Guatemala: The Disappeared | Under the Shadow, Ep. 3

U.S.-trained and sponsored state forces killed 200,000 mostly Indigenous Guatemalans in a genocide in the 1980s. Forty years later, justice remains elusive.

January 9, 2024

Graves at a former military base in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala, hold the remains of unidentified victims. (Michael Fox)


Read the transcript.

In this episode, host Michael Fox visits a memorial for the disappeared on the outskirts of the Guatemalan town of San Juan Comalapa. He walks back in time to the 1980s, into the country’s genocide of Indigenous peoples, uncovering the overwhelming support from the United States and then President Ronald Reagan in the name of fighting the so-called “communist threat.” 

Between 1962 and 1996, 200,000 Guatemalans were killed and 45,000 were forcibly disappeared. For the majority of families, the whereabouts of those lost loved ones are still unknown, even decades after security forces abducted them. Most of the victims of the conflict were Indigenous. Most of the perpetrators were members of government forces.

We also look at the upcoming inauguration of Bernardo Arévalo—the son of the country’s first democratic president—who is generating hope across the country. Arévalo is expected to be sworn in on January 14, 2024.

Under the Shadow is a new investigative narrative podcast series that walks back in time, to tell the story of the past by visiting momentous places in the present. 

In each episode, host Michael Fox takes us to a location where something historic happened—a landmark of revolutionary struggle or foreign intervention. Today, it might look like a random street corner, a church, a mall, a monument or a museum. But every place he takes us was once the site of history-making events that shook countries, impacted lives and left deep marks on the world.

Hosted by Latin America-based journalist Michael Fox.

This podcast is produced in partnership between The Real News Network and NACLA.

Edited by Heather Gies.
Sound design by Gustavo Türck.
Theme music by Monte Perdido. Other music from Blue Dot Sessions.
Support journalist Michael Fox or Under the Shadow at

Many thanks to filmmaker Pamela Yates for allowing us to use clips of her award winning documentary When the Mountains Tremble in this podcast. Her Guatemala documentaries are being rereleased this year. You can find out more at

Check out the Democracy Now! interview with Allan Nairn following the Ríos Montt verdict.

Like this article? Support our work. Donate now.