Take a journey back in time and immerse yourself in a 150-year-old battle that nearly split our nation in two. This three-part series explores famous and little known aspects of the Civil War, from the perspectives of the Union, the Confederacy and the millions of enslaved people struggling for freedom. Hosted by Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins, and Dennis Haysbert, all of whom had ancestors greatly affected by the war, this series delivers fresh insights and untold tales, brought to life through dramatic recreations and the Smithsonian Institution's vast collection of artifacts.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Civil War 360 - Guatemalan Civil War - Netflix
The Guatemalan Civil War ran from 1960 to 1996. It was fought between the government of Guatemala and various leftist rebel groups supported chiefly by ethnic Maya indigenous people and Ladino peasants, who together make up the rural poor. The government forces of Guatemala have been condemned for committing genocide against the Maya population of Guatemala during the civil war and for widespread human rights violations against civilians. Democratic elections during the Guatemalan Revolution in 1944 and 1951 had brought popular leftist governments to power, but a United States-backed coup d'état in 1954 installed the military regime of Carlos Castillo Armas, who was followed by a series of conservative military dictators. In 1970, Colonel Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio became the first of a series of military dictators representing the Institutional Democratic Party or PID. The PID dominated Guatemalan politics for twelve years through electoral frauds favoring two of Col. Carlos Arana's proteges (Gen. Kjell Eugenio Laugerud Garcia in 1974 and Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia in 1978). The PID lost its grip on Guatemalan politics when General Efraín Ríos Montt, together with a group of junior army officers, seized power in a military coup on 23 March 1982. In the 1970s continuing social discontent gave rise to an insurgency among the large populations of indigenous people and peasants, who traditionally bore the brunt of unequal land tenure. During the 1980s, the Guatemalan military assumed almost absolute government power for five years; it had successfully infiltrated and eliminated enemies in every socio-political institution of the nation, including the political, social, and intellectual classes. In the final stage of the civil war, the military developed a parallel, semi-visible, low profile but high-effect, control of Guatemala's national life. As well as fighting between government forces and rebel groups, the conflict included, much more significantly, a large-scale, coordinated campaign of one-sided violence by the Guatemalan state against the civilian population from the mid-1960s onward. The military intelligence services (G2 or S2) and an affiliated intelligence organization known as La Regional or Archivo – headquartered in an annex of the presidential palace – were responsible for coordinating killings and “disappearances” of opponents of the state and suspected insurgents and those deemed by the intelligence services to be collaborators. The Guatemalan state was the first in Latin America to engage in widespread use of forced disappearances against its opposition with the number of disappeared estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 from 1966 until the end of the war. In rural areas where the insurgency maintained its strongholds, the repression amounted to wholesale slaughter of the peasantry and massacres of entire villages; first in the departments of Izabal and Zacapa (1966–68) and later in the predominantly Mayan western highlands from 1978 onward. In the early 1980s, the killings are considered to have taken on the scale of genocide. In total, it is estimated that 200,000 people were killed or “disappeared” during the conflict. Most human rights abuses were at the hands of the military, police and intelligence services. Victims of the repression included indigenous activists, suspected government opponents, returning refugees, critical academics, students, left-leaning politicians, trade unionists, religious workers, journalists, and street children. The “Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico” has estimated that 93% of human right abuses in the conflict have been committed by government forces and 3% by the guerrillas. In 2009, Guatemalan courts sentenced Felipe Cusanero as the first person convicted of the crime of ordering forced disappearances. This was followed by the 2013 genocide trial of former president Efraín Ríos Montt for the killing and disappearances of more than 1,700 indigenous Ixil Maya during his 1982–83 rule; the accusations of genocide derived from the “Memoria del Silencio” report – written by the UN-appointed Commission for Historical Clarification- which considered that genocide could have occurred in Quiché between 1981 and 1983, although it did not take into consideration potential economic interests in the Ixcán region – situated in Franja Transversal del Norte- given the oil fields that were discovered in that area in 1975. The first former head of state to be tried for genocide by his own country's judicial system, Montt was found guilty the day following the conclusion of his trial and was sentenced to 80 years in prison; a few days later, however, the sentence was reversed by the country's high court and the trial was scheduled to start again because of alleged judicial anomalies. The trial began again on 23 July 2015 but did not reach a verdict before the Montt's death on 1 April 2018.
Civil War 360 - Jorge Ubico regime - Netflix
In 1931, the dictator General Jorge Ubico came to power, backed by the United States. While an efficient administrator, he initiated one of the most brutally repressive military regimes in Central American history. Just as Estrada Cabrera had done during his government, Ubico created a widespread network of spies and informants and had political opponents tortured and put to death. A wealthy aristocrat (with an estimated income of $215,000 per year in 1930s dollars) and a staunch anti-communist, he consistently sided with the United Fruit Company, Guatemalan landowners and urban elites in disputes with peasants. After the crash of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929, the peasant system established by Barrios in 1875 to jump start coffee production in the country faltered, and Ubico was forced to implement a system of debt slavery and forced labor to make sure that there was enough labor available for the coffee plantations and that the UFCO workers were readily available. Allegedly, he passed laws allowing landowners to execute workers as a “disciplinary” measure. He also identified as a fascist; he admired Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler, saying at one point: “I am like Hitler. I execute first and ask questions later.” Ubico was disdainful of the indigenous population, calling them “animal-like”, and stated that to become “civilized” they needed mandatory military training, comparing it to “domesticating donkeys”. He gave away hundreds of thousands of hectares to the United Fruit Company (UFCO), exempted them from taxes in Tiquisate, and allowed the U.S. military to establish bases in Guatemala. Ubico considered himself to be “another Napoleon”. He dressed ostentatiously and surrounded himself with statues and paintings of the emperor, regularly commenting on the similarities between their appearances. He militarized numerous political and social institutions—including the post office, schools, and even symphony orchestras—and placed military officers in charge of many government posts. He frequently travelled around the country performing “inspections” in dress uniform, followed by a military escort, a mobile radio station, an official biographer, and cabinet members. After 14 years, Ubico's repressive policies and arrogant demeanor finally led to pacific disobedience by urban middle-class intellectuals, professionals, and junior army officers in 1944. On 1 July 1944 Ubico resigned from office amidst a general strike and nationwide protests. He had planned to hand over power to the former director of police, General Roderico Anzueto, whom he felt he could control. But his advisors noted that Anzueto's pro-Nazi sympathies had made him unpopular, and that he would not be able to control the military. So Ubico instead chose to select a triumvirate of Major General Bueneventura Piñeda, Major General Eduardo Villagrán Ariza, and General Federico Ponce Vaides. The three generals promised to convene the national assembly to hold an election for a provisional president, but when the congress met on 3 July, soldiers held everyone at gunpoint and forced them to vote for General Ponce rather than the popular civilian candidate, Dr. Ramón Calderón. Ponce, who had previously retired from military service due to alcoholism, took orders from Ubico and kept many of the officials who had worked in the Ubico administration. The repressive policies of the Ubico administration were continued.
Opposition groups began organizing again, this time joined by many prominent political and military leaders, who deemed the Ponce regime unconstitutional. Among the military officers in the opposition were Jacobo Árbenz and Major Francisco Javier Arana. Ubico had fired Árbenz from his teaching post at the Escuela Politécnica, and since then Árbenz had been living in El Salvador, organizing a band of revolutionary exiles. On 19 October 1944 a small group of soldiers and students led by Árbenz and Arana attacked the National Palace in what later became known as the “October Revolution”. Ponce was defeated and driven into exile; and Árbenz, Arana, and a lawyer name Jorge Toriello established a junta. They declared that democratic elections would be held before the end of the year. The winner of the 1944 elections was a teaching major named Juan José Arévalo, PhD, who had earn a scholarship in Argentina during the government of general Lázaro Chacón due to his superb professor skills. Arévalo remained in South America during a few years, working as a University professor in several countries. Back in Guatemala during the early years of the Jorge Ubico regime, his colleagues asked him to present a project to the president to create the Faculty of Humanism at the National University, to which Ubico was strongly opposed. Realizing the dictatorial nature of Ubico, Arévalo left Guatemala and went back to Argentina. He went back to Guatemala after the 1944 Revolution and ran under a coalition of leftist parties known as the Partido Acción Revolucionaria (“Revolutionary Action Party”, PAR), and won 85 percent of the vote in elections that are widely considered to have been fair and open. Arévalo implemented social reforms, including minimum wage laws, increased educational funding, near-universal suffrage (excluding illiterate women), and labor reforms. But many of these changes only benefited the upper-middle classes and did little for the peasant agricultural laborers who made up the majority of the population. Although his reforms were relatively moderate, he was widely disliked by the United States government, the Catholic Church, large landowners, employers such as the United Fruit Company, and Guatemalan military officers, who viewed his government as inefficient, corrupt, and heavily influenced by Communists. At least 25 coup attempts took place during his presidency, mostly led by wealthy liberal military officers. In 1944, the “October Revolutionaries” took control of the government. They instituted liberal economic reform, benefiting and politically strengthening the civil and labor rights of the urban working class and the peasants. Elsewhere, a group of leftist students, professionals, and liberal-democratic government coalitions developed, led by Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. Decree 900, passed in 1952, ordered the redistribution of fallow land on large estates, threatening the interests of the landowning elite and, mainly, the United Fruit Company. Given the strong ties of the UFCO with high Eisenhower administration officers -such as brothers John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles who were Secretary of State and CIA director, respectively who were in the company Board-, the U.S. government ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to launch Operation PBFORTUNE (1952–54) and halt Guatemala's “communist revolt”, as perceived by the corporate fruit company United Fruit and the U.S. State Department. The CIA chose right-wing Guatemalan Army Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas to lead an “insurrection” in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état. Upon deposing the Árbenz Guzmán government, Castillo Armas began to dissolve a decade of social and economic reform and legislative progress, and banned labor unions and left-wing political parties, a disfranchisement of left-wing Guatemalans. He also returned all the confiscated land to the United Fruit and the elite landlords. A series of military coups d'état followed, featuring fraudulent elections in which only military personnel were the winner candidates. Aggravating the general poverty and political repression motivating the civil war was the widespread socio economic discrimination and racism practiced against the Guatemala's indigenous peoples, such as the Maya; many later fought in the civil war. Although the indigenous Guatemalans constitute more than half of the national populace, they were landless, having been dispossessed of their lands since the Justo Rufino Barrios times. The landlord upper classes of the oligarchy, generally descendants of Spanish and other European immigrants to Guatemala, although often with some mestizo ancestry as well, controlled most of the land after the Liberal Reform of 1871.
Civil War 360 - References - Netflix