La Muchacha Respondona : Reflections on the Razor's Edge Between Crime and Human Rights

The distinction between "political" and "common" crime has long been an unremarked-upon assumption undergirding human rights work. Yet in recent decades these boundaries have become blurred in many parts of the world, making it sometimes impossible to separate the two. This article explores the shifting categories of violence in the specific context of postwar Guatemala, arguing that the familiar distinction between "common" and "political" crime has always been based on an abstraction—an abstraction that has become increasingly tendentious in recent years. This is problematic, not only because it fails to stand up to empirical scrutiny, but because it has important political consequences that affect the success of broader human rights initiatives.