July 29, 2003
"Journalist Spotted; Journalist Dead!"
Guatemala Bleeds; US Press Shrugs
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
All hell is breaking loose in Guatemala and few outside that tragic nation seem to care or even notice.
In recent days, followers of General Efrain Rios Montt, stirred into action by the rightwing Republican Front Party (FRG) which he controls, have charged into the streets of Guatemala City armed with machetes, clubs and gunsparties and newspapers, torching buildings, shooting out windows and bullying opponents of the dictator.
Not only has the Guatemalan government taken no action to quell the rioters, members of the Army and police have actually joined the frenzy of violence.
Fearing the impending return of the regime that slaughtered nearly 200,000 people, Mayan peasants in the highlands began steaming across the border into Mexico last week. But they were blocked by hostile border patrols with orders from the Mexican government, under its cruel Plan Salvamento, to either send them back into Guatemala or lock them up in immigrant concentration camps, where they are routinely starved and abused by guards.
The reaction of the Bush administration to Rios Montt's antics has been restrained, given the circumstances. Even though the US Embassy was taunted by rioters, there have been no statements of condemnation directly from Colin Powell. Indeed, we've only heard from state department spokesman Richard Boucher, who continues to say the administration would prefer that Rios Montt not run for office. This weekend Boucher was again rolled out to remark on the rampages in the streets of Guatemala City.
"They are a dangerous mockery of protest," Boucher said. But he stopped short of pointing the finger at the General, whose infamous career is every bit as bloody as that of SADDAM HUSSEIN.
A Rios Montt victory in November could complicate matters for a Bush administration that is crusading against political corruption in Latin America. Of course, the preacher in this crusade is none other than the unappetizing Otto Reich, who enjoys deep and warm ties to Rios Montt and his gang of gruesome generals.
Still, Rios Montt is an unreconstructed monster of an older vintage, trained in the art of the military strongman at the School of the Americas in the 1950s.
Powell no doubt feels that the general, if elected, might become as problematic as Manuel Noriega was for the current president's father. That said, the Bush administration may calculate that it can't afford to be too harsh in its condemnations of Rios Montt, who no doubt has many stories to tell about the CIA's affirmative role in the Guatemala bloodbaths of the 1980s.
The General took power in a bloody coup in 1982, which was backed by the Reagan administration. Over the next 18 months Rios Montt supervised a vicious crackdown on political opponents and Mayan peasants that left more than 19,000 dead, thousands more in jail and more than 100,000 displaced from their homes.
Rios Montt has boasted that he owns the votes of four justices on the court. And indeed that's precisely how many votes he got in the July 15th ruling that initially put him on the ballot.
Rigoberta Menchu, the Mayan activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 and brought genocide charges against Rios Montt in Spain, bitterly concedes that the general is probably right about having the top court rigged in his favor. She says Rios Montt and his FRG party, its accounts plump with funds derived from a fruitful association with Colombian drug cartels, have corrupted the judicial system through bribes and intimidation in an attempt to grease the old dictator's return to power.
"The court has supported a coup d'etat by the Rios Montt's Republican Front," says Menchu. "And they have hidden its hand. The FRG usurped a court that was meant to protect the legal and moral welfare of the Guatemalan state."
"It looks a lot like 1982," she said.
That was a very bloody year.
Last edit by pickledpepperRN on Aug 10, '03
Aug 10, '03
I want to respond to this thread by saying how interesting that no one has yet responded to this very sad situation.
I currently hold no answers. . .
. . . except that I wish that the world as a whole would take notice when so much needless death occurs.
Honestly, I even need to think and research about this more. Today, I briefly tried to find more "news" in the New York Times (online "paper") regarding this dreadful situation in Guatamala. Didn't find anything. . . yet.
Now, back to Iraq. . . . .
Aug 10, '03
I'm concerned about a wonderful physician who is in Guatamala to help with the election, perform hundreds of cataract surgeries, and perform vision tests prior to distributing glasses.
Donated glasses are labeled with masking tape with the prescription. We (our units staff) bought drugstore reading glasses as well as donating our old ones. Ladies earn their families living weaving, sewing, and embroidering BEAUTIFUL garments.
At a certain age their livelihood depends on having help.
Nearsighted younger people are elated to see clearly too.
He has been doing this since 1981. He was clearly fearful anticipating this trip. His family is terrified he will 'disappear
Aug 11, '03
Well, the US supported the military there in the 80s, despite the genocide going on. So why should Bush react? Isn't it amazing that we can't keep our "pet" dictators in line! And what are we going to do if he seizes power, invade Guatemala? No oil, nothing the US really wants there.