Human Rights


Remembering the "disappeared". Unknown photographer.

The Comision de Esclarecimiento Historico (CEH) estimated in 250,000 the number of victims during the armed conflict (1961-1996), out of which 45,000 remain as “disappeared.” The victims were mostly rural Mayan villagers and non-combatants (about 83% of the total number of victims). Between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s more than 430 Mayan villages were destroyed, 667 massacres have be reported and over 1.5 million people were internally displaced, while 150,000 search for refuge across the border in Mexico. In certain areas, the Truth Commission considered that the Guatemalan state engaged in an intentional policy of genocide against particular ethnic groups.

Guate-HandsSmall Despite the official finding that the great majority of all atrocities had been committed by the security forces, moves to bring those responsible to justice started only after a long delay. Financial compensations have been given to some of the families of the civil war victims, but there is general discontent and impunity remains the norm.

Miquel Dewever-Plana. CAFCA.

Today, Guatemala is one of the most violent countries in the Americas. Last year only, almost 6,000 people were murdered in common crime or gang feuds. The 2006 murder rate was greater than the average number of Guatemalans killed each year as a result of the civil war. Some of the factors explaining the country’s violence are the growth of youth gangs, known as "maras", as well as the country’s judicial weakness and culture of impunity.

Guatemalans live in one of the most inequitable societies in the region. Poverty is particularly widespread in the countryside and among indigenous communities. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common with many of its neighbours, the country is plagued by organised crime, drug-trafficking and violent street gangs.

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