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A Warning

The Latin Americanization of U.S. Police Forces

by COSME CAAL

Guatemala City.

From Guatemala City I have been keeping up with the events in Ferguson, Missouri and my heart goes out to those United States citizens who are actively resisting a brutal local police state. I sit awake at night and contemplate how one of the greatest nations in the world has become militarized and despotic. Impunity is now normalized in most police departments across the United States and in the minds of many Americans. I did not know I would live to see this phenomenon, yet, the more I peruse online news feeds, the more evident it is to me that Americans, especially minorities, are in great danger of militarized suppression as a matter of state policy.

From our experience in half a century in Latin America I can tell you that, once the human rights of a minority are compromised, it is only a matter of time before they are compromised for an entire nation. From that same experience I can tell you it will take decades before they can be regained. Militarized police forces take on a life of their down, at the expense of the society’s well-being. The social contract that gives the state the duty to organize police forces itself becomes obsolete, almost a joke. Citizens begin to obey agents of the state not out of respect or cooperation, but out of fear of those sworn to protect them. Eventually, the militarized power of the police reaches such magnitude that political leaders lose all ability to rein them in. We experienced this USA-backed militarized transformation of the police in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, and Colombia. What the U.S. helped do to Latin America, it is now doing to itself.

Even when there will officers who want to adhere to the law, militarized policing organizations become an unstoppable and despotic force. The very ideologies that give them life become obsolete, as do all existing laws that protect citizens. Central American dictatorships backed and armed by the United States government in the 1970’s built police forces, outfitted them with military gear, and allowed them to brutalize and kill with impunity. The murder or incarceration of progressive democratic leaders who resisted this transformation was sanctioned by United States intelligence agencies.

I call out to white United States citizens, and those police officers that believe in democracy and the rule of law, to unite with racial minorities who are now being suppressed, and to resist the catastrophic militarization of police forces across the United States. For white Americans to think that their race makes them immune to police brutality is a mistake that cannot be afforded. Central American urban mestizo masses ignored the genocide of hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples. They...

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