UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

More than the silence of rifles : Guatemalan rebel combatants’ perspectives on the eve of peace Stewart, Stephen Robin Peter


This thesis analyses interviews with 13 guerrilla combatants originally conducted in early 1997, while I was a journalist with the CERIGUA news agency covering the Guatemalan armed conflict, the Peace Accords and the demobilization and reintegration into civil society of Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) fighters. The work gathers the testimonies of the guerrillas, including their motivations for joining the insurgency, experiences in the guerrilla, and feelings regarding the end of the armed conflict and their pending reintegration into Guatemalan society. I compare what the URNG combatants expressed in these interviews with other research regarding the 36-year conflict and especially studies documenting the experience of demobilized URNG members a decade or more after their reintegration into Guatemalan civil society. Based on this research, the thesis argues that, contrary to what is promoted in some Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) literature, in the Guatemalan experience collective reintegration proved more successful than individualized reintegration, and should have been provided to a much large number of former combatants. In this research, successful reintegration is interpreted as economic and social well-being, as well as the political and social engagement of the former combatants in broader Guatemalan society, particularly engagement aimed at addressing the factors that originally gave rise to the armed conflict. Special attention is paid to these criteria in the reintegration of female former combatants.

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