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Guatemala (2001-2003), Rebels memory

Peace, where is your victory ?

« As they wanted the death, the death for all of us, we rose up in arms and we survived.”

Carlos said he was 14; he looked as 10. His khaki sleeveless jacket, too big at the armholes, let see two sickly arms, betraying awkward gestures of a shy childhood. Yet, straight look and firm hand doesn’t shake when he grasped his AR-15, guerrilla’s gun, to adjust it on his shoulder. There was nothing provocative in his attitude, no act of bravado, just a little bit of sadness in the ghost of a smile the time of a picture. Little street urchin of Ixcan’s forests, Carlos paced up and down on path to deliver messages from a column to another. He didn’t spook Spanish, only K’iche’ of his homeland he left to rise up in arms. I remembered other faces: Soto, Adelia, Alejandro, Rosalba, Leonardo, Tuco Otoniel, Eduardo, Catarina and German – Romeo and Juliette of Che Guevara’s front - ! Clandestine names of war. New recruits took names of people who die without burial on the mountains’ slopes. Silent tribute to victims’ spirits. Like them, they were thousands.

Ex combatants of URNG (guerrilla of Guatemala), they stopped the fight in 1997, after the signing of a peace agreement, which ended 36 years of armed fighting. The social injustice and the Cold War context initiated this civil war, reactivated in the 80’s by the institutionalization of the violence, and by slaughters against local population by army. Because they had no choice, neither of weapons, nor of their destiny, numerous Indian peasants took the way to mountains and rallied the insurrection.

Back to the civil life, what became those anonymous heroes of this witnessless war, when peace’s dreams have drift away? On the way back to their villages, they had dream about democracy and better life, for them, their family, and their community. What are they thinking five years after, back to a daily life, far from mountains and clandestine bivouacs, characters of a desired peace but yet without memory, which is sinking in impunity, poverty, and corruption? No winner, no looser, have those ex guerrillas kept an ineffable hope and the faith in their fight?

Anne Cazalès

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