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1983 - Guatemalan Civil War


Title: 1983 - Guatemalan Civil War

About:  Following a military coup in 1982 that brought General Rios Montt to power, the most brutal period of a long-running civil war began.

Several hundred Indian villages were obliterated and their inhabitants, presumed to be guerrilla sympathizers, either killed or forced into exile.


Civil war had existed in Guatemala since the early 1960s due to economic  and political inequalities. A succession of military dictators had been trying to crush the guerrilla groups, but the most emblematic was General Efrain Rios Montt, who came to power in 1982 following a coup. 


Rios Montt pursued a “scorched earth” policy, which involved heavy bombing of areas known to be home to guerrillas and a ground campaign that led to a string of horrific massacres against the civilian population. Over the next three years, the army destroyed 626 villages, destroying and burning buildings and crops, slaughtering livestock, fouling water supplies and violating sacred places and cultural symbols.


The government’s goal was to depopulate areas where they believed the guerrillas received support, largely among the Mayan population. More than 200,000 people were killed or “disappeared”, while an additional 1.5 million were displaced.


When the army’s terror swept through the region, massacre survivors initially fled to wherever they could hide, often to the inhospitable surrounding mountains. Thousands fled across the border into Mexico, where many eventually were settled in United Nations refugee camps. Others who were unable to survive or captured were resettled in “model villages” that the army had constructed, sometimes on the ruins of a massacred village.


Through mandatory civil patrols, strict monitoring of mobility, food for work programs, and required “re-education” activities, the army attempted to bring the remaining population under its control.  


Thousands of people refused to submit to army control, but were unable or unwilling to go Mexico. They lived a semi-nomadic existence in the mountains. The army attacked them constantly, making no distinction between the armed guerrilla combatants in the area and the civilians, including women, children and the elderly.


Many people simply died from hunger and illness. Starting in 1982, these people banded together and organized new settlements, which became known as the Communities of Population in Resistance or CPR.

Decade: 1980s

Year: 1983

Region: Latin America

Country: Guatemala

Conflict: Civil War

Conflict: Cold War

Type: Historical Event

Impact: 2

Artist: Stefan Milosavljevic


Group: Genesis

Number: 83/100

Price: 0.2 ETH


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