2008-06. Never Again a Military Parade
July 8th, 2008
Guatemala City, Guatemala.
June 30, 2008.
Issue: Historic Memory / Post-War / Militarization
Since 1871, the Guatemalan people have been submitted to witness the armed forces caravan through their streets every June 30th – officially observed as Armed Forces Day. Nevertheless, starting in 1999, the HIJOS Collective (acronym for: Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice, against Forgetfulness and Silence, a group mostly made up of family members of those forcefully disappeared by the military dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s) set itself the goal of permanently stopping the parade.
According to HIJOS, “the military parade is a clear display of force by the armed forces against civil society in a country where the army has been accused of crimes against humanity by a number of justice processes. Despite such indictments, members of the armed forces walk the streets and even parade in complete impunity.” (1)
Over these past 9 years, several attempts at stopping the military parade have led to violent confrontations, as was the case during last year’s June 30th celebrations (Please see the photo-essay: The March For Remembrance Halts the Military Parade).
This year, Peace Secretary Orlando Blanco declared on June 10th that “the government had decided to cancel the military parade due to a petition submitted by a large group of people affected during the internal war.” Military leaders, however, attempted to downplay the governmental decision by stating that they had already planned to call off this year’s parade due to “economic austerity.” (2)
Nevertheless, “for HIJOS Guatemala, the cancellation of the parade is a VICTORY which has been achieved thanks to everyone who, despite the threats, attacks, and repression suffered, has continually marched against the military parade year after year. In addition, we reiterate our struggle to make sure the Army stops patrolling our streets [in combined patrols with the National Civil Police], to find out the final resting place of those forcibly disappeared, and to publicly unmask the intellectual authors of such atrocities, whether civilian or military, so as to make sure they are legally processed appropriately as genocidal criminals.” (3)
In conjunction with numerous other civil society organizations, HIJOS convoked the National March for Remembrance. The event began as a protest march starting in Jocotenango Park in Zone 2 and ended with a music and art festival at the Central Square. The day was truly a joyous occasion lived by all under a celebratory atmosphere.
Raul Najera, member of HIJOS, stated during the festival in the Central Square: “Friends and colleagues, today, on a June 30th, instead of finding this place full of military personnel, we find ourselves dancing and celebrating! Today, June 30th 2008, we declare it National Day of Our Heroes and Martyrs! Never Again a Military Parade!”
“All of this, all of our history, has successfully stopped a historic symbol of terror and brutality. TOGETHER WE HAVE ALL STOPPED THE MILITARY PARADE. All of us here in addition to every man and woman who broke the silence and signed each petition which made its way to San Marcos, Ixcan, Peten, El Estor, Coban, and those forgotten corners where they still await the day when they can stamp on a little piece of paper their own history. As a result, this march will continue and we must go further and give another step forward in remembrance to our heroes and martyrs so that we, all together, may lift the flags of life, dignity, a just struggle, and hope for our people.” (4)
Versión en español aquí.
In Japanese: 日本語で。
1 HIJOS Guatemala. “No Queremos Armarte, Queremos Desmilitarizarte”; Communiqué. Guatemala, May 2008.
2 Fernández, Marcela. “No habrá desfile el 30 de junio”. Prensa Libre; Guatemala, June 10, 2008. (http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2008/junio/10/243478.html).
3 HIJOS Guatemala. “Ante la Suspensión del Desfile Mlitar”; Communiqué. Guatemala, May 2008.
4 HIJOS Guatemala. “Todos y Todas Paramos el Desfile Militar: Es Tiempo de Desmilitarizar Nuestro Territorio y Nuestra Mente”; Communiqué. Guatemala, June 2008.