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War, Peace, and the Politics of Memory in Guatemala

Sieder, Rachel
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) In Nigel Biggar, ed., Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict. Expanded and updated. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Pp. 209-234.

In Latin America, as in other parts of the world, transitions from authoritarian and often repressive regimes to more democratic and open societies have occurred in a number of countries in the last decade or two. The transitions have often involved a balancing act between truth and justice, remarks Rachel Sieder. On the one hand, openly recovering and telling the truth about past injustices have been promoted as valuable processes for forward-looking reconciliation and healing. On the other hand, some have argued for legal accountability and punishment for those responsible for policies and practices that violated human rights. Guatemala has experienced this kind of dilemma in recent years. In this chapter, Sieder examines the Guatemalan situation. She maintains that “memory politicsâ€? must link to and foster other, broader social processes in Guatemala seeking to overcome the legacy of the authoritarian past. Specifically, she recounts the legacy of violence in Guatemala, efforts to negotiate accountability in the late 1980s and 1990s, the question of truth and justice, and memory politics and democratization.


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