Insurgencies during the Guatemalan Civil War
Guatemala is made up of 13 million people, the second largest country next to El Salvador in Central America. It has had a long history of violence, political instability, and foreign corporations exploiting the country’s natural and economic resources. There is a large gap in income between the rich and the poor. The indigenous Mayan Indians are the most impoverished people and yet make up the majority of the population. During the colonization period, the Spaniards colonized Guatemala. During this colonization, the indigenous people were being oppressed by the Spaniards. Being a Spanish colony, Guatemala was governed by wealthy landowners. The largest landowner and employer was the United Fruit Company. This company had the greatest influence on the country, which caused many problems because it accepted large tax breaks. The company also abused its power through politics that caused a coup that led to “an era of human rights violations against Guatemalans” (PBS Frontline World) The Guatemalan Civil War was the longest lasting civil war in Latin American history. It lasted for thirty-six years, starting in 1960 and ending in 1996. In 1944, the October Revolutionaries, which was a group of “rebellious military officers, students, and liberal professionals,” overthrew General Jorge Ubico’s dictatorship (U.S Department of State). In the next few years both Juan Jose Arevalo and Colonel Jacabo Arbenz, in succession, ran the country and created new political and social reforms. These reforms helped strengthen poor and urban workers at expense of the military and big landowners such as the United Fruit Company. Arbenz managed to confiscate 40 percent of the land from the United Fruit Company. The confiscation of the company’s land caused uproar during the Eisenhower administration because Eisenhower thought that this would translate into a communist government in Guatemala. In response, he supported the CIA’s secret operation to supply weapons and funding for paramilitary groups to oppose President Arbenz (PBS Frontline World). Then on July 2, 1954, a coup led by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, backed by the U.S, helped drive out Arbenz from office and seek refuge in Mexico (PBS Frontline World/ Guatemala Facts). The Guatemalan government refused to help Arbenz against the coup because they too supported the American attacks (U.S Department of State). Many of the people of Guatemala, specifically the Mayan people, were against the Guatemalan government because of the social and economic injustices and the discrimination towards them. The government ignored the rights of the indigenous working classes and the poor (Heifer International). Both of these classes wanted to have an equal chance in landownership and finance. Excluding Arbenz and Arevalo, most of the politicians and presidents were of European descent. Thus making them elitist however, a vast majority of the population were the indigenous people. The wealth and land were unfairly distributed throughout the country (PBS Frontline World). The European elites and military allies wanted to keep the wealth and land amongst the prosperous because it would mean control over the government. When Arbenz tried to redistribute the wealth and land fairly amongst the population, the European elites were upset and the US government intervenes. Thus, insurgencies ensued. Guatemalan guerilla groups fought for social and economic justice and to end discrimination against the indigenous people (Heifer International). Four major left-wing guerilla groups formed during the civil war, the Guerilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of Armed People, (ORPA) the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and the Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT), which later formed into the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity in 1982 (URNG). These groups organized “economic sabotage and targeted government installations and members of government security forces...
Cited: Turin, Dustin R. (2009). Causes for the Guatemalan Civil War as seen in Paradise in Ashes by Beatriz Manz. Student Pulse, 1.10.
"Educational~Civil War." San Lucas Mission
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