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Coming to Terms with the Past: Remembering and Forgetting in Guatemala

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Rachel Sieder considers the role of ‘memory politics’ in Guatemala’s uncertain path to democracy as government and society attempt to come to terms with the brutality of the counter-insurgency war.

In Guatemala, as in other countries of Latin America, the political transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, and from war to peace, has involved a balancing act between truth and justice. Throughout the region during the last two decades, the balance has generally tipped in favour of the former, at the expense of the latter. Official attempts to deal with past violations of human rights that took place during the civil war of the 1980s and 1990s typically meant commissions of inquiry and the passing of amnesty laws, to provide immunity from prosecution for those responsible for such violations.

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