It is known that Guatemala was involved in the Civil war for over thirty years. It is impossible to count the total number of casualties. According to the statistical and historical data, the approximate number of deaths varies from 100,000 to 200,000 people who were killed or disappeared. Hundreds of thousands of local population became refugees. Mayan Indians became the victims of the war.
The movie which is called When the Mountains Tremble touches upon the theme of war and social revolution in Guatemala. It is considered to be a persuasive documentary because it represents the details of these war actions in Guatemala including the struggle of the Indian peasantry against the state and foreign oppression. There are a lot of interviews and video episodes which tell about the sufferings of people during the brutal thirty six years of the war. As most of the Mayan Indians were illiterate they could tell a lot about war actions but they could not write. Many people who lived in Guatemala had no chance to talk about their horrible experiences- cruelty, violation of human rights and tortures. The government of Guatemala failed to protect the citizens of the country from oppression. The legal system had no appropriate rules in Constitution which would guarantee freedom.
A great deal of important information concerning this period of history of Guatemala can be found in the book A Brief History of Central America written by Hector Perez-Brignoly.
Guatemala is considered to be the most populous country in Central America. Unfortunately, there is no social justice for the indigenous Mayan Indians who compose about 6 million people. There is a big gap between the rich and the poor. The real power in Guatemala belongs to the Army which violently control all the people who live in Guatemala. The longest and the most brutal Civil war caused great damages to the population. It is known that the US government gave support to the Army in Guatemala and those who were at the head of the state. The country’s leaders were military dictators who oppressed the people of Guatemala. In the book A Brief History of Central America one can find all the details of the events which took place in the country. According to the historical facts which can be found in the above mentioned book, it is clear that repressive governments tortured Guatemala throughout its long history. A well known dictator Jorqe Ubico who was at the head of the country from 1931 to 1944 had control of about 43% of the lands. People lived in poverty. The major enterprises were American-owned. Later on in 1980 there was a time of massacre of Indian population. The dictators elected in Guatemala were supported by the USA. General Rios Montt was the most savage dictator in the history of Guatemala. He took the position in 1982. He had his program Beans and Rifles which had the main goal ”“ to evict all the guerrillas out of Indian villages. Beans were for those who took an active part in this action and rifles were for those who did not want to help the dictator. It was declared on TV that Guatemala was the state of siege. It meant that the soldiers could kill people legally. All the public meeting were banned, Civil Defense Patrols controlled the local population. He even moved the war actions from the cities to the rural area where he fought against indigenous Indians whom he considered to be the subversives. Numerous massacres, tortures, and kidnappings were organized by the government. The dictator called himself savior of the population. It is known that during the 17 month of Rios Montt’s governing more than 400 villages were destroyed, about 20,000 Indians were killed by the soldiers of the government and about 100,000 ran to Mexico. In 1983, the US President Reagan said that the program of Montt was working. The guerrillas movements did not want to give up. They continued their struggle for human rights and independence. Of course, the US government played an important role in the war actions in Guatemala. It not only supplied the army with everything it needed, but also the US government had influence on the political elections in Guatemala. Reagan’ policy towards Guatemala was concluded in restoration of weapon sales and in military intervention. Another wave of repression was the war on drugs. Those who suffered greatly were indigenous people. The soldiers under the command of Reagan administration sprayed the lethal herbicides by means of planes and helicopters. They caused great damage to the Indians who were poisoned as well as the animals and fish in the rivers. Many people tried to hide in the remote areas but the soldiers bombed those areas and killed the refugees. I think that all these war actions in Guatemala were unfair and brutal in relation to the unarmed local population. Nobody thought about the violation of human rights, nobody lent them a helping hand. They had nothing to do but to protect themselves and their families with the help of guerrillas movements.