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Enabling Peace in Guatemala: The Story of MINUGUA

William Stanley
Enabling Peace in Guatemala: The Story of MINUGUA
ISBN: 978-1-58826-656-9
ISBN: 978-1-58826-681-1
ISBN: 978-1-62637-645-8
2013/325 pages/LC: 2012044241
Histories of UN Peace Operations/A Project of the International Peace Institute
Also of interest:  Peackeeping in Sierra Leone: The Story of UNAMSIL by 'Funmi Olonisakin
"The definitive book on its subject."—Latin American Research Review

"An astonishingly outspoken book on the history of MINUGUA.... The author is very accurate and detailed, and never loses sight of the general context of the complicated peace process.... Written with sympathy for the mission but maintaining the necessary distance to be able to evaluate and criticise. It is the kind of publication that the UN and the bilateral donor community really need[s]."—Dirk Kruijt, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"One of the major strengths of this work is that it not only tells for the first time the detailed story, as billed, of UN involvement in Guatemala ... but it also provides the reader with a necessary understanding of the complexities of Guatemalan politics.... The book makes a valuable contribution to the political history of Guatemala during these tumultuous transitional years."—Philip Chrimes, International Affairs


William Stanley tells the absorbing story of the UN peace operation in Guatemala's ten-year endeavor (1994-2004) to build conditions that would sustain a lasting peace in the country.

Unusual among UN peace efforts because of its largely civilian nature, its General Assembly mandate, and its heavy reliance on UN volunteers to staff field offices, the mission (MINUGUA) focused initially on human rights. Beginning in 1997, however, its scope expanded to include verification of the full range of peace accords designed to end nearly four decades of civil war between the government and the revolutionary insurgency.

MINUGUA faced a challenging political context. The government that signed the peace accords proved unable or unwilling to implement them, and the progress of successive governments was modest at best.  The mission also grappled with uncooperative political elites and persistent state corruption, organized crime, and social inequality. Stanley chronicles a series of strategic—and sometimes experimental—choices from the UN's point of view and provides a cautionary tale about the limits of international benevolence.


William Stanley is professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. His publications include The Protection Racket State: Elite Politics, Military Extortion, and Civil War in El Salvador.


  • Foreword—Terje Rød-Larsen.
  • How to Play a Weak Hand.
  • Negotiating the End of an Asymmetrical War.
  • Defending Human Rights and Fighting Impunity, 1994-1996.
  • Preparing for Comprehensive Verification, 1996-1997.
  • Verifying the Full Accords, 1997-2000.
  • MINUGUA Deals with Portillo, 2000-2002.
  • Trying for a Graceful Exit, 2002-2004.
  • Mandate vs. Strategy: Lessons from an Underpowered Mission.