Guatemala: The San Carlos Student Association (Asociación de Estudiantes Universitarios, AEU); involvement in human rights investigations of the Mayan population; treatment of its members and their families; assistance from police, if necessary (1999-2001)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||26 April 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||GTM38342.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Guatemala: The San Carlos Student Association (Asociación de Estudiantes Universitarios, AEU); involvement in human rights investigations of the Mayan population; treatment of its members and their families; assistance from police, if necessary (1999-2001), 26 April 2002, GTM38342.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be3830.html [accessed 22 November 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Please refer to the report entitled Organization and Repression in the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, 1944 to 1996 by Paul Kobrak for a detailed account of the formation of the Asociación de Estudiantes Universitarios (AEU) and the treatment of its members by the authorities from its formation to 1996 (AAAS 1999). The full text of this report can be found on the Website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at
Reports referring to the treatment of AEU members between 1999 and 2001 are scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In its 28 February 2002 report entitled Guatemala's Lethal Legacy: Past Impunity and Renewed Human Rights Violations, Amnesty International (AI) reported that an "upsurge in abuses against activists working to combat impunity became apparent from around May 2000, and accelerated as the year progressed." AI provides evidence of this "upsurge," citing several examples of harassment of human rights activists including the fact that the office of the AEU was reportedly broken into in October 2000 (ibid., 17). The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA), in its 15 January 2001 Guatemala Human Rights Update, also refers to this event and reports that computer equipment and records were stolen during the break-in. Neither report comments on police response to the incident nor specifies who committed this break-in.
Information on whether the AEU was involved in investigating alleged human rights abuses of the Mayan population could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
According to AI, the AEU has "traditionally been outspoken on political and human rights issues and its leaders have frequently been targeted" (28 Feb. 2002). Kobrak, in Organization and Repression in the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, 1944 to 1996, documents the "cases of 492 students, professors and university employees [of the University of San Carlos], all of them extra-judicially killed or disappeared" between 1944 and 1996 (AAAS 1999). About these statistics, Kobrak notes:
There are many cases of students and professors killed or disappeared which still have not appeared in the historical record. Oftentimes their families, out of fear, resisted denouncing the deaths of their loved ones. Since 1954, the University itself has been one of the main depositories for denunciations of human rights violations; tragically much of the archived information was destroyed during government raids on the San Carlos campus.
Despite the partial nature of the data, a few conclusions about the dynamic of organizing and repression are possible. The facts make clear that during the past decades the Guatemalan State has employed massive terrorist violence against the University of San Carlos. At certain points the violence has been determined by a counterinsurgency logic. Nevertheless, the State has routinely attacked other forms of opposition to its authority, including pacifist and democratic movements.
Nineteen fifty-six marked the beginning of a series of attacks on activist members of the University of San Carlos. But it was not until over two decades later, with the June 1977 murder of professor and labor adviser Mario López Larrave, that the State began a systematic campaign of violence against the University. The terror against the university community continued until the return to civilian rule in 1986. However, even with a civilian in the National Palace the student movement continued to suffer a series of extra-judicial killings, notably the massacre of most of the AEU leadership in 1989.
This sustained state violence can be understood as a response to the strength of independent political organizing in the University of San Carlos. Though the revolutionary movement had many supporters in the University, those hardest hit were unarmed militants who participated in social struggles and lacked adequate means of self-defense. The violence in the San Carlos peaked between 1978 and 1981 when the University helped lead a widespread opposition to the military government. With the repression of this legal movement, many survivors opted to participate in the insurgency (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) [Maryland]. 1999. Paul Kobrak. Organization and Repression in the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, 1944 to 1996.
Amnesty International (AI). 28 February 2002. Guatemala's Lethal Legacy: Past Impunity and Renewed Human Rights Violations.
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA) [Washington]. 15 January 2001. "Special Analysis Section: Accountability for Crimes and Abuses: Confronting Evil in Guatemala." Guatemala Human Rights Update. Vol. 133, No. 1.
Additional Sources Consulted
Central America Report [Guatemala City], 1999-2002
World News Connection (WNC)
One oral source did not respond within the time constraints of this response.
Internet sites including:
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Human Rights Action Network
Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL)
Country Reports 1999, 2000, 2001
La Guia, Internet Resources for Latin America
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organisation of American States (OAS)
Latin American Network Information Centre (LANIC), Texas
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
Peace Brigades International, Guatemala Project
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Treaty-Body Database
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)