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Government of Guatemala and Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1997

The Peace Commission, created by the Government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), signed the "Firm and Lasting Peace Agreement" on 29 December 1996, which put an end to the hostilities that devastated the country, claiming between 100,000 and 150,000 lives and causing more than a million refugees.

Since 1986, the year in which the Central American presidents signed the declaration in Esquipulas (Guatemala) designed to achieve peace in the region, there have been many agreements and negotiation attempts which have sought to bring an end to the conflict. Finally, in the text signed in December 96, the Government of Guatemala bound itself to present Congress with a project for a National Reconciliation law "inclined to promote a culture of harmony and mutual respect which would eliminate any form of retaliation or revenge" and to create a commission focused on uncovering past human rights violations.

On 29th December 1996, a firm and lasting peace agreement was signed between the Government of Guatemala and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (Spanish acronym, URNG) in the presence of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros-Ghali, bringing an end to 36 years of civil war. The agreement was signed on behalf of the Guatemalan Government Peace Commission, chaired by Álvaro Arzú Irigoyen, by the sociologist Gustavo Porras and on behalf of the URNG by Jorge Soto (alias Pablo Monsanto), Ricardo Ramírez (Rolando Morán), Ricardo Rosales (Carlos González) and Jorge Rosal in place of Rodrigo Asturias (Gaspar Ilom). The signing ceremony was attended by the then President of the Spanish Government, José María Aznar, as well as the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.

The URNG’s conversion into a legal political party began in 1997, a process that culminated the following year. The URNG ran for parliament in the 1999 elections within a coalition of leftist parties which came third. In 2003, the different parties of the left ran for parliament individually, with the URNG reaping the worst results, gaining only 7 deputies out of a total of the 114 members of parliament that made up the Guatemalan Congress. The same occurred in the 2007 general elections, where the left was once again divided, this time winning only two seats out of 158 that were up for election.

The Secretary General of the URNG, Comandante Rolando Morán, and the President of Guatemala, Álvaro Arzú, were awarded the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.

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