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State Violence In Guatemala, 1960-1996: A Quantitative Reflection

by Patrick Ball

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For more than four decades, the Guatemalan state has regulary used extra-judicial violence to maintain political control in a divided nation. Over time, state terror expanded in both intensity and in the scope of its victims, from selective assassinations of militants in the armed insurgency to an ever-widening attack on members of the political opposition. By the early 1980's, state forces were committing indiscriminate murder against civilians in rural Guatemala.

This report combines historical analysis with statistics from the CIIDH database to analyze the development of state violence in Guatemala from 1960-1996. Topics include how terror varied by presidential regime, by region of the country, by degree of selectivity, and by the gender, ethnicity and age of the victims. The report considers how the violence was reported in the press and thus understood at the time. It also analyzes the methods and agents of violence, including the State's use of civilians to attack other civilians, a policy which has contributed to the long-term militarization of Guatemalan society.

The report hopes to contribute tot he understanding of Guatemala's recently concluded armed conflict and to help establish institutional responsibility for grave human rights violations. The official recourse to violence has adversely affected both Guatemala's political system and the lives of hundreds of thousands of the country's citizens, the dead as well as the survivors.



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