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31 December 2011
In 2011, little was known about the number and situation of people displaced by the long conflict between the government and insurgents grouped under the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca). During the conflict, the armed forces conducted a campaign of repression and terror against the Mayan indigenous population while fighting the insurgents. The conflict ended in 1996 and left between 500,000 and 1.5 million people, most of them indigenous, internally displaced across Guatemala, with many in the shanty towns of the capital Guatemala City.
No mechanisms were set up to monitor and facilitate access to durable solutions for IDPs, but in a context of widespread poverty and scarce economic opportunity, it is unlikely that IDPs have been able to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Since 2007, following a crackdown by the Mexican government against drug cartels there, the cartels have reportedly increased their operations and levels of violence in Guatemala. In May 2011, the Zetas cartel killed 27 cattle ranch workers there. Drug cartel and gang violence have reportedly caused displacement, but no new information or figures were available in 2011. The new president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, has stated that the government will tackle illegal drug gangs head on. Meanwhile, as in previous years, it is believed that people have been forced to flee from poor urban neighbourhoods controlled by gangs, who extort money from families.
Violence has increased in the context of the government’s inability to build strong institutions since the transition to peace in 1996. The UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, established in 2007 to help the country fight crime, corruption and impunity, continued implementing its mandate in 2011. The possibility that Efraín Ríos Montt, the dictator under whose leadership the worst atrocities were committed, would be prosecuted after his parliamentary immunity runs out in 2012 gave indigenous communities hope of progress in addressing the prevailing impunity.
Structural inequality, restricted political participation and discriminatory state policies are at the core of Guatemala’s challenges today as they were 50 years ago when its war started. 14 years have passed since the signing of the peace accord which marked the end of the country’s conflict and promised durable solutions for those people displaced.
No profiling exercise has established the number or specific needs of internally displaced people (IDPs), and the government chose to address their needs within general (and generally ineffective) anti-poverty measures. In 2009, any effort to estimate the number of IDPs based on existing figures would be unreliable. What is clear is that the indigenous Maya population and rural peasants were more affected by displacement, and both are still disproportionately affected by extreme poverty and marginalisation.(...)
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8 December 2009