PBI-Guatemala remembers accompanying GAM when it interrupted a military parade on September 15, 1986

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Patricia Goudvis

The Mutual Support Group (Grupo De Apoyo Mutuo) has posted on Facebook and Twitter: “What independence if we are killed and disappeared? Women and men of the #GAM screamed as they interrupted the military parade of September 15, 1986.”

September 15 is Guatemalan Independence Day.

The Peace Brigades International-Guatemala Project has shared that post and commented: “PBI accompanied that march 34 years ago.”

The Mutual Support Group was created in 1984 to bring together the families of people illegally detained and forcibly disappeared in Guatemala during the Internal Armed Conflict that lasted from 1960 to 1996.

GAM notes: “Due to threats, the group met weekly in the house of Peace Brigades International and on Fridays marches and demonstrations were held in front of the Public Ministry, near the National Palace. They demanded the return of their loved ones and attracted the attention of their demands by rattling pots.”

It was the murder of GAM activists Hector Gomez on March 30, 1985 and Maria Rosario Godoy de Cuevas on April 3, 1985 that gave rise to the idea of PBI providing physical accompaniment to at-risk defenders.

Over the course of the war, which began in 1960 and formally ended in 1996, more than 200,000 people were killed and another 43,000 were forcibly disappeared. More than 80 percent of the victims were indigenous Maya people.

The Commission for Historical Clarification found that: “State forces and related paramilitary groups were responsible for 93% of the violations documented.”

PBI first operated a project in Guatemala from 1983-1999, which closed following the Peace Accords. Unfortunately, the human rights situation soon began again to deteriorate, and local organizations asked PBI to return.

The current project opened in 2003.

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