After a long and tough journey we decided to exchange our weapons for the land and livelihood that was taken from us during the civil war. We can now show the world who we really are, how we think, and why we live this model of life.We hope that while you spend time with us in our community, you can gain the understanding, sensitivity and significance of the thirty six year armed resistance we endured and the lessons that we learned from that conflict.
To get a better understanding of the historical origins of the revolutionary movement in Guatemala, we need to consider the important moments that shaped the different guerrilla groups. The first important moment was the founding of the left in Guatemala, expressed basically in the formation of the Communist Party (PCG) in 1923, this came about as a result of the struggle of railway workers and mutual organizations that formed autonomous unions. From then on the political dynamic that the PCG followed was marked by conflicting relations with different governments, and the persecution of its leaders. In particular, the confrontation worsened during the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico, where between December 1931 and January 1932 communist leaders were jailed and condemned to death. This resulted in the disappearance of the first communist party in Guatemala.
Ten years later, still in the context of action against the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico, another movement emerged that was different in composition from that of the 1920s, being composed mainly of youth, the working class, teachers, university students and women. This new movement emerged in 1944 with the withdrawal of dictator Ubico. Popular discontent and the forces of opposition to the regime came head to head with the Revolution of October 20, 1944. The revolutionary period from 1944 to 1954 was characterized by the establishment of a democratic government that provided political and civil liberties, such as freedom of association and the right of women to vote, as well as promoting literacy. These liberties had not been experiences in the history of Guatemala. Possibly, one of the main objectives of this period was ´´to promote individual land ownership … to favor the formation of the agricultural sector (Pinto Soria, 1944-1970).
The period between 1944 and 1954 was known as the Guatemalan ´´Ten Years of Spring´´. During this period the Guatemalan Revolution undertook profound changes in the structure of land-ownership under an agrarian reform law and Decree 900, which gave constitutional support, as well as the construction of hydroelectric facilities and infrastructure. This directly affected US capital, which had extended its hegemony in Latin America. This was one of the reasons that in 1954 the government of the United States, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), organized and promoted an invasion, termed a ´´liberation´´, by a mercenary army operating out of Honduras. The invasion was also supported by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the Guatemalan oligarchy. The final consequence was the forced resignation of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
With the US intervention in Guatemala, ten years of democratic government had come to an end and a period began that would be characterized by military regimes with the participation of the oligarchy and the persecution of revolutionary leaders, who, together with Presidents Arbenz Guzman, were obliged to leave the country in exile.
It is important to note that this period was largely due to the effort to halt the democratic process that countered the interest of the USA and its consolidation of hegemony over Latin America during and just after World War II, in the context of the Cold War, setting a precedent of US intervention in Latin American countries.
Closing political spaces with US intervention was one of the most important causes leading to the outbreak of insurgent struggle, together with historic causes of unequal economic relations based on exclusion and ´´racism as an ideological expression of colonization´´ (CHCG: Memory of Silence). There was an uprising in 1960 of young military officers with strong nationalist positions in opposition to the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes and the abuses and excesses of those who engineered the 1954 invasion. However, the main reason was the violation of national sovereignty by President Ydigoras when he authorized the use of a site called La Helvetia for the US military to train Miami based Cubans for a planned invasion of Cuba.
The upraising was known as the November 13th Revolutionary Movement and it notably involved military officers including Luis Augusto Turcios Lima, who would later be the first commander of the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR). Between 1960 and 1982, the country saw the emergence of a number of guerrilla units and fronts including the October 20 Detachment, FAR, FGEI, NORC, EGP, and ORPA. On February 7, 1982 the National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unit (URNG) was formed as part of a unifying process encouraged by the FAR and which initially incorporated the ORPA and the EGP and later the PGT.
In 1987, as Cetral American Presidents set the framework for peace talks, termed Esquipulas I and II, the government of Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo took the first steps toward initiating peace negotiations between the government and the URNG. In 1996, after an extended period of conflict, the War ended with the signing of the Peace Agreements between the URNG and the government of President Alvaro Arzu (1996-2000).
According to the report ´´Guatemala: Memory of Silence´´ of the Historic Clarification Commission (CEH) made public in 1999, the cost of the war as a product of a policy of counter-insurgency, expressed in military operations, massacres, scorched earth, forced disappearances, torture and sexual violence, left around 200,000 dead, 45,000 disappearance and between 500,000 and 1,500,000 internally and externally displaced people. Some 83% of the victims of these violations of human rights were of indigenous and peasant origin.