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Government, Defense

Leon Carpio, Rios Montt, president commander, peace accord, Treasury Police

The army has historically been a major power in Guatemalan government. Efforts to reduce its direct role began in 1985 when the military was strongly criticized for its role in large-scale human rights abuses. The December 1996 peace accord requires the government to reduce the size of the army from 46,000 members in the early 1990s to about 30,000, and reductions have begun. In 2001 the army had 29,200 members. Guatemala also has a small navy (1,500 members) and an air force (700). The minister of defense is by law a military officer and the de facto head of the military, although the constitution makes the president commander in chief. Presidents Ramiro de Leon Carpio (1993-1996) and Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen (1996-2000) began to assert civilian control over the military and took legal action against some corrupt officers. Males between the ages of 18 and 50 are subject to conscription for periods of 24 to 30 months.

In addition to the armed forces, there are other important security forces in Guatemala: the National Police under the Ministry of the Interior, the Treasury Police of the Ministry of Finance, and the Military Police under the Department of Defense. In addition, Rios Montt in 1983 established rural Civil Defense Patrols, into which a half million Guatemalans have been drafted to protect villages from the guerrillas. The patrols have been highly controversial, having been accused of human rights abuses. Under the 1996 peace accord, they are to be abolished. Military expenses consume 11 percent of the government’s total budget.

Article key phrases:

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