The Quetzal Is Red: Military States, Popular Movements, and Political Violence in Guatemala

Deborah J. Yashar

in The New Politics of Inequality in Latin America

Published in print January 1997 | ISBN: 9780198781837
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598968 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization

 The Quetzal Is Red: Military States, Popular Movements, and Political Violence in Guatemala

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Contemporary political discourse in Guatemala reflects a deep historical division over popular political participation. From the perspective of military and economic elites, social mobilization is potentially subversive and destabilizing. The transition to democracy in the 1986 did not overcome this antagonism between state and society. Comparing the democratic transition in October 1944 with the 1986 transition, this study argues that a democratic change occurred in 1944 when there were divisions within and between military and civilian elites. In contrast, in 1986, the military had the support of a united elite. This second transition represented a more limited political liberalization rather than a full return to democratic politics. The flourishing organization of popular sectors remained at the margins of the political regime. Fear of state repression drove citizenship ‘underground’ and therefore disconnected from the formal political process. The continued practice of exclusion and mistrust perpetuate the tensions between state and society, and threatens to undermine Guatemala's fragile democracy.

Keywords: citizenship; democracy; democratic consolidation; Guatemala; participatory politics; political violence

Chapter.  11327 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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