Rosalina Tuyuc (foreground)
meets with the executive
board of CONAVIGUA at the
site, February 14, 2012.
Defending the Rights of
Guatemala’s War Widows
By Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez
rom 1960 to 1996, approximately 250,000 Guatemalans
were victims of genocide—largely at the hands of our
military forces. I helped establish our country’s first
association of war widows (Coordinadora Nacional de Viudas
de Guatemala—CONAVIGUA) in 1988 as a counter weight
to the influence of the military in our communities and in our
government. I and my co-founders wanted to defend our children
from forced military recruitment, and to find our disappeared loved
ones. As someone who lost her husband to our country’s violence, I was
determined to empower Indigenous women in our struggle against
violence, poverty and discrimination. In 1982, my father was disappeared
by the military and three years later, my husband met the same fate. I
have experienced three attempted kidnappings.
Even as CONAVIGUA encourages women to exercise their civic rights,
we recognize that only by helping women become active players in the
political process—at local, municipal and national levels of government—can we truly influence public policy.
In Guatemala, we are still coming to grips with our violent past.
Nearly a half-century of civil war has left us in need of reparation and
reconciliation. Thus, an important aspect of CONAVIGUA’s activities
is monitoring public disbursements to victims under the government-led National Reparations Program (Programa Nacional de Reparaciones—
PNR) established in 2003.
Former President Óscar Berger was the first leader who recognized the
conditions of civil war widows and committed his government to action.
Through the PNR, the Guatemalan government provides compensation
to genocide survivors and their families, as well as agricultural assistance
and financing for the reconstruction of war widows’ homes. But an immense number of surviving victims have been ignored, in particular orphans and female victims of abuse and rape.
I served as a congressional deputy and then vice president of Guatema-
la’s congress from 1996 to 2000, which represented a double achievement,
To further improve the conditions of rural areas, we also helped estab-
lish Banrural—the Guatemalan Bank of Rural Development and the only
national bank that supports social enterprises in the countryside through
micro-loans and online services. Now that I am out of congress, I have re-
turned to the issue that brought me into politics. I plan to dedicate the
rest of my life to CONAVIGUA and the cause of Guatemala’s war widows.
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012