During the ceremonies held on Thursday and Friday, October 19-20, more than 100,000 Guatemalans paid homage to former President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, making his funeral one of the most heavily attended in the history of Guatemala. The Frente Democratico Nueva Guatemala (FDNG) was present from beginning to end in this important commemoration of the Revolution of October 1944. It was the only political party which took a public role with respect to this historic date and participated together with the popular, democratic, and revolutionary movement.
No one expected that the return of the remains of Jacobo Arbenz was to become his full historical restitution as a hero of the people and the revival of the values of the Revolution of October 1944. However, it was the people themselves, with their massive presence and their ever-present combativity, who gave the event its fundamental importance, as well as its significance for the future.
The most important moments of these two days took place in the Museum of the University of San Carlos in the afternoon of October 19, in the National Palace that same night, the march in commemoration of the October Revolution on the morning of October 20, and the majestic funeral which included a march from the National Palace to the General Cemetery at midday on October 20.
In each of these moments, independently of the objectives which the government and the army may have had in repatriating the remains of Jacobo Arbenz, it was the people who in the most legitimate manner took charge of the commemoration. In this sense the rejection by the people of the armed forces and Ramiro de Leon, their Commander in Chief, was quite marked. The funeral cortege, upon leaving the National Palace, at the request of the widow of former President Arbenz was left in charge of the people, and the coffin was carried on their shoulders from the National Palace to the General Cemetery. Finally, during the final honors at Arbenz' tomb, the people did not allow the army to present their funeral oration, shouting in chorus: "Army murderers, leave the government", and later singing the National Anthem.
The Frente Democratico Nueva Guatemala was present in many ways. Its candidates, members of the popular movement, stood guard over the coffin in the Museum of San Carlos University. Its leaders, candidates, and members took a prominent role in the march with the funeral cortege through the streets of Guatemala City to the General Assembly. As the newspaper Prensa Libre says in its edition of October 21: "During the march, thousands of people applauded when the coffin passed by...The coordination by the...FDNG made it possible to contain the enthusiasm of the citizenry."
Political spaces in Guatemala are continuing to open, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of its people and the new conditions generated by the peace negotiations, international presence, and the participation of the FDNG in the electoral process. We do not hesitate to affirm that the funeral of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman this October 20 has marked the end of the so-called ideology of "national liberation" and has put the revolutionary actions of 1944 back at the fore of the political agenda.
Guatemala, October 21, 1995