The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy

The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy

The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy

The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy

Synopsis

Guatemala has long been recognized as one of the countries suffering egregious violations of human rights. A principal actor has been the military, which has exercised effective control even during periods of formal civilian authority.In The Guatemalan Military Project, Jennifer Schirmer sheds light on the military's role in Guatemala through a series of extensive interviews striking in their brutal frankness and revealing of the character of the oppressors. High-ranking officers explain in their own words their thoughts and feelings regarding opposition, national security doctrine, democracy, human rights, and law. Additional interviews with congressional deputies, Guatemalan lawyers, journalists, social scientists, and even an ex-president give a full and vivid account of the Guatemalan power structure and ruling system.Successfully combining military, political, and cultural analysis with a serious treatment of legal and human rights considerations, this book will appeal to anyone interested in the conversion from war to peace in Latin America and around the world.

Excerpt

Our strategic goal has been to reverse Clausewitz’s philosophy of war to
state that in Guatemala, politics must be the continuation of war. But
that does not mean that we are abandoning war; we are fighting it from a
much broader horizon within a democratic framework. We may be reno
vating our methods of warfare but we are not abandoning them…. We
are continuing our [counterinsurgency] operations [against] interna
tional subversion because the Constitution demands it.

— General Héctor Alejandro Gramajo Morales, Minister of Defense

Statecrafting through political violence can take a variety of forms. in Guatemala, a democracy was “born” out of the womb of a counterinsurgency campaign in 1982 that killed an estimated 75,000, razed a proclaimed 440 villages, and displaced over one million refugees. “To achieve democracy, the country first needed to be at peace” (General Gramajo, interview; 1995: 193). By tracing the military’s ascendance to power by way of state violence through the eyes of Guatemalan officers themselves, this book serves as a window onto the internal workings and thinking of the most powerful, least researched, and least understood institution in Guatemala.

It has become axiomatic to say that the military has been a dominant actor in Guatemala for decades. Little, however, is known about its precise thinking and strategy. in this book, officers reveal in their own words their habits of mind regarding opposition, national security doctrine, democracy, human rights, and law. Interviews with fifty military officers (including six Defense Ministers and Heads of State), most of whom have played key roles in the recomposition of the State ideológically, militarily, and legally, reveal the thinking of the officer corps as a specific contemporary instance of an institution that has learned to play its electoral-Constitutional cards internationally while continuing to practice its sui generis counterinsurgency campaign domestically. Interviews with a former president, twelve congressional deputies, and more than thirty Guatemalan lawyers, journalists, and . . .

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