Of Centaurs and Doves: Guatemala's Peace Process

Of Centaurs and Doves: Guatemala's Peace Process

Of Centaurs and Doves: Guatemala's Peace Process

Of Centaurs and Doves: Guatemala's Peace Process


In this, the first book-length account of the historic signing of the Guatemalan peace accords in December 1996, Susanne Jonas assesses the content of the accords & their significance-for Guatemala, for Central America & Latin America over the long run, & for the Americas as a whole, including U.S.-Latin American relations. A sequel to The Battle for Guatemala, Of Centaurs & Doves picks up as the peace negotiations were beginning in Guatemala-after thirty years of civil war. Jonas describes the key moments & turning points in the peace process as well as the roles of the major domestic & international players, including the United Nations & the Assembly of Civil Society. Also examined are the accords themselves-their strengths & limitations-& the significance & implication of the accords for the western hemisphere. Because Of Centaurs & Doves extends its implications to the rest of Latin America, notably to Nicaragua, El Salvador, & the Southern Cone where transitions from military to civilian rule are also in process, it will attract Latin Americanists as well as Guatemala specialists. Contents: Prologue. Introduction. The Mined Road to Peace in Guatemala. Peace on What Terms? Dimensions of Democratization & the "De-Centauriazation" of Guatemala. The Stakes for Guatemala's Indigenous Majority. Was It Worth the Price? Dangerous Liaisons. "Peace Resisters": The Coming Battles for Implementation of the Accords & Future Prospects for Guatemala.


The peace process in Guatemala has the potential to become one of the standard-setting achievements of the second half of the twentieth century, in the same class as the Camp David Agreement between Egypt and Israel, the peace settlement in Namibia, the Paris Accords on Cambodia, and the peaceful transitions that took place in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union. It is an ambitious attempt, by visionary Guatemalans and the international community as a whole, to end an ostensibly internal conflict that has torn country apart for almost two generations. This makes Susanne Jonas's book essential reading for anyone interested in the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the Guatemalan peace process will realize that potential. One of the fascinating things about Dr. Jonas's book is that it is published at a moment when the result still hangs in the balance. She has, as it were, written the first four acts of a five-act drama. Neither she nor her audience knows at the end whether Act V will be a tale of triumph or of tragedy.

As she herself observes, the first half of the book is imbued with the optimism generated by the signature in late 1996 of a package of agreements designed not only to end a thirty-six-year war but also to remove the causes of that war by transforming the Guatemalan polity. The second half, on the other hand, reflects the doubts, even pessimism, created by the difficulty of implementing those agreements and especially by the electorate's rejection in mid-1999 of the constitutional reforms they prescribe. The voter turnout in that referendum was only 18.5 percent, recalling the worst days of the pseudo-democracy that characterized the years of military rule.

But those who continue to strive to implement the peace agreements can take comfort from an observation by Machiavelli (in chapter VI of The Prince):

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a . . .

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