“Una institución como la nuestra”: Institutional logics, identity and counterinsurgency practices of the Guatemalan National Police, 1954-1985
This dissertation explores the role of the Guatemalan National Police, from 1954 to 1985, as an institution that in the context of the country’s armed conflict and dirty war, became a key part of the machinery of brutality and violence of the Guatemalan State. The work approaches the police as an institution with its own internal logics, identity and counterinsurgency practices. The dissertation argues that the actions of the Guatemalan police need to be examined as part of a high policing model, where acts of police violence should not be assumed as actions that diverge from the norm, but instead as central to the police function. Especially given the entity’s role in the defense of the status quo and power. The work provides an overview of how the police was structured in a way that blurred lines between the units in charge of everyday policing and political policing. It then provides an ethnographic overview of how the social, economic and cultural condition of the country affected police ranks. The work also examines the relationship between the Guatemalan National Police and the citizens it was expected to serve and protect, to learn how that day-to-day element of community protection led the police to create its own criminal subject and its own notion of the internal enemy beyond the political subversive. The dissertation also sheds lights on the extent to which the police relied on intelligence networks and informants. Showing that citizen collaboration was fundamental to counterinsurgency project of the State. This project begins in 1954, after the U.S.-sponsored coup against democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán (1951-1954) and ends in 1985, at the beginning of the country’s democratic transition. It begins in 1954, because the coup marked the beginning of the counterrevolution, a period that set the basis for the political actions that defined the structures of Guatemala during the following three decades. For its part, 1985 was supposed to represent a change for the country, but as the work explores, it is still hard to determine whether democratic transitional periods, with the military still at the forefront, can build lasting democratic projects.