Structural inequality, restricted political participation and discriminatory state policies are at the core of Guatemala’s challenges today as they were 50 years ago when its war started. 14 years have passed since the signing of the peace accord which marked the end of the country’s conflict and promised durable solutions for those people displaced.
No profiling exercise has established the number or specific needs of internally displaced people (IDPs), and the government chose to address their needs within general (and generally ineffective) anti-poverty measures. In 2009, any effort to estimate the number of IDPs based on existing figures would be unreliable. What is clear is that the indigenous Maya population and rural peasants were more affected by displacement, and both are still disproportionately affected by extreme poverty and marginalisation.
Many of the country’s IDPs have returned or resettled in areas where they live under similar conditions as before they were displaced. But they face continuing poverty and new struggles to access land to farm; thousands of peasant farmers and smallholders have been forcibly evicted by businesses interested in large-scale export agriculture. Others fled to the capital and other cities, where they have struggled to integrate culturally and where they compete with economic migrants for poorly paid jobs in the informal sector. In cities, widespread violence by criminal gangs has caused new intra-urban displacements.
The current government has enacted policies to address some of these problems, offering dialogue and programmes to organised groups of war survivors, and reviving the National Reparations Programme.