Guatemala IDP Figures Analysis

As of December 2014 IDMC estimates that there were at least 248,500 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Guatemala.


This figure includes 242,000 IDPs who were displaced during the civil conflict. This specific number is based upon estimates published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 1997.  Since then, updated figures on internal displacement have not been gathered at the country level.  

The government pledged to address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of IDPs within its general anti-poverty interventions. However, at the end of 2007 the government had not agreed on criteria to include IDPs in a national reparation programme and it is unclear how many people can still be considered as displaced, if any.

The total figure, however, does not take into account organized groups of displaced people, nor it includes disaster-induced displacement figure, which as of December 2013 was of 93 IDPs who were displaced by an earthquake.

Displacement is a result of the conflict that opposed the government and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity armed group. Between 1981 and 1983 when violence reached its most critical stage, the Guatemalan government launched operations tierra arrasada (“obliterated earth”), which meant to massacre entire communities in order to eliminate potential cooperation between the armed groups and their social base. As a consequence massive displacements occurred. The conflict towards 1997, after the signature of several peace agreements, and left between 500,000 and 1.5 million people displaced, most of them indigenous.

Many of the country’s IDPs have returned or resettled in areas where they live under similar conditions as before they were displaced. Many face extreme poverty and marginalisation.

In addition, there is evidence of new displacement caused by organized crime, street gangs and maras, as well as other territorial conflicts associated with illegal resources exploitation and land appropriation. Although there are no official figures about these new displacements, there is evidence of forced evictions carried out in 2011.

Furthermore, drug trafficking organisations and gangs seeking strategic territory in order to extract palm oil and smuggle merchandise through the border, forcibly displaced 470 families from Peten. In total, the press reported that 350 families have been displaced by violence.

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.