Guatemala: 25 Years of Peace Accords, 25 Years of Neoliberalism

Ollantay Itzamná peasant women harvesting sesame seeds. OI

In the Christmas atmosphere, and the day after the feast of the “Holy Innocents”, the groups that took up arms in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) and the Creole State of Guatemala, after 36 years of “internal war”, signed the firm and lasting Peace Agreements. It was December 29, 1996.

There were twelve elements of this political commitment. Of these, perhaps the tenth, the one referring to the recognition of the URNG as a political subject, is the most important. Everything else, including the “shrinking” of the Army, access to land for peasants, the fight against racism, more taxes for the State, etc., are currently in a worse situation, both statistically and in daily life, than what happened in the 90s of the last century.

Just to mention some hard data: At the time of the signing of the Peace Accords, more than 50% of the country’s population was living in poverty. By 2018, according to the Ministry of Social Development, more than 61% of Guatemalans were in multidimensional poverty. Currently, Guatemala is a continental champion of children suffering from malnutrition. housing. OI

It is true that thanks to the Peace Accords the Army no longer “parades publicly” in the streets. But, with the Peace Accords the private security industry had a historic growth in the maelstrom of violence in the country. And this private security industry is monopolized by retired military personnel. Security became a lucrative privatized business.

Almost all of the country’s major cities consume corn from Mexico, suspected to be contaminated with the carcinogen glyphosate. At present, all arable land in the country is monopolized for monocultures. Even land provided by the Land Fund, under free market rules, is rented for monoculture African palm plantations. In the 1990s, at least the cities consumed food-safe corn tortillas because peasants had access to land to rent and cultivate.

As for the promise of expanded tax collection, the most whitewashed and nefarious stories of corruption by evasion and theft of the few taxes were written in the last decade. The country survives thanks to the economic remittances sent by nearly 3 million Guatemalans expelled after the signing of the Peace Accords. Before the pandemic, remittances represented about 17% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. In 2021, remittances grew by more than 34% compared to 2020.

Corporate state violence persists today. The difference is that there are no longer armed political/military groups to repel such violence. No government in the post Peace Accords era governed without resorting to the use of the “State of Siege or State of Exception” mechanism! The persecution, criminalization and selective assassination of human rights and Mother Earth defenders was and is a constant in the bicentennial Republic that signed and promised peace and bread for its impoverished population. take to the roads demanding the Popular and Plurinational Constituent Assembly process. OI

The successful implementation of the neoliberal political economic system is a correlate of the signing of the Peace Accords. Those who promoted and signed the Peace Accords knew that they were signing statutes for the implementation of the neoliberal messianic proposal.

Perhaps for this reason, the contents of the 12 agreements do not refer, not even remotely, to the ideas of deep and urgent structural changes in the country such as: plurinationality, participatory democracy, Buen Vivir, land redistribution/economic democratization, socio-political rights of the peoples and the rights of Mother Earth, among others.

But, as nothing happens outside of Goodness, neoliberalism, as a correlate of the implementation of the Peace Accords, activated and activated processes of fertile and transformative community resistance, even outside and beyond the theoretical/ideological framework of the Peace Accords.

25 years after the signing of the Peace Accords, peasant communities, indigenous peoples, urban collectives and excluded social sectors, within and from their own dynamics of collective resistance processes, are raising and promoting the urgent need for a Popular and Plurinational Constituent Assembly process to make structural changes in the country, create a Plurinational State, and move towards Buen Vivir, moving beyond the framework of modernity. on their way to the North. Internet

These collective actors, with their proposals, emerge outside the constellations of institutional political subjects that emerged with the Peace Accords (such as URNG, WINAQ). Not because they felt “betrayed” by the signatories of the Peace Accords, but simply because their historically postponed demands were not part of the contents of the Peace Accords.

The political promise of the “trickle down” or “trickle up” of the neoliberal banquet to the impoverished sectors never happened, nor will it happen in Guatemala, or anywhere else in the world. Consequently, plurinational structural changes driven and energized by the peoples and communities that bear the burden of exclusion and neoliberal plundering are urgent.

The pandemic has not yet silenced us. Let us continue to cultivate ideas from our gardens.

Translation by Internationalist 360°