Peace Stillborn? Guatemala’s Liberal Peace and the Indigenous Movement

Roddy Brett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Guatemala’s peace process, in which seventeen accords were signed, was proposed as the means through which to bring a definitive end to the causes and consequences of the country’s genocidal conflict, subsequently representing the principal motor for political democratization. Unprecedented measures aimed at redressing integrally the historical discrimination and exclusion of the majority indigenous population were adopted; the accords framed the post-conflict State as multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and pluri-lingual. This paper argues that the peace process and the content of the peace accords were undergirded by individual rights and sidelined collective rights. At the same time negotiations did not respond directly or adequately to the underlying structural causes of armed conflict (historically embedded horizontal inequalities, land distribution), nor did they incorporate sufficiently the demands and cultural focus of the majority indigenous population. Whilst civil society formally participated in the negotiations, the process lacked ownership. Indigenous movements sought to adapt the straitjacket imposed by the Liberal Peace, with varying degrees of success. The Liberal Peace, and the accompanying a rights cascade, was imposed upon a largely indifferent society by the international community and accompanied by imposed neo- liberal economic policies. By not addressing the causes of armed conflict, the design of the peace process impeded the possibility to generate minimal conditions to prevent future conflict and sowed the seeds for renewed violence, contributing to Guatemala’s spiralling post-conflict violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-238
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • peace processes
  • guatemala
  • Liberal Peace
  • armed conflict
  • hybridity


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