Arzu Irigoyen, Alvaro

Arzu Irigoyen, Alvaro
▪ 1998

      As Alvaro Arzú neared the end of his second full year as president of Guatemala in 1997, he helped the country take the first steps toward recovery from its long civil war. During 1996 the president had achieved a number of agreements with guerrilla forces, culminating in the signing of a peace accord, and benefits from his actions began to appear in 1997.

      Arzú was born on March 14, 1946, in Guatemala City. Descended from Basque immigrants, he was a member of the country's small but powerful European elite. As a young man he tried boxing and bullfighting, and he was successful in business. From 1985 to 1990 Arzú served as mayor of Guatemala City. He made an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1990 and in 1991 was appointed minister of foreign affairs. He resigned the post that same year, however, to become secretary-general of the conservative National Advancement Party. Advocating various social reforms, as well as peace with Guatemala's guerrillas, he ran for president again in 1995 and, with strong support from voters in Guatemala City, narrowly won the office in a runoff election held on Jan. 7, 1996.

      Although peace talks had begun in 1990 and the fighting had waned, during 1996 Arzú moved swiftly to bring the civil war to an end. His efforts involved reaching accords with the leftist Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), including plans to demobilize the guerrillas and reintegrate them into society, reduce the size of the armed forces, and create a civilian force to take over police duties. The government also signed an international agreement outlining the rights of indigenous peoples. In March the government and the URNG agreed to a temporary cease-fire. On December 4 they signed a permanent cease-fire in Oslo, and on December 29, in Guatemala City, they signed the Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace, which thus ended a conflict that had lasted more than 35 years.

      The task of implementing the agreements was among Arzú's principal concerns in 1997. In January he traveled to Brussels, where he met with representatives of the United Nations and major lending countries to secure financial aid. Overcoming diplomatic objections from China, he then won agreement by the UN to station observers in Guatemala. By late 1997 the URNG had taken steps to transform itself into a political party. It was clear, however, that not all the country's problems would be solved easily. Human rights groups had criticized legislative action in late 1996 that granted pardons to both government and guerrilla officials and soldiers for political and common crimes, and they complained of difficulties in gaining access to the records needed to trace victims of the civil war.


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Universalium. 2010.

См. также в других словарях:

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