A Shared History of Injustice: Central American Solidarity
“Nuestra historia es una historia viva.”-Rigoberta Menchú“Our history is a living history.”
On September 8th, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, spoke at the National University of El Salvador at the Central American Symposium for the Access to Justice for the Victims of Crimes Against Humanity. After the murder of her father in the Massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980 during the height of the Guatemalan Civil War, Rigoberta Menchú became a peaceful human rights activist. As a member of Guatemala’s Mayan Indigenous population, Menchú felt called to stand up against the military regime that carried out a genocide against her people.
The Guatemalan Civil War, like the armed conflict of El Salvador, took place during the Cold War era lasting 36 years (1960-1996). The military government that ordered death squads, forced disappearances, and massacres of rural, indigenous peoples was primarily backed by the United States government of the time. Over 200,000 people were killed in the Guatemalan civil war, of which 83% were of Mayan descent.
For years the press and international community ignored this conflict, , swept it under the rug, and all who were in the military at the time were given impunity. However, the 2000s have brought a greater sense of justice to Guatemala. General José Efraín Ríos Montt, de facto president during the height of the war, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on May 10th, 2013. However, following through with his sentence has been complicated. Many argue strongly against referring to the deaths during the civil war as a genocide, noting that only 5.5% of the Ixil Indigenous people were killed. “Given the army’s brutality, if the intention were to destroy the Ixil, it would have been relatively easy to kill more than 5.5%” commented Raquel Zelaya, a government signatory of the 1996 peace accords. Arguments such as this build some of the largest barriers in seeking any kind of real just reparations from this era in Guatemala’s history. Read More »