Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 187 | Febrero 1997



Peace Accords: Return of the Quetzal

These have been long years of blood and exile, advances and errors, dreams and crises, and long negotiations until reaching this peace. Now is the time to establish it and assure it for all. Through blue skies flies the vigilant quetzal

Juan Hernández Pico, SJ

Well-known Guatemalan Jesuit anthropologist Ricardo Falla recently wrote in the international press: "According to legend, when Alvarado fought hand to hand with the naked Tecún Umán, a wild bird with ferny feathers rubbed his breast over the blood of the dying Quiché hero. He then flew away to hide in the mountains where he would keep his nest as long as there were conquistadores trying to capture him. Since then the quetzal has been the symbol of liberty in Guatemala. On December 29, 1996, peace was signed in Guatemala. After 36 years of war, the quetzal has come out of its hiding place in the mountain and begun to streak dangerously through the blue skies of Guatemala. (Dangerously, because peace can never be guaranteed.)"
Fighting. Blood. Conquest. Refuge and clandestinity. Memory of freedom. Renewed flight through open skies. Danger. All of this is evoked by the initiation of Guatemala's transition from war to peace.

The Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre had a telephone poll done the evening of the peace signing, to detect the immediate feelings it prompted, at least in the sector of the Guatemalan population with phones. Almost 77% of those consulted responded that they felt happy; 65% stated that the signing would bring economic benefits, while just over 30% believed the contrary. Some 59% believed it will improve people's personal security, but nearly 37% did not. While over 54% believed that both the government and the URNG would respect the accords, close to 30% said that neither side would.

There Is Optimism

The population in Guatemala that can be reached by a telephone poll is heavily concentrated in the capital and other urban areas. And those who have telephones belong largely to ladino families from the upper and middle classes. Rural families, the poor and the great majority of Mayas and Garífunas were not consulted by that poll. Even so, the poll offers more optimistic results than anyone who went to the party at the plaza outside the National Palace and Cathedral that December 29 could have suspected.

The ceremony in the patio of the National Palace could be witnessed by all those in the plaza on gigantic television screens. The plaza was full, but not overflowing--perhaps some 30-40,000 people, in a city of over 2 million inhabitants. One could move in all directions without pushing. The conflict between the mayor's office and urban transporters over fare increases had left the capital without public transportation. So it can be assumed that a great part of those who went to the party did so in cars, knowing that the ceremony would conclude well into the evening.

Modest Expectations

The prevailing mood was of being at the ushering in of a new historic era. But the capital was not jumping for joy. The neighborhoods were calm, and expectations, it would later be said, were modest. When a minute of silence was requested at the end of the ceremony to honor all war victims, groups in the plaza--which were from the left as far as could be gathered and were not exactly small ones-- kept up an intentional noise level, challenging the solemnity of the ceremony. Only an imperious gesture by URNG Comandante Pablo Monsanto brought silence. In those groups were members of the Salvadoran FMLN, perhaps demonstrating the ambiguity of El Salvador's post-war experience.

"It is true that the peace accords represent a series of complex and comprehensive commitments that place the nation before a formidible project," said President Arz in his speech. "But to make them reality demands the active involvement and the constant and hard work of all Guatemalan society. They are a promise and a commitment. As such, we should be prepared for a long process with no miracles, but rather the modest and progressive realization of a shared task, a gradual construction of our lives together where we all take responsibility."
This excerpt from the presidential speech seems to respond, with quite a lot of feeling, to the difficult experiences of building peace in Nicaragua and El Salvador, to those rather modest expectations perceptible in the humor among Guatemalans in those days, and to the deep conviction that though peace can be signed, that alone will not save the people, their social organizations and their government, as well as the many solidarity groups throughout the world, from the task of building that peace with daily creative efforts. That is why the flight of the quetzal in newly open skies is so dangerous. "Just and democratic peace is not simply the end of war," said Ricardo Ramírez de León--Comandante Rolando Morán--in his speech during the signing.

Morán, who represented the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) in the URNG, sees the peace accords as "the result of a substantive negotiation. They make up a platform of viable and legitimate solutions to our nation's historic problems." In his speech, this commander explained the difference between a "platform of solutions," an institutionalized instrument to work on peace, and peace itself, whose "essence," he said, "implies basic demands for the existence of human beings, such as dignity, integral development and human promotion, the right to life, food, work, housing, health and education, and participation in decisions affecting the nation." It is a sober concept of peace, both a spiritual and a material concept. A concept that notes the impetuous clamors that break out after centuries of plunder, centuries during which the great majority of Guatemalans have been unable to enjoy those fundamental goods.

Today's Revolutionary Challenge

Seven months before the signing, in a 32-page document titled "Guatemala, Full Democracy: Revolutionary Challenge at the End of the Millennium," the URNG wrote for its militants, "We do not have to try to make the accords identical to the revolutionary program. The content has to correspond to basic elements that rescue the essence of the problem and open the way to mechanisms and possibilities of future struggle to demand their fulfillment."
It is important to note that the URNG does not renounce a revolutionary position. In the same document it affirms that "the essence of what is revolutionary is a sense of transformation of a society or unjust and obsolete structure." In that document, dated May 21, 1996, the URNG coherently maintains that "it has been revolutionary and just to pursue the war, a political decision and revolutionary practice that was not only correct, but absolutely necessary and legitimate."
Both negotiating parties, the Guatemalan government and the URNG, agree in the "Accord on the Basis for Incorporating the URNG into Legality," that "the origin of the domestic armed conflict was determined by the closing of political spaces for expression and democratic participation, and the adoption of measures of political repression against people and organizations linked to or identified with the regime overthrown in 1954."

Unforgettable History

This reminder of the origin places the peace accords and the path to peace--which have been insistently called "firm and lasting" in Guatemala these days, evoking Esquipulas II--in a solid historical context, on which a better future can begin to be built. This historic context is within Central America's reach.

Guatemala's 36-year military conflict was rooted in the overthrow almost 43 years ago of the first serious experimental democracy in Guatemala, which lasted a decade. The United States, caught up in its cold war trance and entrenched in the East-West rivalry, provoked that overthrow. Similarly, the 12-year war in El Salvador that ended in 1992 stemmed from the brutal repression of the 1932 insurrection and the electoral fraud of the 1970s. And in Nicaragua, the Sandinista revolution grew out of the smashing of the national demands for dignity against US imperialism led by Sandino 70 years ago and the Somoza dynasty's fraudulent perpetuation of power. This historic context should form an essential chapter of any educational program for youth throughout Central America.

Democracy and Social Justice

For the URNG, any transformation of Guatemalan society today must be based on "the construction of a full democracy with social justice and well-being." No other URNG public reflection has made so clear that society's transformation "is developed and achieved gradually" and that "a certain determinism, according to which the revolution will be achieved without going through stages, has been contradicted by history itself." The URNG today thinks that "the aspirations and principles of social justice, well-being and development for the great dispossessed majorities of our country" have not lost validity, but that "the practices and theoretical elements invalidated by history" are now a thing of the past.

The URNG also states that "the doctrinaire schemes that for many years served as a guide" to respond to the key question of how to achieve the transformation of a society from injustice and backwardness "have been outmoded by history itself and by reality." It confesses that "the mechanism in historic interpretation, dogmatism in evaluating and applying ideas, and the determinism derived from both positions generated a schematic interpretation and vision that, although it appeared to have enormous coherence and supposedly offered the advantage of giving full responses to all, provoked a fallacy that did not survive the test when put in practice. Universal truths in response to particular situations, predetermined development models uninterested in concrete realities, and absolute conclusions have all led to a great vacuum."
In this same vein, the URNG unlinks itself from the atavism of socialist movements in designing the stages of the future with high-sounding but empty words: "trying to define the unpredictable is unnecessary and leads to dispersion." Based on this, they insist that "what is revolutionary today and for many years will be the construction of full democracy with justice and social well-being, with all the richness and content that we are capable of fostering."
This way in which the URNG is conceptualizing the origins of the armed conflict in Guatemala and the circumstances and energies that led to the signing of peace, as well as the character of peace itself as a "national project," seems extremely smart. It is worth noting that underlying this is an ongoing compulsion to justify what the URNG leadership has thought and decided. In other words, there is still a conviction that there is no error in what is usually called the "vanguard." All of these "strategic concepts," they write, "are not not just for a way out of the present situation," but rather they have been "patiently matured and have faced the reality of practice all this time." It is to be expected that, from now on, the primacy of politics and the end of a military focus will give the URNG the ability to break with what they themselves call "the defensive mentality that such prolonged confrontation has created in the revolutionary movement."

Arzú's Audacity

When at 6 pm on December 29, 1996, the last signers of the "Firm and Lasting Peace Accord"--Gustavo Porras from the government peace commission (COPAZ) and Comandante Rolando Morán for the URNG-- hugged each other, a former EGP member was hugging his former commander-in-chief. Two in-laws were also hugging. This anecdotal note reveals one of the conditions that made it possible for the government of President Alvaro Arz to fulfill in under a year his promise to put a priority on negotiating the peace accords and concluding them promptly.

With supposed roots in the Guatemalan right and an oligarchic family, Arz audaciously surrounded himself with intelligent, open-minded and progressive collaborators. Such is the case of his private secretary, Gustavo Porras, whom he also named COPAZ president and his main negotiator. Porras has differed with the EGP and URNG since 1984, but has coherent and non-conformist views in favor of social transformation. He could have been rejected by both the right and his former companions, but Arzú took the risk and the upshot appears to have been positive. This is also the case with Eduardo Stein, whom Arzú appointed his foreign relations minister, a posting that included the task of dealing with the Group of Friends (Mexico, Norway, United States, Spain, Colombia and Venezuela) regarding the Guatemalan peace process and regaining Guatemala's respectability with the international community. Stein is formerly a professor and researcher from the Central American University in El Salvador, a rigourous academic with recognized ethical values who proved his commitment to the transformation of Central American societies during a decade with CADESCA (an organization of SELA for Central American projects). Other members of Arz 's "political" cabinet, those who make up his closest circle of advisers, have similar histories.

A Common Agenda?

The thinking of this sector of Arzù's governing team is reflected in one paragraph of the President's speech at the peace signing, and is very similar to the language found in the URNG perspective: "Our country is still very far from acceptable levels of well-being for the great majority. We Guatemalans are called to make a global effort for equitable development."
In his same speech the Guatemalan President said that "the documents that have been signed gather a piece of our recent historical conflict, anticipate the image of the peaceful and prosperous society that we want to become, and draw the long path of transformations, reconciliation and solidarity that we need to traverse."
Gustavo Porras emphasized that with these peace accords "we Guatemalans reafirm our commitment to human rights and to broadening democracy." To some degree, participants in the war, representatives of government tendencies and left-wing movements now find themselves with a national agenda of transformation that is summarized in efforts favoring development with social justice and a pluralist democracy.

Six Years of Negotiation

A dozen agreements are part of the Peace Accords signed on December 29. They cover a six- year negotiation period (1991-96), preceded by intermittent dialogue from 1987 to 1990.

After a March 1990 meeting between the URNG and the National Reconciliation Commission--empowered by the government of President Cerezo-- in Oslo in which the two sides agreed to the negotiation, the rest of 1990 was used for meetings in which diverse sectors of Guatemalan civil society and the URNG leadership dialogued. Participants included political parties, business leaders in the umbrella private enterprise association CACIF, small business, popular organizations and the Church and other religious sectors.

In 1991, in Querétaro, Mexico, the negotiation framework was signed by the government--by then under President Serrano--and the URNG with the concrete objective of democratization. The process bogged down between 1991 and 1994, but fought not to go under. After Serrano's failed self-coup attempt in 1993, the Ramiro de León government and the URNG reformulated the negotiation framework in Mexico City in 1994.

The Four First Accords

Three substantive accords were signed between March and June of 1994: the Human Rights Accord, the Accord for Relocation of Populations Uprooted by the Armed Conflict, and an accord on the Historical Clarification of Human Rights Violations and Incidents That Have Caused Suffering to the Guatemalan Population. The first was signed in Mexico and the second two in Oslo.

The third accord led to much discontent among many URNG militants and sympathizers, as well as human rights organizations and no few in both the religious and grassroots sectors of civil society. The main reason was that the accord expressly prohibited the commission created to clarify the commission of atrocities from "individualizing" responsibilities. The commission's functions were limited to institutions or contending bands. This "clumsy" disposition, together with another one that prevents the clarification from having any "judicial proposals or effects," sparked so much discontent that nine months were spent very carefully designing the following accord.

That accord, on the "Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples," was signed in Mexico in March 1995, satisfying many. It presupposes a revolution in the understanding of what Guatemala is: no longer a "Criollo country," but one moving towards the building of a nation of "multiethnic, pluri-cultural and multilingual national unity," creating "a new coexistence that reflects the nation's diversity."

Arzú's Advantage

Up to then, the various Peace Commissions, which were the plenipotenciary government negotiators, were made up of three civilian and three military officials. At that point in 1995, the weakness of President Ramiro de León, lacking his own party and prohibited from running for a full term because he had not resigned before completing two years of governing, bogged the negotiations down again. They also stagnated because of the delicacy of the remaining issues to be resolved. The URNG was unwilling to negotiate substantive issues such as socioeconomics or the army with a government that, with no party of its own, was clearly sustained by the military.

With never broken confidentiality, National Advancement Party (PAN) presidential candidate Alvaro Arz and part of his future government team met with the URNG leadership in San Salvador and Rome several times, thanks to the good offices of the active and creative Catholic community of San Egidio. These informal talks, boldly held before the guarantee of electoral victory, gave future negotiators on both sides the clear advantage of mutual knowledge and prior discussion of pending issues.

It seems obvious that Arz and his team also had prior talks with representatives of the army's "institutional" tendency which allowed the President, in his first days in government, to purge the army and police force, a step that notably facilitated the confidence necessary to address pending negotiation issues with agility and speed. With Arz in office, the new COPAZ also got a new configuration: three civilians and only one military member.

Two Key Accords

The "Accord on Socioeconomic Aspects and the Agrarian Situation" was signed in Mexico in May 1996. It proposed a path for modernization and equity in development and for transforming the population's access to the satisfaction of its basic needs and better human skills training. It also provided a way to deal with the thorny problem of access to land and its efficient cultivation.

The "Accord on the Strengthening of Civilian Power and Army Functions in a Democratic Society" was signed in September 1996. Since the new government had already somewhat purged the army, in coordination with the armed institution itself, this accord focused on modernizing the state through decentralization of the executive branch, attacking corruption and more efficiently guaranteeing security by strengthening the Attorney General's office and transforming the judicial branch. It also included reorganizing the security forces into one National Civil Police, separated from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense and placed under the Ministry of Governance, and emphasized promoting the organization of civil society as well as spaces for a more participatory democracy.

The Last Crisis

The last of October and beginning of November witnessed an acute crisis in the fluidity of negotiations. The government publicly held a commando of the Revolutionary Organization of People in Arms (ORPA) responsible for kidnapping an elderly businesswoman, Olga de Novella, of the cement monopoly. At the government's suggestion, UN moderator Jean Arnault suspended the negotiations. The URNG took political responsibility for the kidnapping and ORPA's representative in the negotiations, Comandante Gaspar Ilom, turned his post on the commission over to Jorge Rosal. President Arzú personally took on the task of negotiating the freeing of the victim with the commando chief directly responsible for the kidnapping.

During the days of the crisis, there was no end to media indignation at the crime committed by the ORPA commando. Journalists stridently held the guerrillas up to public scorn, claiming they had finally taken off their masks as peace negotiators and sincere democrats. This irate campaign raised real doubts about whether significant sectors of Guatemala's population had actually taken the indispensable step toward changing its mentality, accepting that the insurgents had valid reasons for their fight, and that judgments about the atrocities committed in the armed confrontation must be impartial and not critical of only one of the contending bands.

This application of double standards forgets, for example, that the massacre of eleven returning civilian refugees in Xamán by army soldiers in October 1995 did not lead to the suspension of negotiations. It forgets that the current government administers the same state whose former governments defended the legality of horrendous and massive human rights violations. Above all, this type of intolerant campaign reminds us of that building a better Guatemala is impossible unless everyone accepts their rightful responsibility for what happened in the last 36 years, not placing all the guilt on the other side, denying reason and good will.

The government firmly maintained the authority needed to continue the peace process and pulled apart the arguments of the extremists, who even at that point in the negotiations still advocated a military victory over the guerrillas. The URNG absorbed the blow to its moral authority, offering to suspend armed propaganda operations that were still taking place. The crisis finally passed and negotiations resumed. Presumably, the lessons were also learned.

Incorporating the FMLN: A Controversial Point

In early December the two parties signed several accords known as "operative," to distinguish them from the "substantive" ones: on the "Definitive Cease-Fire" (in Oslo), on "Constitutional Reforms and the Electoral Structure" (in Stockholm), and on "the Basis to Legally Incorporate the URNG" (in Madrid). On December 18 the Guatemalan Congress approved a "National Reconciliation Law," based on the last of these three accords, by a large majority. The only accord still to be signed the morning that peace itself was signed was the "Timetable for the Implementation, Fulfillment and Verfication of the Peace Accords."
Though the accord dealing with the URNG's legality and incorporation was considered operational, it has perhaps been the most controversial, together with the National Reconciliation Law, which gives it legal form. The Court of Constitutionality has already received various suits of unconstitutionality against the law.

The law was passed after only three days of debate, in which the last two were behind closed doors. It rode through with the votes of the two largest parliamentary blocs: President Arzú’s PAN, which has an absolute majority in the Congress, and the FRG, the party of former coup leader General Ríos Montt, who initiated the scorched earth policy during his period in power (1982-83) with the most cruel massacres of the peasant and indigenous populations. The few Christian Democratic votes and those of two other small benches joined in.

The few who voted against the law were the six representatives from the New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG), until now representing a left that also silently included the URNG, and the two from the National Center Union (UCN), the party of assassinated presidential candidate Jorge Carpio Nicolle, who owned and directed El Gráfico.

As a legal expression of the accord, the law permits the URNG's reinsertion into civilian life by wiping out its legal responsibility for political crimes against the state. Coat-tailed onto it, however, is a kind of amnesty for state functionaries--military and police included--who committed common crimes while carrying out legitimate institutional mandates to combat the guerrillas and subversion during the armed conflict. Unless the courts uphold an appeal filed against this linkage, the common crimes of state functionaries will be covered by this amnesty.

And the Executions And Massacres?

President Arzú said in his speech the afternoon of the peace signing, "It is important to recognize that this exercise of forgiving, without forgetting, does not ignore or avoid justice. Though controversial, this exercise has been boldly and responsibly expressed in the recently approved Reconciliation Law. To our knowledge, this is the first time in Latin America that the causes of a domestic armed conflict are not resolved with a full amnesty that closes the door to demands against the excesses committed. In our case, as opposed to those full amnesties, the legal instrument agreed to for Guatemala excludes those crimes of wronged humanity, and allows any citizen to appeal to the legal system to demonstrate that those wrongs suffered were not directly linked to acts inherent to an armed conflict."
This is true, at least formally. This is not a law of "closure," similar to those in Latin America's southern cone, or of such a global general amnesty as was declared in El Salvador in 1993, immediately after the publication of the Truth Commission report. The law recognizes the right to compensation for victims of human rights violations or other crimes, and crimes against humanity and/or those "non-prescriptable" by Guatemalan or international law are exempt from the "extinction of legal responsibility," which is the legal term that clears the way for the URNG's reinsertion. But such crimes explicitly refer to torture, genocide and forced disappearance, only implicitly including extralegal execution and massacres.

Furthermore, the law does not give the state, specifically the Public Ministry, the task of carrying out such an investigation and searching for the proofsof such crimes--as it must do with any other crimes. Responsibility for that is left to private accusers--the victims or human rights organizations. The Commission to Clarify the Historic Truth is charged only with investigating crimes committed by both bands during the war and publishing its results so that such crimes will not recur. The limitation in the accord establishing this commission of "not individualizing responsibility" is not mentioned in the law.

Will Impunity Continue?

The legal procedure to reach results foreseen in the law is extremely cursory. If someone files suit or wants the justice system to decide whether the extinction of legal responsibility is applicable to the case, an Appeals Court, depending on the issue, must issue a resolution at the end of ten working days. That resolution may only be appealed once to the Supreme Court, thus eliminating recourse to the Court of Constitutionality, which constitutionally comes even after the Supreme Court decision.

There will be no preventive imprisonment or other measures against the accused, nor must the accused be present at the trial, but can be represented by defense lawyers. Once the sentence is handed down the first time or after an appeal, it will be absolute unless the case is determined to be covered by amnesty, in which event it will be dismissed or treated as closed.

Members of the Alliance against Impunity, the Mirna Mack Foundation, the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation and various other individuals and institutions appealed the unconstitutionality of this law with the Court of Constitutionality. For their part, the lawyers of the high-level military officers accused in the Mirna Mack case and of those accused in the Xamán massacre, the Jorge Carpio assassination, the killing of members of the United Peasant Committee and others have already requested amnesty for their clients. The resolution of these requests will indicate just how much courage the current legal system has to combat impunity.

"We Cannot Forget": Only Words?

El Salvador's 1993 amnesty law carried the slogans "forgive and forget," and "erase and begin again," without fixing the problems behind both formulations. Forgiveness cannot be imposed on victims. Forgetting kills the historic memory that builds a people's cultural identity. And beginning again after erasing old accounts precisely encourages a return to the commission of crimes forgiven under amnesty or of similar crimes, since the earlier ones were so easy to erase.

President Arzú recognized this in his speech and has undeniably put forward more humane formulas than those registered in other Latin American countries. "Although these personal, family and community injuries will take a long time to heal, we owe each other, as a society, this moment of forgiveness so we can move forward. But forgiving does not mean forgetting. It is one thing to forgive so we can positively and fraternally begin to rebuild our injured society. It is another to forget. We cannot forget. We must not forget. In addition to being inhuman, it rides over the identity of a people. As a people in reconciliation, we need the fullness of our historic memory. The full consciousness of what happened should serve to keep us from repeating it, and should be the base on which we build our future."
"A people's memory," continued Arzú, "constructively shared, including the suffering, softens us, humanizes us, and strengthens us to face the challenges of the future. We cannot ask a whole people to be born again in an empty territory with no past or history. It is perhaps worth remembering that our cultural traditions, both Mayan and Judeo-Christian, are based on remembering the good and the bad. We Christians constantly remember Christ's sacrifice in the Holy Mass."
These are not words common to leaders of Latin American countries, whose people have had to pay such high costs to retake the paths from which others had strayed en route to civilization, as Comandante Morán said at the peace signing. But they are only words. They will have to be verified in the immediate future.

With all the advances that the accord incorporating the URNG, the National Reconciliation Law and the earlier accord establishing the Commission of Clarification represent with respect to similar processes in other countries, the negotiating parties appear to have backed off from what they agreed to in the first human rights accord. That accord read: "The parties agree that firm action must be taken against impunity. The government will not promote the adoption of legislative measures, or any other order, oriented to impeding the judging and punishing of those responsible for human rights violations." The force of this formulation does not appear to have been retained years later by either the government or the URNG.

"Peace" in Central America: Some First Comparisons

The peace accords putting an end to the war in El Salvador were signed in Chapultepec, Mexico, on January 16, 1992, and on February 1, the FMLN and the ARENA government celebrated the peace in different plazas in San Salvador. In contrast, the accords ending Guatemala's war were signed in Guatemala on December 29, 1996 and that same day the peace was jointly celebrated by the two contending sides in the central park.

Participation by the Assembly of Civil Society, which presented rough drafts of the accords on various issues to be negotiated appears to have played a greater role in Guatemala's peace process than the National Debate for Peace did in El Salvador. Does this mean that Guatemalan civil society will be more committed to fulfillment of these accords than Salvadoran civil society demonstrated? And finally, the substantive Guatemalan accords also appear to have designed the national agenda for the coming years better than the Salvadoran accords did.

All of these comparisons are only initial approximations; a real comparison of the peace processes in Central America is necessary and requires more consistent and thorough studies. What already appears true is that the path of peacefully and politically resolving armed conflicts has been more creative and successful--albeit evidently precarious--in Central America than in other areas of the world.

Today, the Arzú government finds itself challenged by public opinion--expressed both in the media and in a grassroots mood that can be felt in the air--to fulfill the accords and confront the impoverishment of the great majority, unemployment and lack of public safety. Guatemalans are not encouraged by what they have seen happen in El Salvador and Nicaragua after their peace accords.

What Do People Expect?

Despite everything, few Guatemalan governing leaders have had as much space as Alvaro Arzú enjoys today. Siglo XXI polled people in the capital on their opinions of the President. The following are the key issues and the results:
Governing ability: 62% think Arz is governing well and another 8% that he is governing very well, while only 7% think he is governing very poorly and another 21% poorly.

Direction: 45% think the country will improve in the next year, 27% think it will be the same, and 25% think it will be worse.

Personal situation: 59% think it will improve in the next year, 23% think it will be the same and 13% worse.

Peace dividend: 28% think that peace will bring the country less violence and 20% think it will bring more jobs.

Key problems: 27% think that Guatemala's primary problem is crime while 53% put poverty, the economic crisis, high prices, unemployment or inflation in first place.

Crime reduction: 56% think the government will be able to reduce the level of crime and violence.
The government received its best marks in foreign relations, its handling of the peace process and its economic management. It did not do so well on concern for the poor, job creation or combating crime.

Guatemala is beginning a new stage for the brilliantly plumaged quetzal, which is now flying dangerously in Guatemalan skies. In that flight, the people and their government now face enormous challenges.

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