GUATEMALA: DEVELOPMENT AND INSURGENCY IN THE NORTHERN FRONTIER

Created: 1/1/1983

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WFR1JVID FOR REIUSE1

Guatemala: Development

and Insurgency in

the Northern Frontier ^

(mil.mala: Deielopmtnt and Insurgency in mmm Ibe Northern Frontier I

Judgments

the pax decade Guatemala's remote northern lowlands.ell as iu western highlands, haveontinuing tirugglc between leftist iruurgenuand government forces for conirol of the land and support of tbe people. As the violence Intensified, program* aimed at relieving socioeca-Domscia thecataM-orier.ted agricultural protects, and other ctetclcewncni effortswere reduced or abandoned- Tbe insurgents until reotntl> appearede growing in strength Within tbe last few ntonihs.HI

- mj> have turned ihe

over theaely. especially in the northern frontier, we believe that enough security -ill eventually be established to permit the resumption or acceleration of frontierprojects.!

la th* Highlands

Guatemalaand of sharpot onlyhigh volcanic mountain* and vast, swampyin terms of socioeconomic0 UN study noted, for example, thai, despite economic growth, income das-tnbuilon was even more skewed and0 lhan it had been0 and cited1 shortcoming* in the country's social envelopment."

tion of income,ack of social and economic integration: and it recognues "an alarmingin the quality of lifereat part of theoverty is most pervasive ia thewhere two-thirds of tbe population lives. World Bank data from thendicate that rural areas in particular sufferidespread lack of potable water, insufficient sewage facilities, ando electricity. H

Land distribution is more uneven in Guatemala than in any of it* Central American neighbors, with three-fourths of the farms so small that together thej account for leu than one-tenth of the land under cultivation. Moreover, tbe agricultural nark faice includes rainy

s range and much of the remainder or the interior of western Guatemalaatch wort of small commercial and subsistenceof the latter estremcly small (less than oneapid population growth, averaging moreercent annually, and the resulting pressure to tbe ivillibte land has forced many of the small peasant fanners to attempt cultivation on incredibly sleep slopes, therebyrosion andareas at lower elevations that were otherwise suitable for agriculture.

DciclnpBtcnt of the Northern Frontier

Given the overcrowding of the highlands and lhe vital economic role of the large commercialcountry'* major foreign eichangetbe fertile Pacific coastal plain to lhe south, Guatemalan Government development plans have looked lo the Maroons bat underused northern lowlands for dtneJ-to relieve socioeconomic tensions and land in the highlands. Tbe northern frontier con-virtually all the land in Guatemala that is avaDabte for colonization. Although tbe soils are generally thin ind vulnerable to erosion whenGuatemalan Land ReformTA1 reports indicate that nearly two-third* of tbe land has good agocBliuril potential if properly managed.

Ai early asbere had been spontaneous movement ol highland Indians io the lowland areas, and by tbeary knoll missionaries settled landless peasants from Huchuctenango in theTransversal Zone. Tbe major throw forhowever, came inesult of international economic pressures.ramaticnternational grain prices caused import coat* to soar, the can of corn Imports, for eiample- rose from leu than SI million] io more than S9 millionhanges In government plans and program* indicate that Guatemala's large peasant farmer population came lo be viewedotential force for Increasing foodand reducing imports by expanding agricultural production in the northern lowland*.

A second major stimulus for frontier development was the quantum leap in energy pricesfficial Guatemalan trade data on eneigy Imports show thai the cost of oil roseillion3illionoincidental with this price rise was the discovery of the first commercial oil deposit inubellar to is the northern frontier H

lie Sort km Frontier

plmmint (Juaiemclenorthern Iroruier Ii divided into in pant, ikt Xortkern

Trtnj*eeial Zone Ml Fete* Oefarmtni The termer

latort0 rj^jrt tthmeieri iatiitmtiiludn ikt ntttatm ponton* of ikt dtpcnmenii of Hutkurttnango. Qutiht. Alia Vrrepat. and lineal and nniim alhtMlyfoitiitd Umesionr Mh and plaint, only lhr weuern panto* ti mouniatmrui. aad two ikrr, ikt -cm lower ilooei ami vatltntmht klrocon hcedee ctJer caaidfohii dnel oatnem potential. Tht Ftien 'Guatemala! larttu deportment, -il* MOOO tauarethird of Ikt loial national itrntarrt alto consult largely of UmtMiat killi and plains; tht Momanoi Uayai. riling ia eltraliontetm and mending mo Brine ia ike toulhtaa. and ihe Sltrra dti Laianekt witn ele*aihmintti minding mmo Ui i htart iht only moummn-Ml arroi. Hack of iht oapanmeat ii mil Wnf) forriled although parneen rut tilhtr inaprroltons or ky ttllltti. ikt iatitr art ionetn-tiaied ia tht central and louihwtsttraof ikt

Th* octihee* froaaur imtlaatl toauderaait land lUilaHe for Ikt production of ham food croga rearm, bow. .tjnton polmi at well at txpon crept 'tatoo.cordamon. ciirui) Many eitai umuiitd lor

eulllroUom or for if iroaa tan be mrdnaad poullry.eet production.as0 lot frtta already accounted forercent of ikt natlaur al bttf herd. There art tutroaut foetus -ilkbit irtti. including mahogany and cedar, for iht lumber Industry.oiea lawmtlh in ikt Feten pn-duitd ntarlyillion board ftti; wtik imp'-rttd Inl'raiiruiiitre aid management. production could be greatly expanded Iresources toniti-not anther mmmwi oilerht uonketn Irontif lhat hai only 'ectmly begun lo bearge kydrntlttirit potential ii available throughihtumocinla or other nwt On tht Riofor txamptt. iht .falalaprohKi tould add IMlo iht nalioaal energy artwork by

il found thill Jar in Guatemala anXt ia lhr

nankeeneing eammiecialty produced at Ruauiianto Orrrtm0 barrets per

la. art third dvmeitic <ueuumfit#n: at-

moil all of which Is ttportrd because of iht lad of domestic fadlltlts for pruettitng heavy crude; tome domtillc oil Ii Ultd oi bunker fuel in iktrmoelmiir and .ementtdentt of oil has beeno rnddliiirual loatriaon areas loot ii Utile ngrremret amoat oat ripem as lo ihe tiient of ihe reienei bul some hetiete lhat ihey ctnrld make Guatemalabefore ihekt Joe-

occeto.vf CiMiiimbn government! InsiM national development efforts on tat northern frae-jetecurMtust Dtiwrlraciilkcrtm al UM Seeism Tmnrml .' r tm'"d'motliowai

B> OcwbtrIhechipmenihe vifqr ol ooiihcirtent during ibendvidenced by ibe Following acoomc&luncfti*

f aa aJ-xaiher road rroao CobaatolraMtieuilayi Graede ind can to ModctCO Meodea. (hereby openingdi for spomnneuut

*nd onaciiedrt! br-dfc nmnaiit (be Rio DeJce *a> Orebcaifdimt saiiagt aagaaMtocc oa aJetry aadey link oeiween neeihetii and wutbera Gujtemila.oad connecting (he Trinirciul

nilhccompteied in lely

1 Comriiciicei o( ar inierrjiioEal airport at Sarca ETeta.te airpon at ib* Mayaa re.ni af Tiaal. asd oaeraf of ibe Santa tleaa-Tiha] road1 lo U'Tulate toumca. I

Constructionipeline connecting tbe Rubcl-MDto and Chinoj* oilfields wiih ihe poll Ol Sinio Tomas de Costillaaabimg modestfj

An expanded program ofland settlement. Of particular note are elTorts by Ihe Guaiemalttn Land Reform Institute (INTA* in Ihe Pctcn. whereooperniise* were funciiOningost along. Ihe Rio de la Paiion and Rio Usurnaemta. Also significant are ihe joint US AID-1NTA projeel known locally a*. which will0 farmlies in someillagesectare tract along the Mexican border between the Rio

Ctilxoy and Rio Xalbal. and the expansion of Ixeanroject sponsored by Maryknoll mission-ark* of Huebucienango.|

An accelerated program of peasant land tilling. Analysis of 1NTA data indicates thatercent of all land tiding11 pertained to frontier cotonbatwn areas. Titling baa involved ooi only formal colomzatlon areas such os. and Sayaxche. but also thousands of spontaneous settlers in the eastern pan of the Northern Transversa) Zone and along the San Lurs-Sanla Elena and Sania Elena-Meichor de Menous roidi. Mt

hindiance loroups on fool. pro-ide* tiedfrom air and ground obwt'iitim.small arms fire it provided bv depressions,sleep-banked tireams. Most of tbe populationin imall villages, and broad amiutirhabtied. icikiog unobservedpoaubW over long diaanoo Wood for fudpstaufal. and many JMMMruins can be used for ibcUcr aad aiA.fhuugltcarce is rbced.Cle 'linn iBucnd ird jddit-inil

vailable from scattered firms

CaniuUrmg on theseadvaniBiea, lb*have Uracil al numerous tariela throughout the sort heir, frontier The impact of theirell ill ultra ted at Tlkel. tbe famous Mayan archro-logical sile. which once attracted tens of thousands of lossnsis each year. TV Site was aiucled in Octoberaadetaenbes IWI; dtsnag ibt fausar attack, accords* te press reports. Vtfrau awrmllasroat) of touratl aad localburssad several banadings. andr.mtsi.Ti Tliand similar icodannhave almost destroyed Giuicmila's once-prospering tounai indias-

Iniuigauii operating noctb of Chiscc in April and May of 1pipeunt,[^

ihr urn* pemd the tn! desultunuiioQ santo was occupied by guerrillas whoJJ

gJBUStttttsjjg

diMBna^isu csiaca) -stchanrry mtmt

Violeoce associated with the iBaiwgersev aad cotttttar-iasurgtacy nwirrrd the exodus of thousand* ol peai-aals from the northern frontier, many of them fVeoni intoovement well coieied in lhe (iuate-malan and Meiican press over ihe pail two yean Particularly bard hit was the area around Sayasclic.umber of village* were completely aban-

li sii'.stii:

who fled have returned.

Work ono the Northern Transversal Zone wa* slowedesult of increasing violence, and by2 all activity ceased as key personnel were withdrawn from the area. TheArmy, probably to deny support to insurgents, forced the abandon memillages andhird. I

buring Ihe latter halfhe governmentiv pronged effort known a* Campaign Victoryo pal lha laaurgents on the defensive. One pari of the programeduction of nulla'* rereu* sic*.oppcttuaity if* rtiacetian al ullages away fromeavy conflict, and tbeof banc needs to refugees The other part of the program included the farmatitas of local militias to protect village* and an increase in patrols snd sweep operations by military forces lo root outaad disrupt their support

The governments aggressive pursuit of guerrillas and formation of local militia units have shown good results over the put sis months Many areas formerly in gueriilla hands have been brought under governcontrol, and tbe support structure thai had Seen baili up by thr insurgents D) past year* has been nrn.ii d'1'Bptrd Tbe instated tctnvtv. however,t thoaauusua of refugees depaaataal oa tha government [or sanrraL Forn*K* sweep In the Northern Transversal /one by government troops in mid-November,r more Indian peasants, many severely malnourished, streamed into the town or Chiscc staking thtof the Guatemalan

Coeetusk* ami Oertook

l( security it finally asia Misled in the nortbernwc Sell eve it willdnefcipenrrt prtxsoti. tbr rcflkoa could help ameliorate trie serious ecomaeBK and social coeeli'.imiam landless nmio. Octesn-mtj (be umu andof atTscwltsaral produeoan attic rnsamtmnatitm aad eiput. and toOwc. eg,

lished.

Ill

menu problem* through forestry, tour-itra. and otl production Overall, ic-c'nment antl-ineurgencv efforu in Guatemala appear lo beThe reaettkment ofnd Ihe return of sl-agrrs locusensran in Ibeportico taf theTrip.rmalthat vat aho abanconed early thaa year, are xgm lhal security ti betacome areas of the oocib-era frontier Bui ihe gecttrapay of ihe reapca rntftates against aay early totalof tht msarasrecy there: irs retrutcneaa front centers of national power, itsoorly patrolled intt raatiomil herders, and iti physical character*itsta allrmraded (truule by ihe guemllaa.surgency has severely disrupt* ed development program! in tht nortbern frontier and will continueo so until more security ts estab

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