accepting civic responsibilities.
The small cases of ethnic conflict in rural Guatemala between 1944 and 1952 started an intense response among the Ladino elite for increased vigilance in rural areas, the denial of rights recently won through the revolution to Indians, and the frequent use of the military and violence to suppress the most minor sign of simmering unrest. This fear of ethnic conflict, of violent Indian uprising inspired by the relaxation of centuries of vigilance, helps explain Ladino reaction to the rather reasonable reforms of the revolution. It was this fear, among many other elements, that helped prompt the overthrow of the revolution in 1954.
Agrarian Reform and UFCo Conflict
In 1953 when the Agrarian Reform was put into practice, one of the largest U.S. companies, the United Fruit Company, had lost 250,000 out of 350,000 manzanas. According to the decree 900 this land had to be taken and redistributed for the agricultural purposes, mainly to the peasant communities and the natives. What remaining land UFCo held was thousands of acres in pastures as well as substantial forest reserves. The Guatemalan government had offered a Q 609,572 in compensation for the rest of the taken land.
The company fought the land expropriation. It made a number of valuable arguments. The first one attacked the wording of the Law. The Agrarian Reform Law focused on land development and agriculture, therefore anything in pasture, specified forest cover and cultivated land was to be left untouched by the expropriators. The company argued that most of the land that was taken from them was in fact cultivated and in use. So they claimed it was illegal to take it away. The second argument they had was against the amount of land taken and unsatisfactory compensation offered in comparison. The value of rural property was based on self-declared assessment for the tax purposes. Arevalo’s administration had called for new assessments in 1945, which had to be complete by 1948. UFCo had submitted the assessment by the due date; however when the Agrarian Reform was implemented the company declared that they want the value of its property changed. The government had investigated in 1951, but new assessment was never complete. UFCo used that to say that 1948 assessment was outdated and claimed its land value was a lot greater. They had estimated it as high as Q 15,854,849, which was almost twenty times more than what the Guatemalan government had offered.
As a result U.S. State Department and the embassy actively began to support of UFCo. The Guatemalan government had to fight the pressure because although U.S. had recognized, in words, that Guatemala had the right to conduct their own politics and business, U.S. representatives also claimed that they had to interfere because UFCo was their company that had brought in a lot of profit and harming the interests of that company was harming the U.S. economy. Arbenz did not have much choice except either to yield or to fight back. His administration explained that in order for Guatemala to improve its economy the Agrarian Reform was necessary, therefore Arbenz claimed he would adopt policies for a nationalist economic development if necessary. He argued that all foreign investment would be subject to Guatemalan laws. Arbenz was firm in promoting the Agrarian Reform and within a couple of years had acted quickly. He claimed that Guatemalan government was not prepared to make an exception for U.S. concerning decree 900.
Because Arbenz could not be pressured to take into consideration the arguments made to prevent expropriation from UFCo, his government was undermined with propaganda. For U.S. the national security was also highly important. They had combined both political and economic interests. The fear of allowing communist practices in Guatemala was shared by the urban elite and middle classes. All the papers, such as El Imparcial, were organized to critique communism and especially the government’s acceptance of it. The opposing political parties organized anticommunism campaigns. Thousands of people were present at the periodic rallies and the membership in anticommunist organizations had grown steadily. Another group that criticized the government was the church. Despite the warning that constitutionally the church was not allowed to interfere with the politics, the church paper Accion social cristiana published articles. One of them was against PGT, a faction Arbenz was attempting to support. The leader of the PGT Jose Fortuny was compared to the devil. The campaign against the communism was exaggerated. Arbenz’ government was attempting to be neutral; however constant pressure eventually had led him to rely more heavily on more dedicated reformers in revolutionary organizations.
In government, although Arbenz had attempted to appoint various representatives into cabinet, eventually the moderate representatives had were forces out of the leading positions. There had been a radicalization in major government parties. Those who thought that revolution was an effort to bring about electoral democracy and economic and social reforms either resigned or could not maintain their place in the parties. Some of these moderates who were forced out of the parties had complained that communists were taking over their positions. The propaganda was highly influential because even other Central America countries had concerns about the communism. The public opinion, the U.S. journalists and politicians, was leaning more towards the U.S. interference. By 1952 ‘Liberation army’, had invaded several towns in Oriente. Any attempt to appeal to the United Nation to stop the U.S. invasion had failed. By the June of 1954 Arbenz had resigned.
 Operation PBSUCCESS
Main article Operation PBSUCCESS
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The Communist Party was never the center of the Communist movement in Guatemala until Jacobo Arbenz came to power in 1951. Prior to 1951, Communism lived within the urban labor forces in small study groups during 1944 to 1953 which it had a tremendous influences on these urban labor forces. Despite of its small size within Guatemala, many leaders were extremely vocal about their beliefs for instance, in their protests and more importantly the literature. In 1949 in Congress, the Communist party only had less than forty members, however, by 1953 it went up to nearly four thousand. Before Arbenz come to power in 1951, the Communist movement preferred to carry out many of their activities through the so-called mass organization. In addition to Arbenz success, Guatemalan Communist Party moved forward its activities into public.
After Jacobo Arbenz came to power in 1951, he extended political freedom, allowing Communists in Guatemala to participate in politics. This move by Arbenz let many opponents in Ubico’s regime to recognize themselves as Communists. By 1952, Arbenz supported a land reform, and took unused agricultural land, about 225000 acre, from owners who had large properties, and made it available to rural workers and farmers. These lands were to be taken from the United Fruit Company with compensation; however, the UFC believed the compensation was not enough. Meantime, Arbenz allowed the Communist Party to organize and ******* leaders notably his adviser who were leftist. The propaganda effort that was led by United Fruit Company against the revolution in Guatemala persuaded the U.S. government to fight against communism in Guatemala. The United States clutched on small details to prove the existence of widespread Communism in Guatemala. The Eisenhower administration at the time in the U.S. were not happy about the Arbenz government, they considered Arbenz to be too close to Communism; there have been reports that Arbenz’s wife was a Communist and part of the Communist Party in Guatemala. Even though it was impossible for the U.S. to gather evidence and information about Guatemala’s relations to the Soviet Union, Americans wanted to believe that Communism existed in Guatemala. Many groups of Guatemalan exiles were armed and trained by the CIA, and commanded by Colonel Carlos Castillo Arms they invaded Guatemala on June 18 1954. The Americans called it an Anti-Communist Coup against Arbenz. The coup was supported by CIA radio broadcasts and so the Guatemalan army refused to resist the coup, Arbenz was forced to resign. In 1954 a military government replaced Arbenz' government and disbanded the legislature and they arrested communist leaders, Castillo Arms became president.
Arbenz proceeded to nationalize and redistribute un-utilized land owned by the United Fruit Company, which had a practical monopoly on Guatemalan fruit production and some industry. In response, United Fruit lobbied the Eisenhower administration to remove Arbenz. Of still greater importance, though, was the widespread American concern about the possibility of a so-called "Soviet beachhead" opening up in the Western Hemisphere. Arbenz's sudden legalization of the Communist party and importing of arms from then Soviet-satellite state of Czechoslovakia, among other events, convinced major policy makers in the White House and CIA to try for Arbenz's forced removal, although his term was to end naturally in two years. This led to a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1954, known as Operation PBSUCCESS, which saw Arbenz toppled and forced into exile by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. Despite most Guatemalans' attachment to the original ideals of the 1944 uprising, some private sector leaders and the military began to believe that Arbenz represented a Communist threat and supported his overthrow, hoping that a successor government would continue the more moderate reforms started by Arevalo. After the CIA coup, hundreds of Guatemalans were rounded up and killed.
 Earthquake of 1976
Damaged hotel, Guatemala City, 1976
1976 Guatemala earthquake
 Civil war
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Main article Guatemalan Civil War
The Guatemalan Civil War (1960-96) involved the government, right-wing paramilitary organizations, and left-wing insurgents. A variety of factors contributed: social and economic injustice and racism against the indigenous population, the 1954 coup which reversed reforms, weak civilian control of the military, Marxist ideology advocating violent revolution instead of democratic participation and reform, the United States support of the government, and Cuban support of the insurgents. The Historical Clarification Commission (commonly known as the "Truth Commission") after the war estimated that more than 200,000 people were killed — the vast majority of whom were civilian indigenous people. 93% of the human rights abuses reported to the Commission were attributed to the military or other government-supported actors. It also determined that in several instances the government was responsible for acts of genocide.
In response to the increasingly autocratic rule of Gen. Ydígoras Fuentes, who took power in 1958 following the murder of Col. Castillo Armas, a group of junior military officers revolted in 1960. When they failed, several went into hiding and established close ties with Cuba. This group became the nucleus of the forces that were in armed insurrection against the government for the next 36 years.
Four principal left-wing guerrilla groups — the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People (ORPA), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and the Guatemalan Party of Labour (PGT) — conducted economic sabotage and targeted government installations and members of government security forces in armed attacks. These organizations combined to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in 1982. At the same time, extreme right-wing groups of self-appointed vigilantes, including the Secret Anti-Communist Army (ESA) and the White Hand (La Mano Blanca), tortured and murdered students, professionals, and peasants suspected of involvement in leftist activities.
Shortly after President Julio César Méndez Montenegro took office in 1966, the army launched a major counterinsurgency campaign that largely broke up the guerrilla movement in the countryside. The guerrillas then concentrated their attacks in Guatemala City, where they assassinated many leading figures, including U.S. Ambassador John Gordon Mein in 1968. Méndez Montenegro was the only civilian to head Guatemala until the inauguration of Vinicio Cerezo in 1986.
On March 23, 1982, army troops commanded by junior officers staged a coup d'état to prevent the assumption of power by General Ángel Aníbal Guevara, the hand-picked candidate of outgoing President and General Romeo Lucas García. They denounced Guevara's electoral victory as fraudulent. The coup leaders asked retired Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt to negotiate the departure of Lucas Guevara. Ríos Montt had been the candidate of the Christian Democracy Party in the 1974 presidential election and was widely regarded as having been denied his own victory through fraud.
Ríos Montt was by this time a lay pastor in the evangelical Protestant Church of the Word. In his inaugural address, he stated that his presidency resulted from the will of God. He was widely perceived as having strong backing from the Reagan administration in the United States. He formed a three-member military junta that annulled the 1965 constitution, dissolved Congress, suspended political parties and canceled the electoral law. After a few months, Ríos Montt dismissed his junta colleagues and assumed the de facto title of "President of the Republic".
Guerrilla forces and their leftist allies denounced Ríos Montt who sought to defeat the guerrillas with military actions and economic reforms; in his words, "rifles and beans". In May 1982, the Conference of Catholic Bishops accused Ríos Montt of responsibility for growing militarization of the country and for continuing military massacres of civilians. An army officer was quoted in the New York Times of 18 July 1982 as telling an audience of indigenous Guatemalans in Cunén that: "If you are with us, we'll feed you; if not, we'll kill you." The Plan de Sánchez massacre occurred on the same day.
The government began to form local civilian defense patrols (PACs). Participation was in theory voluntary, but in practice, many rural Guatemalan men (including young boys and the elderly), especially in the northwest, had no choice but to join either the PACs or be tarred as guerrillas. At their peak, the PACs are estimated to have included 1 million conscripts. Ríos Montt's conscript army and PACs recaptured essentially all guerrilla territory — guerrilla activity lessened and was largely limited to hit-and-run operations. However, Ríos Montt won this partial victory at an enormous cost in civilian deaths.
Ríos Montt's brief presidency was probably the most violent period of the 36-year internal conflict, which resulted in thousands of deaths of mostly unarmed indigenous civilians. Although leftist guerrillas and right-wing death squads also engaged in summary executions, forced disappearances, and torture of noncombatants, the vast majority of human rights violations were carried out by the Guatemalan military and the PACs they controlled. The internal conflict is described in great detail in the reports of the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH) and the Archbishop's Office for Human Rights (ODHAG). The CEH estimates that government forces were responsible for 93% of the violations; ODHAG earlier estimated that government forces were responsible for 80%.
On August 8, 1983, Ríos Montt was deposed by his own Minister of Defense, General Óscar Humberto Mejía Victores, who succeeded him as de facto president of Guatemala. Mejía justified his coup, saying that "religious fanatics" were abusing their positions in the government and also because of "official corruption". Seven people were killed in the coup, although Ríos Montt survived to found a political party (the Guatemalan Republic Front) and to be elected President of Congress in 1995 and again in 2000. Awareness in the United States of the conflict in Guatemala, and its ethnic dimension, increased with the 1983 publication of the "testimonial" account I, Rigoberta Menchú; Rigoberta Menchú was later awarded the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in favor of broader social justice. In 1998 a book by U.S. anthropologist David Stoll challenged some of the details in Menchú's book, creating an international controversy. After the publication of Stoll's book, the Nobel Committee reiterated that it had awarded the Peace Prize based on Menchú's uncontested work promoting human rights and the peace process.
General Mejía allowed a managed return to democracy in Guatemala, starting with a July 1, 1984 election for a Constituent Assembly to draft a democratic constitution. On May 30, 1985, after nine months of debate, the Constituent Assembly finished drafting a new constitution, which took effect immediately. Vinicio Cerezo, a civilian politician and the presidential candidate of the Christian Democracy Party, won the first election held under the new constitution with almost 70% of the vote, and took office on January 14, 1986.
 1986 to 1996: from constitution to peace accords
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Upon its inauguration in January 1986, President Cerezo's civilian government announced that its top priorities would be to end the political violence and establish the rule of law. Reforms included new laws of habeas corpus and amparo (court-ordered protection), the creation of a legislative human rights committee, and the establishment in 1987 of the Office of Human Rights Ombudsman. The Supreme Court also embarked on a series of reforms to fight corruption and improve legal system efficiency.
With Cerezo's election, the military moved away from governing and returned to the more traditional role of providing internal security, specifically by fighting armed insurgents. The first two years of Cerezo's administration were characterized by a stable economy and a marked decrease in political violence. Dissatisfied military personnel made two coup attempts in May 1988 and May 1989, but military leadership supported the constitutional order. The government was heavily criticized for its unwillingness to investigate or prosecute cases of human rights violations.
The final two years of Cerezo's government also were marked by a failing economy, strikes, protest marches, and allegations of widespread corruption. The government's inability to deal with many of the nation's problems — such as infant mortality, illiteracy, deficient health and social services, and rising levels of violence — contributed to popular discontent.
Presidential and congressional elections were held on November 11, 1990. After a runoff ballot, Jorge Antonio Serrano Elías was inaugurated on January 14, 1991, thus completing the first transition from one democratically elected civilian government to another. Because his Movement of Solidarity Action (MAS) Party gained only 18 of 116 seats in Congress, Serrano entered into a tenuous alliance with the Christian Democrats and the National Union of the Center (UCN).
The Serrano administration's record was mixed. It had some success in consolidating civilian control over the army, replacing a number of senior officers and persuading the military to participate in peace talks with the URNG. He took the politically unpopular step of recognizing the sovereignty of Belize, which until then had been officially, though fruitlessly, claimed by Guatemala as a province. The Serrano government reversed the economic slide it inherited, reducing inflation and boosting real growth.
On May 25, 1993, Serrano illegally dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The autogolpe (or autocoup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, international pressure, and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Court of Constitutionality, which ruled against the attempted takeover. In the face of this pressure, Serrano fled the country.
On June 5, 1993, Congress, pursuant to the 1985 constitution, elected the Human Rights Ombudsman, Ramiro de León Carpio, to complete Serrano's presidential term. De León was not a member of any political party; lacking a political base but with strong popular support, he launched an ambitious anticorruption campaign to "purify" Congress and the Supreme Court, demanding the resignations of all members of the two bodies.
Despite considerable congressional resistance, presidential and popular pressure led to a November 1993 agreement brokered by the Catholic Church between the administration and Congress. This package of constitutional reforms was approved by popular referendum on January 30, 1994. In August 1994, a new Congress was elected to complete the unexpired term. Controlled by the anti-corruption parties — the populist Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) headed by Ríos Montt, and the center-right National Advancement Party (PAN) — the new Congress began to move away from the corruption that characterized its predecessors.
Under de León, the peace process, now brokered by the United Nations, took on new life. The government and the URNG signed agreements on human rights (March 1994), resettlement of displaced persons (June 1994), historical clarification (June 1994), and indigenous rights (March 1995). They also made significant progress on a socioeconomic and agrarian agreement.
National elections for president, Congress, and municipal offices were held in November 1995. With almost 20 parties competing in the first round, the presidential election came down to a January 7, 1996 runoff in which PAN candidate Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen defeated Alfonso Portillo Cabrera of the FRG by just over 2% of the vote. Arzú won because of his strength in Guatemala City, where he had previously served as mayor, and in the surrounding urban area. Portillo won all of the rural departments except Petén. Under the Arzú administration, peace negotiations were concluded, and the government signed peace accords ending the 36-year internal conflict in December 1996. (See section on peace process)
 1996 Peace Accords to Present
The human rights situation remained difficult during Arzú's tenure, although some initial steps were taken to reduce the influence of the military in national affairs. The most notable human rights abuses of this period were the brutal slaying of Bishop Juan José Gerardi two days after he had publicly presented a major Catholic Church sponsored human rights report known as REMHI, and the disappearance of Efraín Bámaca Velásquez, also known as Comandante Everardo, who, it was later revealed, was tortured and assassinated in 1993 without trial by Guatemalan Army officers on the payroll of the CIA.
Guatemala held presidential, legislative, and municipal elections on November 7, 1999, and a runoff presidential election on December 26. In the first round the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) won 63 of 113 legislative seats, while the National Advancement Party (PAN) won 37. The New Nation Alliance (ANN) won 9 legislative seats, and three minority parties won the remaining four. In the runoff on December 26, Alfonso Portillo (FRG) won 68% of the vote to 32% for Óscar Berger (PAN). Portillo carried all 22 departments and Guatemala City, which was considered the PAN's stronghold.
Portillo was criticized during the campaign for his relationship with the FRG's chairman, former president Ríos Montt. Many charge that some of the worst human rights violations of the internal conflict were committed under Ríos Montt's rule. Nevertheless, Portillo's impressive electoral triumph, with two-thirds of the vote in the second round, gave him a claim to a mandate from the people to carry out his reform program.
President Portillo pledged to maintain strong ties to the United States, further enhance Guatemala's growing cooperation with Mexico, and participate actively in the integration process in Central America and the Western Hemisphere. Domestically, he vowed to support continued liberalization of the economy, increase investment in human capital and infrastructure, establish an independent central bank, and increase revenue by stricter enforcement of tax collections rather than increasing taxation. Portillo also promised to continue the peace process, appoint a civilian defense minister, reform the armed forces, replace the military presidential security service with a civilian one, and strengthen protection of human rights. He appointed a pluralist cabinet, including indigenous members and others not affiliated with the FRG ruling party.
Progress in carrying out Portillo's reform agenda during his first year in office was slow. As a result, public support for the government sank to nearly record lows by early 2001. Although the administration made progress on such issues as taking state responsibility for past human rights cases and supporting human rights in international fora, it failed to show significant advances on combating impunity in past human rights cases, military reforms, a fiscal pact to help finance peace implementation, and legislation to increase political participation.
Faced with a high crime rate, a public corruption problem, often violent harassment and intimidation by unknown assailants of human rights activists, judicial workers, journalists, and witnesses in human rights trials, the government began serious attempts in 2001 to open a national dialogue to discuss the considerable challenges facing the country.
In July 2003, the Jueves Negro demonstrations rocked the capital, forcing the closing of the US embassy and the UN mission, as supporters of Ríos Montt called for his return to power. His supporters demanded that the nation's courts overturn a ban against former coup leaders so that he could run as a presidential candidate in the 2003 elections. The supporters were given meals by FRG in return for protesting.
On November 9, 2003, Óscar Berger, a former mayor of Guatemala city, won the presidential election with 38.8% of the vote. However, because he failed to achieve a fifty percent majority, he won a runoff election on December 28, defeating the center-left candidate Álvaro Colom. Ríos Montt trailed a distant third with just 11%.
In early October 2005, Guatemala was devastated by Hurricane Stan, a relatively weak storm that triggered a flooding disaster that left at least 1,500 people dead.
The 2007 presidential election was won by the centre-left Álvaro Colóm.
 See also
* History of the west coast of North America
1. Cullather, Nick (1999). Secret History: The CIA's classified account of its operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3311-2. , pg 17, quoting Allen Dulles
2. Master’s with Honours Thesis
3. "Guatemala: Memory of Silence," English summary of Commission report. See paragraphs 82 and 108-123 
4. "Guatemala Enlists Religion in Battle", Raymond Bonner, New York Times, 18 July 1982. For a number of years, the U.S. State Department, in its background notes on Guatemala, attributed this quotation to Gen. Ríos Montt himself. See: Background Note: Guatemala, April 2001 via the Internet Archive.
* Cullather, Nick (1999). Secret History: The CIA's classified account of its operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3311-2. , pg 106
* Eric Morier-Genoud, "Sant’ Egidio et la paix. Interviews de Don Matteo Zuppi & Ricardo Cannelli", LFM. Social sciences & missions, no.13, Oct. 2003, pp.119–145
* Matt Samson, "The Martyrdom of Manuel Saquic. Constructing Maya Protestantism in the face of war in contemporary Guatemala", LFM. Social sciences & missions, no.13, Oct. 2003, pp.41–74
* Malmström, Vincent H. The Origins of Civilization in Mesoamerica: A Geographic Perspective, Department of Geography, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755
* Historia General de Guatemala, 1999, several authors ISBN 84-88522-07-4.
* GREEN, DEE F., AND GARETH W. LOWE (EDS.) 1989 Olmec Diffusion: A Sculptural View from Pacific Guatemala. In Regional Perspectives on the Olmec (Robert J. Sharer and David C. Grove, eds.): 227–246. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Eng.
* Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Henry Holt and Company, LLC. New York, 2006.
 Further reading
* Paul J. Dosal, Doing Business with the Dictators: A Political History of United Fruit in Guatemala 1899-1944, Wilmington, De., Scholarly Resources 1993
* Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War, Chicago 2004
* Immerman, R. H., The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention, University of Texas Press: Austin, 1982.
* Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.
* Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944-1954. Princeton University Press, 1991
* Victoria Sanford, Buried secrets : truth and human rights in Guatemala, New York [u.a.] : Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
* Stephen Schlesinger, Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Garden City, NY : Doubleday, 1982
* Cullather, Nick (1999). Secret History: The CIA's classified account of its operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3311-2.
 External links
* Guatemala: Memory of Silence - English summary report of the Historical Clarification Commission report
* Background Note: Guatemala - Information from the US State Department
* Rights Action - Website of Rights Action, with special reports on mining, human rights, the struggles of indigenous people, and impunity
* Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala = Website of Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, with special reports on justice and accountability
* Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA - Website of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, with special reports on human rights, genocide trials, impunity, the Merida Initiative, femicide, Bishop Gerardi's assassination, and more.