The civil war in Guatemala went on intermittently for thirty-six years, from 1960 to 1996, the longest civil war in Latin American history.
Leftist guerrillas fought Guatemala’s ruling elite through several presidencies and two coups, in 1963 and 1982. The government was aided heavily by the United States, which considered the guerrillas communists.
As in El Salvador, government forces and paramilitary death squads ruled through terror: kidnapping opponents, torturing them, killing them.
About 100,000 people were killed; another 40,000 disappeared, never to be heard from again. A million people were left homeless or driven into exile in other Central American countries, Mexico, or the United States.
A system of democratic elections was finally restored. In 1996, the rebels and the government signed a peace accord, with some concessions on each side. Whether the accord will bring lasting peace is still unknown.
Some of the worst violence in the Guatemalan civil war came after the 1982 coup. Suspecting that peasants were harboring the rebels, the government destroyed more than four hundred Native American villages.