Forgotten World (91): Guatemala

On 18 occasions now, I’ve had a week-long feature devoted to parts of the world that tend to be under-reported or even forgotten. You can check out the previous 90 entries here. This week, I am going to run another series of postings on this theme.
Guatemala is a Central American country of 13M people – the most populous nation in the isthmus – with a rich culture and beautiful locations but a bitter recent history and deeply troubled present.
In 1996, the country emerged from a 36-year-long civil war which pitted Leftist, mostly Mayan insurgents against the army, which – backed by the US – waged a vicious campaign to eliminate the guerrillas. More than 200,000 people – most of them civilians – were killed or disappeared. Despite an official finding that 93% of all atrocities carried out during the war had been committed by the security forces, moves to bring those responsible to account started only after a long delay.
Guatemalans live in one of the most inequitable societies in the region. Poverty is particularly widespread in the countryside and among indigenous communities. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, in common with many of its neighbours, the country is plagued by organised crime, drug-trafficking and violent street gangs. Hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans who fled the civil war still live abroad.