Bordered to the north by Mexico, to the northeast by Belize and the Gulf of Honduras, to the southeast by El Salvador and Honduras, and to the southwest by the Pacific Ocean, the Republic of Guatemala is situated at the heartland of Central America and is homeland of over 12 million people. Guatemala has been the scenario of a protracted 36-year civil war, including massacres and other war atrocities, pitting left-wing insurgents against military forces. Over 200,000 people, the majority of Mayan origin, were killed or disappeared, and about a million were forcibly displaced and one third of them crossed the border with Mexico in search of refuge during the course of the conflict. While the 1996 peace agreement produced a ceasefire and a fragile peace accord, all new forms of destabilization, structural violence and organised crime, gang activity and the drug trade, still plague civil society, perpetuating the vicious circle of organised violence.

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