Government, Political Parties
CACIF, Rios Montt, leftist parties, ORPA, National Advancement Party
In the 19th century liberal and conservative factions of the elite constituted the principal political parties, and the Liberal Party dominated the country from 1871 to 1944. Beginning in 1945, new parties emerged, but usually represented a particular individual leader rather than broader ideological groups. Most of the parties since the military took control in 1954 have been rightist parties, usually associated with an army general, while leftist parties were outlawed most of the time. In 1982 General Efrain Rios Montt disbanded all political parties after assuming dictatorial powers.
New political movements emerged after 1985, when civilian rule was restored and parties were again legalized. The Christian Democratic Party (PDC) of President Vinicio Cerezo was dominant from 1985 to 1990. Its leading challenger was the center-right National Centrist Union (UCN), led by newspaper owner Jorge Carpio, which played a major role in Congress in the early 1990s. In 1993 Carpio was assassinated, and President Jorge Serrano Elias seized dictatorial control and disbanded Congress and all political parties. But Serrano was quickly forced to resign, and new political parties again emerged. Center-right, probusiness interests formed the National Advancement Party (PAN), which won both the presidency and a congressional majority in 1995 and 1996. Extreme right-wing interests with strong ties to Rios Montt grouped into the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG). By 1995 the Christian Democrats and National Centrist Union had sunk to the status of minor parties.
Under agreements reached in 1996 to end Guatemala’s long civil war, leftist parties were again allowed to participate in politics. Left-wing groups organized the New Guatemala Democratic Front (FDNG). This represented mainly the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG), which had served as a political umbrella for four guerrilla or outlawed groups: Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), the Revolutionary Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA), Rebel Armed Forces (FAR), and Guatemalan Labor Party (PGT). Also important were political action committees representing special interests, notably the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations (CACIF), the country’s major business lobby; the Mutual Support Group (GAM), a broadly based prolabor group focusing on human rights; the Agrarian Owners Group (UNAGRO), the leading agricultural exporters’ lobby; and the Committee for Campesino Unity (CUC), a rural workers’ association.
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