Heart of the Mayan empire, the region that would become Guatemala, was taken by the Spanish in 1524. Guatemala also became the center of the United Provinces of Central America after 1821, when Spanish rule was overthrown. In 1838, Guatemala became independent, following the dissolution of the United Provinces. For nearly a century, the Liberal party held power in Guatemala. Communist support became evident in the 1945 elections and Jacobo Arbenz was deposed in 1954 in a US-supported military coup. Since then, it has been the military which controls Guatemala's government. All has not been peaceful, however, as civil war between the military and antigovernment guerrillas raged from 1960 to the 1990s. In 1994, an agreement was reached to bring the civil war to a close, but implementation stalled while aspects of the pact were debated including amendments to the constitution. The US, angered by the country's failure to bring to justice military officers who had committed war crimes. In 1997, the 36-year long civil war seemed to have been concluded.

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