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Guatemala's Recent History
1944 Dictator Jorge Ubico overthrown. Civilian/military "October Revolution" breaks out and victorious forces sponsor new elections.
1945 Reformist candidate Juan José Arévalo elected president.
New democratic constitution. Women granted suffrage.
1947 New labor code grants the right to organize and strike.
1950 Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán elected president.
1952 Agrarian reform law passed, opening the way for expropriation of uncultivated estates and their redistribution to landless peasants. Communist Party legalized.
1953 United Fruit Company plantations and International Railways nationalized; 400,000 uncultivated acres redistributed to landless peasants.
1954 CIA's "Operation Success" topples Arbenz government;
Carlos Castillo Armas takes power.
Expropriated lands returned to former owners; all effective unions disbanded; thousands of people killed.
1957 Castillo Armas assassinated;
Presidential elections turn into riots; military takes control of government and names Guillermo Flores Avendaño head of state.
1960 Failed U.S. invasion of Cuba launched from Guatemalan and Nicaraguan soil.
1961 Belize turns down offer to become "associate state" of Guatemala.
1962 Outbreak of major student and labor protests; Formation of M-13 and Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) guerrilla groups.
1963 Diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom suspended due to dispute over Belize; Guatemala threatens war.
1966 Revolutionary Party (PR) candidate Julio César Méndez Montenegro elected president.
U.S. Special Forces participate in "Operation Guatemala," a counterinsurgency campaign led by Col. Carlos Arana Osorio, which kills more than 8,000 people.
Appearance of White Hand and other right wing death squads, believed to be responsible for more than 30,000 deaths over the next seven years.
1967 Miguel Ángel Asturias wins Nobel Literature prize.
1970 Carlos Arana Osorio elected president.
1971 Formation of Organization of People in Arms (ORPA).
1972 Negotiations with Britain over Belize break off and tension mounts. Britain sends fleet and several thousand troops to Belize.
Formation of Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP).
1976 Earthquake leaves over 22,000 dead, one million homeless, and Guatemala City partially destroyed.
1978 General Romeo Lucas García elected president.
Government begins elimination of union leaders.
1979 ORPA launches first military operation.
1980 Spanish embassy occupied by 39 protesters burned to ground by security forces; Spain breaks off diplomatic relations.
1981 Army carries our major counterinsurgency offensive in Chimaltenango; over 1,500 Indian campesinos killed in two-month period.
Between 1981 and 1983, "scorched earth" counterinsurgent policy razes 440 villages. Over 100,000 civilians, mostly Maya indians, are killed.
Under UN auspices, Belize becomes fully independent member of Commonwealth of Nations (Great Britain). Guatemala refuses to recognize Belize's independence and impedes its entry into Organization of American States.
1982 Formation of Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) by EGP, ORPA, FAR, and other guerrilla organizations.
General Ángel Aníbal Guevara wins fraudulent elections; junta army officers led by Efraín Ríos Montt seizes power before Aníbal is installed. Ríos Montt takes power in June, and immediately begins "Bananas and Beans" counterinsurgency campaign.
"Voluntary" Civilian Self-Defense Patrols formed to aid counterinsurgency.
State of Siege declared.
1983 Defense Minister General Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores seizes power in military coup.
Two AID employees killed by military; U.S. economic aid suspended.
Israel supplies arms to military.
1984 World Council of Indigenous Peoples accuses military of systematic extermination of indigenous people.
1985 Resumption of official U.S. economic and military aid.
Christian Democrat Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo wins national elections.
1986 Cerezo installed as president; new constitution promulgated.
Federal and municipal government workers granted the right to organize.
1987 Representatives from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras meet in Esquipulas, Guatemala for peace talks. Esquipulas peace accords signed in August.
Formation of National Reconciliation Commission (CNR), while army begins unsuccessful "Year's End" offensive to terminate guerrilla insurgency.
In November, representatives from government and URNG meet in Madrid.
1988 Costa Rican president Carlos Arias accuses Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua of not complying fully with Esquipulas Accords.
Two failed coup attempts. Army continues massacres.
1989 URNG and National Reconciliation Commission sign accord in Oslo to initiate dialogue.
1990 Accord signed at El Escorial, Spain between URNG and nine political parties on finding solution to conflict.
December massacre in Santiago Atitlán.
1991 Jorge Serrano wins national elections, pledges "civilian dictatorship."
In April, peace negotiations begin between government and URNG.
1992 URNG and government hold talks in Mexico City.
URNG leader Efraín Bamaca Velásquez (a.k.a. "Everardo") captured by army.
Rigoberta Menchú wins Nobel Peace prize.
1993 URNG announces unilateral cease-fire as a goodwill gesture to incoming president Ramiro de León Carpio.
1994 Peace talks renewed in Mexico. Agreements reached in March, but later URNG withdraws accusing the government of not honoring human rights provisions. Talks resume in November.
150 Maya organizations form Coordination of Maya Peoples' Organizations of Guatemala (COPMAGUA).
UN appoints Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINGUA).
1995 Ríos Montt elected president of Congress to widespread public outcry.
Government and URNG sign Accord on Indigenous Rights and Identity.
Catholic Church launches Recovery of Historical Memory project (REHMI).
1996 In January, Alvaro Arzú takes office as new president.
On December 29, Peace Accords signed between government and URNG, officially ending 36-year civil war.
The New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG) party formed.
1998 Bishop Juan Gerardi murdered in April after publication of REHMI report.
URNG officially registers as political party.
1999 February - The UN-supported Historical Clarification Commission (CEH) publishes human rights report that states 200,000 were killed during civil war, and assigns responsibility to Guatemalan army and U.S. government (CIA).
March - Bill Clinton visits Guatemala and expresses regret over the U.S. role during the civil war. Clinton said that U.S. support for military forces that "engaged in violent and widespread repression" in Guatemala "was wrong."
May - Guatemalan voters rejected a package of 47 constitutional reforms during the May 16 referendum, by a margin of 55/45 percent.
November - National elections slated, with participation of URNG and FDNG congressional and mayoral candidates.


Part of this timetable is based on Tom Barry's Inside Guatemala, published by the Inter-Hemispheric Research Center (1992).


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