It is estimated that between 1900 and 1967, there were 526 civil wars called throughout the world (Civil pp). Today, there are literally dozens of wars going on around the globe, and dozens more that have ended during recent years, such as the civil wars in Guatemala and Tajikistan.
According to Christopher Cramer, most literature concerning civil wars has highlighted the role of political instability in the relationship between growth and inequality (Cramer pp). Although there are interlinkages between distribution, conflict and growth, these interlinkages are complex and cannot be read off or predicted from any convincing repeated empirical relationship between variables that are often loaded with too much and unclear meaning (Cramer pp). Cramer takes the title to his article, "Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Exploring Growth, Distribution and Conflict Linkages" from a short story by Sicilian writer, Leonardo Sciascia, about a Sicilian dragooned into fighting on Franco's side during the Spanish Civil War (Cramer pp). Sciascia writes,
"A civil war is not a stupid thing, like a war between nations ... A civil war is something more logical, a man starts shooting for the people and the things he loves, for the things he wants and against the people he hates; and no one makes a mistake about choosing which side to be on ... Despite its atrocities, a civil war is a kind of hora de la verdad, a moment of truth" (Cramer pp).
This quote expresses the view that civil war is not simply an outbreak of irrational hysteria that is perhaps based on some immutable and fixed "ethnic" antipathy, but is rather a perfectly sensible venting of feelings that cannot be contained by "normal peacetime relations" (Cramer pp). Thus, civil war is fundamentally class based, and in this sense it is about uneven distribution of income, wealth and political power (Cramer pp). For Sciascia, civil war is "a moment of truth," for it exposes and brings to the surface a conflict that otherwise is only latent and hidden from view (Cramer pp). While some see war as the continuation of politics by other means, other might suggest that war is the continuation of political economy by particular means (Cramer pp).
This view concerning the logic of civil war contrasts greatly with typical perceptions of civil war in developing countries where wars used to be seen in terms of "proxy" Cold War ideological contests, but more recently have been seen in terms of some primordial anarchy (Cramer pp).
This argument may be one aspect of the larger argument that "political and economic progress are not tied together in any easy, straightforward, functional way" (Cramer pp). Cramer argues that the idea that inequality leads to instability or conflict and that this conflict has exclusively negative effects on growth merely oversimplifies the true relationships and the nature of their interaction, and can actually be misleading (Cramer pp). According to Cramer, there are clear counter-examples, such as India, which has over a long period of time combined highly unequal distribution of income and power with relative political stability (Cramer pp). Moreover, "to the extent that there has been rising political instability in India recently, it is not clearly associated, certainly at an aggregate level, with a decline in investment or growth (Cramer pp).
Cramer believes that maldistribution is not always necessary and is hardly sufficient to provoke extreme instability, and where it is significant in the emergence of conflict, it is most likely combined with low growth and sharp economic crisis before the war, and other factors including the political economy of identity relations, that "themselves will not neatly fit into a quantifiable variable" (Cramer pp). Furthermore, where distributional issues are significant does not mean that anyone can predict some cut-off point beyond which a given "Gini" coefficient will be associated with a certain degree and form of instability or the outbreak of civil war (Cramer pp).
Generally, civil war is messier than the clear notion of conflict between the classes, however, the idea of civil war as an "hora de la verdad," a moment of truth, is certainly useful (Cramer pp). The political economy of civil war in the least developed countries may confirm some notions that "in periods of transition or crisis generative structures, previously opaque, become more visible" (Cramer pp). From a long-run perspective, conflict as a "moment of truth" is what give it a potentially cathartic effect, yet this perspective is lacking among the ultra-pessimists of cost of war exercises (Cramer pp). Moreover, such an analytical approach is "clearly distinct from that adopted in recent econometric applications of so-called political economy, that appear to founder on the complexity of historical realities" (Cramer pp). Cramer stresses a need for caution in the international application of supposedly equalizing and stablizing policies, in the interests of political stability, peace and in turn growth (Cramer pp). The appropriate policies are likely to be specific to each country, and rather than hope growth will be rise from a prior set of conditions of equality, policies should focus on growth more urgently on a basis of inclusion, primarily through employment, rather than difficult-to achieve redistribution of assets (Cramer pp).
After more than thirty-six years, the internal conflict in Guatemala formally ended in 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords (Guatemala1 pp). Since then, some 200,000 paramilitary troops have been disbanded, and approximately 3,000 guerrillas have been demobilized and resettled, and are now being integrated into the Guatemalan political and economic life (Guatemala1 pp). Although there has been some progress, many of the Peace Accord commitments remain unfulfilled, and there are still enormous problems of poverty, particularly in the rural areas, and of participation, credit, and economic opportunity (Guatemal1 pp).
Guatemala is a democratic republic with separation of powers and a centralized national administration, and its 1985 Constitution provides for election by universal suffrage of a one-term president and a unicameral congress (Guatemala1 pp). In January 2000, Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemalan Republican Front, FRG, took office as President, after a free and fair December 1999 run-off election (Guatemala1 pp). The FRG maintains its majority with 63 seats in the 113 member Congress (Guatemala1 pp). Despite pledges, the Portillo administration and Congress have taken only limited steps to implement the 1996 Peace Accords concluded with the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity, URNG, guerrillas in 1996 (Guatemala1 pp).
More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of the indigenous Mayans, and Westernized Mayans and mestizos, those of mixed European and indigenous ancestry, are known as Ladinos (Guatemala1 pp). Although urbanization is accelerating, most of Guatemala's population is rural and predominately Roman Catholic, while Protestantism is practiced by an estimated forty percent and traditional Mayan religions by about one percent (Guatemala1 pp). Although indigenous Guatemalans outnumber the westernized Ladino community, historically they have been dominated by the Ladinos and excluded from the mainstream of social, economic, and political activity (Guatemala1 pp). The Mayans are regarded with disdain by the Ladino community and reports of discrimination against their religious practices must be seen in the context of the widespread Ladino rejection of indigenous culture (Guatemala1 pp). Thus, the Maya have been caught in the middle of one of the bloodiest revolutions recorded in Central American history and have been at the very center of revolutionary action from the beginning of the conflict (Guatemala pp).
The Guatemalan Civil war broke out after a military coup overthrew the democratic reign of president Arbenz in 1954, and military leaders, backed by the United States government, took control of the country (Guatemala pp). Initially, in opposition to this change, a revolutionary guerrilla group formed in the eastern part of the country that was composed of young army officers and proletarian Ladinos (Guatemala pp). The Guatemalan military, aided by the United States, suppressed this reaction, which resulted in approximately 10,000 deaths, including students, union leaders, and peasants (Guatemala pp). By the late 1970's, guerrilla movements began reemerging, the two most important were the Army of the Poor, EDP, and the Organization of the People in Arms, ORPA (Guatemala pp). The stronghold for guerrilla activity was in the remote wilderness of the Maya heartland, and as a result, the Guatemalan army targeted many of these areas, adopting a program of genocidal tactics against the Indian communities (Guatemala pp). Thus, the Maya were subjected to the army's "scorched-earth policy" in which hundreds of people were massacred an their houses burned (Guatemala pp). From 1978 to 1985, over 75,000 people were killed, many of them women and children, and more than 400 villages were destroyed (Guatemala pp). Over one million people fled to other regions of Guatemala and to countries such as Mexico, the United States, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (Guatemala pp). Today, human rights organizations estimate conservatively that more than 100,000 people were murdered, 40,000 disappeared, and over 440 rural villages destroyed (Guatemala pp).
Rampant human rights abuses by the Guatemalan army and government, supported by powerful business and landholding interests, caused communist-led guerrillas to begin an active political…