FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Guatemala’s Reign of Terror

Guatemalan prosecutors announced January 26 that 85-year old Efraín Ríos Montt, military dictator in 1982-1983, was going to trial in March. He’s accused of responsibility for killing and disappearing thousands of mostly poor and indigenous Guatemalans.

Gratified, blogger Juan José Guerrero wrote: “I was surgeon in the Coban Regional Hospital when you (Ríos Montt) were the de facto government leader. The cadavers that arrived at the morgue – when they arrived – seemed to have come out of a diabolical nightmare: women raped and pathologically tortured beforehand; children ripped open.”

A 36 year civil war ended in 1996 with peace accords signed both by the government and guerrilla insurgents known asGuatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). The war emerged out of chaos following CIA overthrow of an elected government in 1954 bent on mild land reform.  Except during the Carter administration, U.S. support for the government side included military advisors, CIA operatives, military hardware, and funding. Both governments advanced the pretext of anti-communism.

The Guatemalan Conference of Bishops arranged for documentation of humanitarian catastrophe through the “Recovery of Historical Memory” (REMHI) project, led by Bishop Juan José Gerardi. The REMHI report “Guatemala: Nunca Mas,” issued on April 24, 1998, described eradication of 440 Mayan communities and the killing of 200,000 mostly unarmed, indigenous civilians. Blame fell largely upon the army and national government.

Efraín Ríos Montt is the first army leader called to account for war crimes. Impunity until now suggests the stage had been set with the peace agreement for traditional power brokers to go on with business as usual. Assassination of Bishop Gerardi by three army officers two days after release of the REMHI report set the tone, despite the jailing later of the responsible officers.

Journalist Giorgio Trucchi’s recent interview with former guerrilla leader Alba Estela Maldonado explored her view that people’s needs now go unmet due to continuing oppression.  She discussed a new book containing testimonials from former guerrillas edited by fellow guerrilla leader Ricardo Ramírez de León. They say poverty, racism, and subjugation are still the rule.

During negotiations, Maldonado asserted, rebel leaders sought a settlement aimed at “changing the prevailing economic and political model.”  While “the peace agreements constituted an important step in democratizing the country, [the] oligarchy took advantage of peace to introduce neoliberal policies…Basic reasons giving rise to the conflict are still intact.”

Maldonado cited a “strong wave of privatizations, land stolen and concentrated in a few hands, labor without regulation, and criminalization of social protest.”  “Unregulated introduction of mono-crops like sugar and African palms, along with hydroelectric, mining, lumber, and petroleum megaprojects are examples…of new forms of domination.”

The Guatemalan oligarchy had earlier presided over wholesale slaughter. Now Guatemala confronts preventable, predictable deaths. Seemingly they are acceptable in ruling circles. Little regarded in political commentary, Guatemala’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) illustrates one way people die. MMR represents the number of women dying from pregnancy or birth-related causes per 100,000 births. Guatemala’s MMR, vying with that of Haiti as the highest in the Western Hemisphere, is now 290. Costa Rica’s MMR is 30. During four years of the recently concluded Álvaro Colom presidency, 40,000 women died before or during giving birth, according to Revista Amauta.

That 50 percent of maternal deaths occur at home hints at sharply reduced access to skilled birthing assistance. Victims are mostly indigenous and live in rural areas. Contributing factors include poverty – “Half of Guatemala’s 14 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day,” reports the UK Guardian – and malnutrition, now affecting half of all children.

Guatemala is “a leading agro-exporter,” says the Guardian. It boasts the largest GDP in Central America. Assuming Guatemala’s presidency in mid January, former army general Otto Perez Molina indicated he’d seek resumption of U.S. military aid.

Dr. Reinaldo Pons heads the Cuban Medical Brigade active in Guatemala since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. His report last year epitomizes an approach to international outreach that serves people’s needs, not the wealthy few: 332 Cuban doctors were caring for 13.1 percent of the Guatemalan population. They included 57 eye surgeons associated with Cuba’s multinational Operation Miracle, 81 working in 23 hospitals, and the rest carrying out primary care in 29 departments and municipalities. In areas where they worked, infant mortality had fallen to eight deaths in the first year of life per 1000 births, down from 30-40 deaths elsewhere. Guatemalan students pay nothing to attend Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine; 345 had graduated as of 2007.

 W. T. Whitney, Jr. is a retired pediatrician.

More articles by:

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail