Category Archives: Guatemala

The US Remains Guilty in Guatemala

By Noam Chomsky
June 07, 2013 “Information Clearing House – On Mother’s Day, May 12, The Boston Globe featured a photo of a young woman with her toddler son sleeping in her arms.
The woman, of Mayan Indian heritage, had crossed the U.S. border seven times while pregnant, only to be caught and shipped back across the border on six of those attempts. She braved many miles, enduring blisteringly hot days and freezing nights, with no water or shelter, amid roaming gunmen.
The last time she crossed, seven months pregnant, she was rescued by immigration solidarity activists who helped her to find her way to Boston.
Most of the border crossers are from Central America. Many say they would rather be home, if the possibility of decent survival hadn’t been destroyed. Mayans such as this young mother are still fleeing from the wreckage of the genocidal assault on the indigenous population of the Guatemalan highlands 30 years ago.
The main perpetrator, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, the former dictator who ruled Guatemala during two of the bloodiest years of the country’s decades-long civil war, was convicted in a Guatemalan court of genocide and crimes against humanity, on May 10.
Then, 10 days later, the case was overturned under suspicious circumstances. It is unclear whether the trial will continue.
Rios Montt’s forces killed tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly Mayans, in the year 1982 alone.
As that bloody year ended, President Reagan assured the nation that the killer was a “man of great personal integrity and commitment,” who was getting a “rap” from human-rights organizations and who “wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”
Therefore, the president continued, “My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”
Ample evidence of Rios Montt’s “progressive efforts” was available to Washington, not only from rights organizations, but also from U.S. intelligence.
But truth was unwelcome. It interfered with the objectives set by Reagan’s national security team in 1981. As reported by the journalist Robert Parry, working from a document he discovered in the Reagan Library, the team’s goal was to supply military aid to the right-wing regime in Guatemala in order to exterminate not only “Marxist guerrillas‚” but also their “civilian support mechanisms‚”which means, effectively, genocide.
The task was carried out with dedication. Reagan sent “nonlethal” equipment to the killers, including Bell helicopters that were immediately armed and sent on their missions of death and destruction.
But the most effective method was to enlist a network of client states to take over the task, including Taiwan and South Korea, still under U.S.-backed dictatorships, as well as apartheid South Africa and the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships.
At the forefront was Israel, which became the major arms supplier to Guatemala. It provided instructors for the killers and participated in counterinsurgency operations.
The background bears restating. In 1954, a CIA-run military coup ended a 10-year democratic interlude in Guatemala “the years of spring,” as they are known there and restored a savage elite to power.
In the 1990s, international organizations conducting inquiries into the fighting reported that since 1954 some 200,000 people had been killed in Guatemala, 80 percent of whom were indigenous. The killers were mostly from the Guatemalan security forces and closely linked paramilitaries.
The atrocities were carried out with vigorous U.S. support and participation. Among the standard Cold War pretexts was that Guatemala was a Russian “beachhead” in Latin America.
The real reasons, amply documented, were also standard: concern for the interests of U.S. investors and fear that a democratic experiment empowering the harshly repressed peasant majority ‚”might be a virus‚”that would “spread contagion,” in Henry Kissinger’s thoughtful phrase, referring to Salvador Allende’s democratic socialist Chile.
Reagan’s murderous assault on Central America was not limited to Guatemala, of course. In most of the region the agencies of terror were government security forces that had been armed and trained by Washington.
One country was different: Nicaragua. It had an army to defend its population. Reagan therefore had to organize right-wing guerilla forces to wage the fight.
In 1986, the World Court, in Nicaragua v. United States, condemned the U.S. for “unlawful use of force‚” in Nicaragua and ordered the payment of reparations. The United States’ response to the court’s decree was to escalate the proxy war.
The U.S. Southern Command ordered the guerillas to attack virtually defenseless civilian targets, not to “duke it out” with the Nicaraguan army, according to Southcom’s Gen. John Gavin testimony to Congress in 1987.
Rights organizations (the same ones that were giving a bad rap to genocidaire Rios Montt) had condemned the war in Nicaragua all along but vehemently protested Southcom’s “soft-target” tactics.
The American commentator Michael Kinsley reprimanded the rights organizations for departing from good form. He explained that a “sensible policy” must “meet the test of cost-benefit analysis,” evaluating “the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end.”
Naturally, we Americans have the right to conduct the analysis, thanks, presumably, to our inherent nobility and stellar record ever since the days when the continent was cleared of the native scourge.
The nature of the “democracy that will emerge” was hardly obscure. It is accurately described by the leading scholar of “democracy promotion,” Thomas Carothers, who worked on such projects in the Reagan State Department.
Carothers concludes, regretfully, that U.S. influence was inversely proportional to democratic progress in Latin America, because Washington would only tolerate “limited, top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States has long been allied (in) quite undemocratic societies.”
There has been no change since.
In 1999, President Clinton apologized for American crimes in Guatemala but no action was taken.
There are countries that rise to a higher level than idle apology without action. Guatemala, despite its continuing travails, has carried out the unprecedented act of bringing a former head of state to trial for his crimes, something we might remember on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Also perhaps unprecedented is an article in The New York Times by Elisabeth Malkin, headlined “Trial on Guatemalan Civil War Carnage Leaves Out U.S. Role.” Even acknowledgment of one’s own crimes is very rare.”
Rare to nonexistent are actions that could alleviate some of the crimes’ horrendous consequences – for example, for the United States to pay the reparations to Nicaragua ordered by the World Court.
The absence of such actions provides one measure of the chasm that separates us from where a civilized society ought to be.
Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
© 2012 The New York Times Company

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Guatemalan high court upholds overturning of Rios Montt conviction

By Bill Van Auken 
30 May 2013
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court Tuesday upheld its May 20 decision to throw out the conviction of the former US-backed dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The order followed the concurrence of the country’s appeals court in the extraordinary upending of the trial that the high court ordered 10 days after the conviction. It dismissed appeals filed by the prosecution and representatives of the surviving victims of Rios Montt’s bloody reign in 1982 and 1983.
In the May 10 verdict, the lower court convicted Rios Montt for the massacre of 1,771 Ixil Indians in the country’s northwest highlands during a scorched-earth counterinsurgency campaign. It sentenced him to 80 years in prison. His co-defendant, former military intelligence chief Rodrigo Sanchez, was acquitted.
The high court ordered that the all of the trial’s proceedings from April 19 through the verdict and sentencing on May 10 be annulled and repealed. The April date was when the trial was briefly suspended over a jurisdictional dispute initiated by another judge who been recused from the case in November 2011. Rios Montt’s defense team seized upon the incident to denounce the trial as “illegal proceedings” and stage a walkout from the court. Rios Montt refused to use a public defender and was therefore left briefly without representation.
This was the basis for the high court’s ruling, which put forward the legally unprecedented and unfounded remedy of “rewinding” the trial to the date of the alleged judicial error.
Hector Reyes, lawyer for the Center for Legal Action on Human Rights, told the Guatemalan daily La Prensa that the overturning of the verdict took “an eminently illegal form, as the decision of the Constitutional Court lacks any foundation in law.”
Similarly, Francisco Vivar, the legal representative for the Association for Justice and Reconciliation, called the high court ruling a legal fraud.
“We are facing a juridical crisis provoked by the Constitutional Court,” he said. “No tribunal can hear a case whose proceedings are half over. Nor can one say that a trial has been annulled and should be restarted, because there is not one sentence that indicates this.”
The decision means that survivors of the mass killings must repeat their wrenching testimony, recalling the rape, dismemberment and slaughter of men, women and children by the Guatemalan military.
The most important practical effect of the ruling is that the three-judge panel that heard the case, led by Judge Jasmine Barrios, is itself being recused, and the appellate court must now put together a new panel to hear the portion of the trial that is to be repeated.
This is no easy task: scores of judges have already refused to take the case, putting forward various legal rationales, but in overwhelming measure because of well-founded fear that presiding over such a trial incurs the threat of violent retribution. The judges in the original panel received repeated death threats and were obliged to wear bulletproof vests.
A new judicial panel could well arrive at an entirely different verdict, quashing what had been greeted internationally as a landmark decision. It marked the first time that a Guatemalan court had held a former dictator and practitioner of horrific state terror responsible for some of the crimes carried out during more than three decades of military rule and civil war—in which at least 200,000 peasants, workers and students were killed.
The high court ruling provoked popular outrage in Guatemala and beyond. A demonstration of several thousand took place in Guatemala City on March 24, with members of indigenous communities, human rights groups, unions and others marching to the Constitutional Court building where they conducted a sit-in.
Demonstrations took place simultaneously in other Latin American capitals. Protesters carried signs and banners with slogans such “Yes, there was genocide,” “No to impunity” and “A national shame,” together with the names of the three judges who voted to annul the Rios Montt verdict.
Guatemala’s big business association CACIF (Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations) has been anything but subtle in its praise for the upending of the trial and its rejection of the charge of genocide.
In the most recent editorial, CACIF declares: “The business sector defends the importance of knowing how to leave the past behind in order to open a genuine channel to peace and reconciliation.” In other words, peace can only be guaranteed through impunity for Guatemala’s mass murderers.
Guatemala’s president, Otto Perez Molina, has echoed this position, having referred to the conviction of Rios Montt as a “delicate situation” and rejected the charge of genocide.
“When we are calling for people to come and invest in Guatemala, unfortunately, this is not good international news,” he said of the trial. The implication clearly is that foreign capital wants to be assured that the repressive forces can operate without restriction in suppressing struggles by the Guatemalan working class.
The role played in the bloody events of 1982-1983 by Perez Molina, also a former general, came out in testimony during the trial. A former army mechanic, Hugo Leonardo Reyes, testified that Perez Molina, who operated under the alias “Major Tito” during this period, presided over mass executions. Under his command, he said, soldiers carried out the burning and looting of Ixil villages and then massacred their inhabitants.
Those brought to be killed, he added, had been “beaten, tortured, their tongues cut off and fingernails ripped out.”
The US government had publicly indicated support for the trial of Rios Montt. In the wake of the Constitutional Court’s decision, however, it took a decidedly noncommittal position. A State Department spokesman referred to a “complex, unprecedented legal situation in Guatemala,” and Washington’s belief that “the fundamental imperative in this or any other legal proceedings should be to respect the rule of law and ensure equal justice for all.”
It is unlikely that the Obama administration would welcome “equal justice” being visited upon the many US accomplices in Rios Montt’s crimes. The ex-general was one of the favorite Latin American leaders under the administration of President Ronald Reagan, who made a point of paying a state visit to Guatemala at the height of the carnage—praising Rios Montt as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment,” who was determined “to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”
The US military and the CIA provided indispensable support for the genocidal counterinsurgency campaign, training and arming the Guatemalan military and developing much of the strategy for destroying villages and disposing of their populations. When difficulties arose in directly supplying US arms to the regime, the Reagan administration enlisted the support of Israel, which became deeply involved in the Central American bloodbath.
Many of those most directly involved in this policy, including former State Department official Elliott Abrams, ex-Reagan national security advisor Robert McFarlane, and ex-CIA official Alfonso Sapia-Bosch, are still alive and could be indicted as Rios Montt’s co-conspirators.
Immediately after the high court’s move to abort the Rios Montt trial, Guatemala suddenly organized the extradition to the US of Alfonso Portillo, the country’s president from 2000 to 2004, to face money laundering charges involving up to $70 million in Guatemalan public funds.
Lawyers for Portillo charged that that the extradition was illegal, as there were still challenges pending in the Guatemalan courts. The ex-president himself said he had been “kidnapped.” It marked the first time ever that a former Latin American head of state has been extradited to the US to face charges.
Portillo appeared in a New York City courtroom on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He had been cleared of embezzlement charges in Guatemala.
The extradition was widely seen as an attempt by the Guatemalan government to divert international attention from the overturning of the Rios Montt verdict. The ex-dictator still has strong support within the country’s ruling oligarchy, as opposed to Portillo, who began his political career as a guerrilla sympathizer before becoming a political creature of the right and ultimately the standard bearer of Rios Montt’s own party.

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Guatemala’s Ríos Montt Genocide Conviction Omen for US Presidents and Their Hired Assassins

By Jay Janson
May 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – José Efraín Ríos Montt began the his political and military career as a young officer taking part in the bloody successful CIA-organized coup against the first democratically elected president in Guatemalan history that was ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. Two years earlier he had attended what peace activists call, the ‘US School for Assassins,’ namely, the long infamous School of the Americas. He ended his career a few days ago, convicted of genocide by the Guatemalan court he once controlled as president and dictator. 
Associate Press reported, ‘The three-judge panel essentially concluded that the massacres followed the same pattern, showing they had been planned, something that would not be possible without the approval of the military command, which Rios Montt headed. In delivering the verdict, Presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios said, “he knew about everything that was going on and he did not stop it, despite having the power to stop it from being carried out.” ‘
US President Ronald Reagan also had the power, greater power, to stop the massacres being perpetrated by dictator General and President Ríos Montt. Reagan must have been aware of them, known enough about them, and could have stopped those year-and-half-long massacres with far less effort than President Eisenhower had made in ordering the bloody and merciless overthrowing of a popularly elected president, a democratic president, who in making land reform, had gotten in the way of the massive United Fruit Company that owned more than half of Guatemala.[1] In the case of the President of Guatemala and in President Reagan’s case, there was no room for sentiment. It was just business.
Prosecutors argued that Ríos Montt oversaw the massacres of Mayan Indians when he ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983. Ríos Montt held his great power as dictator of Guatemala for the financial and political and military backing he was receiving from US President Ronald Reagan’s administration, and the administrations of US presidents before him, all of whom represented the interests of the financial consensus that really rules in America. 
Midway through the eighteen months of horrific massacres, December of 1982, President Ronald Reagan visited President-General Ríos Montt in Guatemala City and in a press release, praised the dictator, “President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment….I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.” 
These were the first years of President Ronald Reagan’s administration during which CIA was organizing, funding and overseeing the sickening terrorist attacks on rural areas of nearby Nicaragua from across the border of US ally Honduras, planning sabotage of industries and mining Nicaragua’s ports (which brought a US conviction by the International Court of Justice when Nicaragua sued in 1984). Reagan had let it be known he didn’t approve of the popular revolution that had overthrown a brutal thieving dictator whose father had been installed by the US Marines as they were ending their twenty-one year old occupation of Nicaragua ordered by President Woodrow Wilson.[2] In El Salvador, despite evidence that by 1984, 65,000 civilians had been murdered by the National Guard and right-wing paramilitary forces, President Reagan’s national Bipartisan Commission on Central America justified massive military support.
As yet, there has never been a trial in the United States of US officials and their financial backers for bribery, for CIA crimes like assassinations, promoting massacres, arranging destabilizing violence, for armed intervention or the treat of armed intervention in a foreign nation in peace time. Investigations, yes, but to this writers knowledge never a prosecution. After a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigated the CIA in the 1974, a bill was passed forbidding (future) assassinations of government officials. (American school books cite Admiral Perry’s 1854 ultimatum to the Japanese government to sign a treaty of commerce or see Yokohama reduces to ashes by his flotilla’s cannons, as Perry’s achievement ‘The Opening up of Japan’ .) 
Once the US is no longer omnipotent, and Americans no longer enjoy immunity as an exceptional race, their crimes against humanity will be prosecuted as was the genocide committed by Ríos Montt, a loutish butcher employed by who and what everyone knows. Everyone! If one of Al Capone’s triggermen was on trial for murder, who was more importantly guilty, the triggerman, who was only one of the Mafia Don’s many triggermen convicted, or Mafia don Al Capone himself? 
Eventually, if not sooner, given the fact that there is no time limitation on prosecution of genocide, and the coming inevitable restitution of logic and law in public affairs, one can expect prosecution of Americans, and not just Americans in high office serving that “financial element in the circles of power that has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson” as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt quipped to his friend Colonel House in 1932. [3] (One might also like to recall that at the time FDR, in confidence, noted his secondary importance to that “financial element,” a tightly inclusive group of his of his friends and acquaintances and captains of industry and banking were, as a block, investing in the cheap labor of a financially prostate Nazi Germany and building its Wehrmacht up to number one military force in the world in full knowledge of Hitler’s plan for the Soviet Union and European Jews.) 
If one confines oneself to researching the well published documentation of crimes against humanity during the administrations of the presidents that followed Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the last American president, who, as an aristocrat, had some influence among his wealthy peers, it becomes very clear why eminent historian Prof. Noam Chomsky of M.I.T. can say over and over again, without provoking much negative outcry, “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.” Prof. Chomsky followed this statement with listing the crimes against humanity of each of these presidents he had condemned to the gallows, and has since occasionally updated the list to include subsequent new US presidents. A hard rain is going to fall in America one day.
But the conviction of Ríos Montt portends more immediate future prosecution of similar criminally traitorous servants of the last of the white world colonial powers that have overseen massacres and slower forms of death throughout the Americas and especially in Central America and Mexico. And they are innumerable, so great is the reach of the corporatist government of the US superpower run by automaton legal thieves incapable of factoring death and misery, even deaths of children, into their mindless calculator-machine-like adherence to capital accumulation by the commodification of planet and life on Earth. (Two popular American axioms come to mind: ‘Business is business’ and ‘good guys don’t win ball games.’)
Those known for direct and immediate forms of genocide in the name of maintaining the maximum profitability of US and European predatory investments, are mentioned in encyclopedias and honest history books, e.g., Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, General Humberto Branco of Brazil, Raoul Cedras, Duvalier, Francois, Duvalier, Jean Claude of Haiti, Vinicio Cerezo and Ríos Montt of Guatemala, Roberto Suazo Cordova of Honduras, Alfredo Christiani of El Salvador, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez of El Salvador, General Manuel Noriega of Panama, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Anastasio Somoza Sr. and Anastasio Somoza Jr. of Nicaragua, General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina, just to mention those who made themselves notorious by being responsible for mass murder. 
The list of thugs inflated in importance to infamous lethal monsters created by the United States and allied colonial powers in Africa and Asia is more than twice as long as the one for Latin America. For every one of these household names of horror from immediate genocide through the use of military or paramilitary, there are dozens of local presidents in the nations that make up the non-white majority mankind, that have arisen from the comprador class or military. They have represented their own people only nominally, while enforcing the infinitely broader in victims slow genocide of starvation and years of life lost from early death through malnutrition, treatable deceases, infant mortality and the mortality within all age groups, that results from populations having lost control natural resources needed to sustain life. The lands, natural resources and human resources of this majority of Mankind have for centuries belonged to the plundering speculating investors of the First World, by internationally recognized ‘colonial law’ enforced by firepower. 
Because the convictions of Presidents and Generals Ríos Montt, Pinochet, and Videla impact Latin Americans more, we can focus on how these convictions will spread consciousness of the slow genocide caused by the parasitical economic hegemony of the US over the nearly six hundred million human beings living south of the US-Mexican border. Mexico and Haiti, perhaps for proximity to the Yankee trader in lives of human beings, have suffered far and away the most from a merciless economic subjugation of their populations by the world’s single superpower.
The most recent tragic and enormous loss of life in Haiti, a slow genocide, was recently officiously apologized for by ex-Presidetn Bill Clinton claiming he meant well in turning Haiti over to agro-exploitation by the US business world. As U.N. special envoy to Haiti – he publicly apologized for championing policies that destroyed Haiti’s rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s had ‘encouraged’ (read ‘forced’) the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice. “It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. “I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.” 
Mexicans suffered the third massive crime of the United States in history: invasion and appropriation of half of its country at the point of guns and cannons. And since then Mexicans have witnessed the remaining half of their country occupied and exploited by the American world of business, with the cooperation of Mexico’s wealthy and managed elections. (The first being the enslavement and murder of Africans, the second, the murderous subjugation and theft of the lands of the Native nations of America.)
Quoting from a study made by a distinguished Mexican writer and journalist, Gustavo Esteva:
“For some time now the social fabric and soul of Mexico has been torn away. One third of Mexicans are actually living outside of the country –one of the greatest migrations in history. Since the signing of the NAFTA agreement, 20 million Mexican citizens have emigrated, the majority of them, to the United States and Canada, but some to countries as distant as Japan. Most of them are trying to escape from unbearable conditions in their place of origin or to support their families and communities from abroad. (The amount of remittances to Mexico, 22 billion dollars per year, is the second most important source of foreign income for Mexico, after oil).
Mexico no longer operates under a state of law. The violation of human rights, especially rights of some fifty ethnic groups, is a constant. There is also continual persecution of human rights activists, environmentalists, journalists, and particularly, those struggling for social change. There is a regression of democracy, a structural “deviation of power,” and the co-optation of the law by distinct corporatist factions. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights defined this as “the use of the powers of the State to persecute and hinder the civil rights of the people.” … According to Amnesty International, the torture practiced by Mexican security forces is a “generalized and systematic” practice that in recent years has “reached scandalous levels.” Impunity for these sadistic acts of violence, or human rights violations is practically absolute.
More than 60 million Mexicans (of 115 million total) are living below the poverty line. 50 million live with food insecurity, 12 million can’t afford basic or essential foods, 28 million are suffering from hunger, and 3 million face famine. [statistics from documentation gathered by the People’s Permanent Tribunal]
Policies that interfere the internal production of corn deteriorate the economy directly in the indigenous communities, and can be seen as one of the main factors determining migration. The attack on ancestral peasant farming systems, introduction of genetically altered variants and privatization of commons so crucial to native seeds devastates rural life and weakens communities. For the invasion of peasant and indigenous territory for mega projects, mining operations, privatization of water, monoculture plantations, deforestation, and the expropriation of territory via programs for the mercantilization of nature, agro-ecological balance is lost;
The government through dispossession is trying to “clear” people off their communal lands, already given in 50-years concessions to private corporations. These lands occupy more than 30% of Mexico. The owners of the lands, mainly indigenous people are resisting. The Zapatistas poetically embody this resistance. 
The pace of environmental destruction is unprecedented. Corrupt deregulation initiatives and massive land concessions handed over to private interests have greatly accelerated the environmental devastation, which in some cases, has resulted in irreversible damage. The air, water, soil/sub-soil, forests, beaches, rivers, lakes, and oceans, all have been subject to rape and degradation through the commodification of nature by corporations. 
In short, since the 1990’s, Mexico has adopted, in a systemic and institutionalized way, policies and strategies that have produced a progressive decline in the living conditions of the Mexican people and in their possibility to access legal protection when their rights are violated. The government alienates its citizens and marginalizes the rights of the people in the name of macro-economic stability and in order to serve corporate or private interests in larger part those of American speculative investment banking.” 
Yours truly has many dear Mexican friends that describe this fearfulness of life in Mexico.
Convictions like that of Ríos Montt will help unmask the Washington-Wall Street domination of elections and hold over unscrupulous politicians not only to the degree of mass homicide, but a slower and greater genocide in Mexico and the many nations to its South.
Good people in general and activists in particular throughout the hemisphere recognize the economic occupation and terrorism by Uncle Sam and are calling for its prosecution as a crime against humanity. Cuba fought for, and got its freedom from economic occupation and slow genocide. Today Cubans enjoy a longevity even a bit higher than that in the US and a lower infant mortality rate than in US. 
Americans of good conscience must condemn their nations economic occupation and economic terror in neighboring Mexico and elsewhere. [seeProsecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now ]
Forty-seven years ago Martin Luther King Jr. cried out, “Look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the country. This is a role our nation has taken, … refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. This is not just.” … The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.” King said “purveyor” not cause, for he held America, Americans, in anguish including himself, responsible, because the American people are capable of making their economic and military criminal aggression no longer acceptable and inoperable through non-participation, non-support, non-acquiescence and conscientious objection.
Jay janson, coordinator of the King Condemned US Wars International Awareness Campaign and web historian for the entirely educational Prosecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now Campaign, which features the pertinent laws, exhortations by Einstein, King and others, and a country by country history of US crimes and asks nothing at all from its viewers.
End Notes
1 – United Fruit owned only some 42 percent of the land, but also railroads, a port, and with other US companies, the Guatemala’s utilities.
2 – The Somoza family, who ruled Nicaragua as a family dictatorship from 1936 to 1979. Although they only held the presidency for 30 of those 43 years, they were the power behind the other presidents of the time through their control of the National Guard, created by the occupying US Marine Force. Their regime was overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Three of the Somozas served as President of Guatemala.
3 – Letter to Colonel Ed House (21 November 1933); as quoted in F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928-1945, edited by Elliot Roosevelt (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950), pg. 373.

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Guatemala’s US-backed dictator Rios Montt convicted of genocide

By Rafael Azul 
21 May 2013
José Efraín Rios Montt, the general who ruled Guatemala during the dirty war of 1982 and 1983, was sentenced on May 10 to 80 years in prison—50 for genocide and 30 for crimes against humanity. The court found him guilty in the killing of 1,771 Mayan natives in the Department of Quiché—a fraction of all those that died during his term in office. The trial determined that the victims were brutally murdered in 15 separate bloodbaths.
The general had taken power in March 1982 as a result of a military coup that overthrew president Romeo Lucas, another ex-army general. Seventeen months later, Rios Montt himself was overthrown and replaced by his own defense minister, General Óscar Mejía Víctores, who in turn continued the same murderous policies and has been implicated in at least 11 massacres of rural villages.
Montt’s co-defendant, his military intelligence chief José Mauricio Ródriguez Sánchez, was acquitted of all charges. The court accepted the dubious argument that the latter had not been part of the military chain of command that connected Rios Montt and his commanders in the field.
The trial proceedings began in February of this year. In April, a judged blocked further prosecution on procedural grounds raised by the defense. The trial reopened at the end of that month following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that none of the objections necessitated suspension of the trial.
In her May 10 ruling, presiding judge Jázmin Barrios determined that all of the destroyed towns were agricultural villages that had not participated in the guerrilla war. “The trial proved that the Ixil population was singled out for assassination, massacre, torture, degrading treatment, forced movements, and transference of children from one group to another. We, who sit in judgment today, are totally convinced,” she said, “that the intention was the physical destruction of the Ixil group.”
Barrios then ordered court security officers to detain Rios Montt. The aging dictator was escorted to a waiting police vehicle that took him to jail. Before leaving, Ríos Montt announced that he would appeal the verdict and denounced the trial as an “international farce.”
Following the sentencing, Judge Barrios declared: “We observed that witnesses that told of everything that happened in their communities, and how their family members demand that justice be done and that what happened will not be repeated. This is very much linked to the victims’ right to the truth, to justice and that the events will not re-occur. For that reason we will convene a hearing on May 13, to make a decision on reparations for the victims.” Ríos Montt, 86, collapsed at the reparations hearing.
The trial has also uncovered the complicity of the current Guatemalan president, retired general Otto Pérez Molina, who seems to have participated in at least one of the mass killings at the Ixtil community of Najab in September 1982. He was identified during the course of this trial by one of the witnesses, Hugo Reyes, an army mechanic. According to Reyes, Pérez Molina was then known as Major Tito Arias.
According to Cármen Ibarra of the Justice Movement, one of the plaintiff organizations, the Public Ministry has decided to continue the investigation, beginning with president Pérez.
Pérez denies that any genocide ever took place, and claims that Reyes mistakenly placed him at the scene of that massacre. He did confirm that he had operated in Ixil territory under a false name during this period.
Ibarra pointed out that there was widespread complicity with this genocide that extends beyond the actual perpetrators, and includes those sectors in the oligarchy and ruling class that supported the dirty war.
The killings in the early 1980s were only one episode in a protracted civil war. This war, which a 1999 United Nations Truth Commission euphemistically described as an “internal conflict,” began in 1960, but its roots are in the democratic Revolution of 1944, the agrarian reform of 1952 and the CIA coup of 1954. That US operation overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz and reversed the distribution of lands, leaving untouched banana plantations owned by United Fruit Company and preserving the feudal enslavement of agriculture workers and small farmers.
By the time the decades of civil war ended in 1996, over 250,000 had been killed, 45,000 had been kidnapped and never accounted for, and over 1.5 million had been turned into refugees. Eighty-three percent of the dead were Mayans. The other 17 percent were Ladinos (people of mixed Indian and European ancestry.) Six hundred sixty-seven massacres and the total destruction of 443 villages have been documented.
The eradication of villages considered friendly to the guerrillas of the Guerrilla Army of the Poor ( Ejercito Guerrillero de los Pobres, EGP) had begun before Rios’ term and continued after his removal from power. Carrying out this one-sided civil war were officers trained at the notorious Pentagon-run torture and terror institution, the School of the Americas (SOA). The list of commanders involved in this one-sided civil war on rural communities reads like a “who’s who” of SOA graduates. Included in this list are both Rios Montt and current president Perez Molina.
Of particular concern to the Guatemalan military were the villages located in the Ixtil triangle—an area defined by the cities of Santa María Nebaj, San Gaspar Chajul and San Juan Cotzal in the highlands of northwestern Guatemala. Towns in that region were occupied by the military. Its inhabitants were forced to form so-called self-defense anti-guerrilla units.
Their subsistence economies were destroyed and those towns that collaborated became entirely dependent on government handouts, managed by the ultra right-wing, rabidly anti-communist US Protestants (the policy of beans and bullets.) Those farming communities and towns that resisted were exterminated. Villages whose inhabitants fled before the troops arrived were considered rebel supporters and destroyed.
The Rios Montt reign was the bloodiest of all the years of civil war, with 70,000 deaths taking place during those years. Operación Sofía, one of the first campaigns of his regime, was based in the counterinsurgency operations developed in Vietnam by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The object of the operation there was to “neutralize” civilian support for the Viet Cong through brutality, rapes and killings, including murdering everyone in a village. The massacre at My Lai in 1968, an infamous event that defined the character of US intervention in Vietnam, became the model to follow.
Typical of the Guatemalan government’s repression was the destruction of Dos Erres, a Ladino village, whose men refused to form self-defense squads.
On December 5 and 6, 1982, the military invaded the town and methodically began to kill everyone; women and girls were raped en masse before being killed. Children had their heads bashed against rocks and trees and then were thrown into a dry well in the middle of town, and their parents were executed with sledgehammer blows to the head and thrown in the same well. In all, 200 people were brutally murdered. Many years later, forensic scientists would discover and attempt to identify 167 bodies from the dry well alone.
On December 5, as troops were entering Dos Erres to begin their bloody work, US President Ronald Reagan was meeting and celebrating the Guatemalan tyrant. Ríos Montt, was “a man of great personal integrity,” commented Reagan, “totally dedicated to democracy.”
The US president’s rhetoric fooled no one even vaguely familiar with the interests of US imperialism across Central America, where Guatemala was an important component, or with Reagan’s support for Chile’s Pinochet and for the dictatorships in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
Then, as now, feudal-like social relations dominated Guatemala; impoverished peasant villages were forced to labor in coffee, sugar and banana plantations in slave-like conditions. Giant estates controlled 60 percent of the land—the best land. Alongside these existed mini-states, whose owners imposed a life of extreme misery on those forced to labor in the plantations.
The state and the army, which served, as it does now, as the private security force of the oligarchs, enforced this system. At the summit of this setup was US imperialism, which defended the interests of US corporations, mainly the United Fruit Company in this period. Any support for a more equitable distribution of land had to be extirpated.
President Rios Montt, speaking to a reporter about the ongoing massacres, made the analogy of parents punishing their children for disobeying their instructions. This bizarre comparison reflected, and still reflects, the ultra-reactionary views of the landlord class backed by Washington.
At Rios Montt’s trial, judges heard from over 150 witnesses, including more than 80 survivors. They described brutal acts of military terror against innocent civilians and their families, including people being forced into homes that were then set on fire. Some of the witnesses who had been children during the massacres lost their entire families.
The trial and sentence are not final. Rios Montt counts on support from both the national bourgeoisie and the oligarchy of landlords. Since the verdict of May 12, over 100 petitions have been sent to the court on Rios Montt’s behalf, demanding that the court reverse itself.
In response to this kind of support for Rios Montt from bourgeois and oligarchical elements, the Victims’ Network ( Red de Organizaciones de Víctimas, ROV, an alliance of victims’ organizations and other human rights groups from across Guatemala) demanded on Friday that the courts not turn away from the verdict and sentence. An ROV press release warned civil rights organizations and defenders of democracy against the aggressive and threatening stance taken by supporters of Ríos Montt. These supporters include current government officials.
It is remarkable that it took 30 years for a trial court to formally, albeit partially, recognize the crimes of the Guatemalan military. The court verdict and sentence confirms what the whole world has known since the 1980s: in the name of anti-communism and “national security,” the Rios Montt government and the military in Guatemala carried out a deliberate policy designed to deprive the guerrilla army of a popular base through the brutal suppression and extermination of thousands of Ixil and others in northern Guatemala.
This was not a case of clandestine jails or death flights under the cover of darkness that provided a cover of deniability to military regimes elsewhere; the massacres and terror were carried out openly and in full view of international public opinion.
It is also an open secret that the Rios Montt’s regime was part of a string of puppet dictatorships, military and civilian, that carried out policies dictated by the US government, in this case, the administration of Ronald Reagan. With the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship and the installation of a Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua, the bloodbaths multiplied.
In the context of the Cold War, the Guatemalan military repressed democratic and social rights that had been won in bitter struggles, targeting rural and urban workers, the poor and their supporters, even liberation theologists of the Catholic Church, and liberal parties.
It was the US government that trained Ríos Montt and his commanders. It was Washington that directly and indirectly armed the regime and whitewashed the military’s crimes. The policies of the Guatemalan military, including its campaign of extermination of the Ixtil Mayans, were vetted and supported by Washington. They were a part of a continent-wide counter-insurgency campaign designed to destroy and atomize the urban and rural working classes.

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Guatemala imposes state of siege against mine protests

By Bill Van Auken 
7 May 2013
The Guatemalan government of President Otto Perez Molina has imposed a 30-day state of siege in four southeastern towns to repress protests against a Canadian-owned mining operation.
Some 3,500 heavily armed troops and police backed by tanks and armored cars mounted with anti-aircraft guns poured into the region at the end of last month, occupying the towns and setting up roadblocks to search anyone moving through the area. The state of siege suspends basic constitutional rights, barring public assembly and allowing the military to indefinitely detain anyone without charges or trials. It also lifts restrictions on searches and seizures.
Placed under military rule were the municipalities of Jalapa and Mataquescuintla in the department of Jalapa, and those of Casillas and San Rafael Las Flores in the department of Santa Rosa.
In announcing the state of siege on May 2, President Perez Molina, a former army general, claimed that the crackdown had nothing to do with the opposition to the mining operation, but rather was directed against “organized crime.”
“In these places they have committed murders, kidnapping and destruction of both state and private property,” said the president, adding that 15 arrests had already been carried out.
However, the reality is that the government is unleashing massive a repressive force to prevent the Guatemalan people from interfering in the profit-making activities of transnational corporations.
Popular unrest has steadily escalated in the region since the government signed a permit last month allowing the Canadian-based mining corporation, Tahoe Resources, Inc. to begin exploiting the Escobar silver mine near the town of San Rafael Las Flores, about 40 miles southeast of the capital of Guatemala City.
Local residents, drawn largely from the Xinka indigenous population, are opposed to the mine, which they say will destroy the area’s water supply and ruin its environment.
On April 27, the company’s paramilitary security guards opened fire on protesters, wounding at least eight. Details of the confrontation are in sharp dispute. The company claimed that its goons attacked only after machete-wielding protesters tried to storm the gate. The groups opposed to the mine, however, called the onslaught unprovoked, saying it was launched against the protesters as they were marching down the road past the mine entrance.
Tahoe also claimed that the private security force used only “non-lethal” means—tear gas and rubber bullets—to suppress the protest. But the protesters reported that several people were struck with live ammunition.
A local resident told Prensa Comunitaria that the head of the mine’s security force “ordered the guards to shoot, saying that they were tired of this garbage, referring to our people; they insulted them and then loaded their shotguns and began to fire from inside.”
The security head, a Chilean by the name of Alberto Rotonda, was subsequently arrested by police at the airport while trying to flee the country.
In response, residents seized 23 police officers the next day, taking their weapons. When a large force of police was sent into the area to free them, one policeman and one peasant demonstrator were killed in the ensuing confrontation.
Critics of the government’s action have pointed out that other areas of the country have seen far more violence without the imposition of martial law, indicating that the real purpose is to protect the foreign mining interests. Others have pointed out that Perez Molina has failed to seek the ratification of the state of siege by the Guatemalan parliament as required under the country’s constitution.
Daniel Pascual, a representative of the Committee for Peasant Unity (Comité de Unidad Campesina—CUC) came to the area under military control over the weekend to monitor abuses of the local population. In a press conference, he called the state of siege “illegal” and “unnecessary.”
“We believe that if the state does not capture crime bosses or armed groups in these operations, the only thing that they are going to demonstrate is that they used the state of siege to benefit the mining companies and not to establish peace and tranquility in these territories,” Pascual said.
A statement by the Xinka People’s Parliament charged that the Perez Molina government was using the state of siege to round up leaders of the indigenous population. “We fear for the lives of our leaders,” the statement said. “We are returning to the 1980s, with the persecution of leaders, extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances.”
The crackdown has coincided with the on-again, off-again trial of one of Guatemala’s former military dictators from that period, Efrain Rios Montt, and his intelligence chief Jose Rodriguez Sanchez on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. While the trial began in March, a judge intervened last month ordering the proceedings halted, claiming that judicial errors had not been corrected. The country’s Constitutional Court lifted the order. It was halted again last week, however, pending a ruling on an injunction request filed by the former dictator’s lawyer.
The trial has touched raw nerves within the country’s ruling oligarchy. Washington-backed Rios Montt and other dictators carried out a 36-year-long civil war in which some 200,000 Guatemalans were killed, the overwhelming majority of them indigenous peasants and workers and students, who were slaughtered by the military and its paramilitary supporters.
Rios Montt and his co-defendant are charged specifically with a scorched earth campaign that saw the killing of 1,771 Ixil Mayan Indian men, women and children. These were only a fraction of the 80,000 people who were killed or disappeared during the Guatemalan general’s 17 months in power.
Rios Montt, a fundamentalist Christian, was a favorite ally of the Reagan administration during his brief and bloody reign.
Testimony has also implicated the current president, Perez Molina, who was a major in the Guatemalan special forces during Rios Montt’s regime, in ordering the looting and burning of villages and mass executions.
Last month, a group of former Guatemalan officials, many of whom enjoy close ties to Washington, took out a full-page ad in the capital’s newspapers entitled “Betray Peace and Divide Guatemala.” The ad insisted that there had been no genocide in Guatemala—a position stated by Perez Molina himself—and warned that to continue making these charges could lead to a “sharpening of the social and political polarization that would reverse the peace achieved until now.”

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Guatemalan President Accused of Involvement in Civil War Atrocities

Former soldier tells trial that Otto Pérez Molina ordered soldiers to burn and pillage during 1980s war
By Associated Press
April 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – A former soldier has implicated the Guatemalan president, Otto Pérez Molina, in civil war atrocities during the trial of the former US-backed military strongman Efraín Ríos Montt, proceedings that have heard witnesses recount a litany of horrors.
Hugo Reyes, a soldier who was a mechanic in an engineering brigade in the area where atrocities were carried out, told the court that Pérez Molina, then an army major, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage during Guatemala‘s dirty war with leftist guerrillas in the 1980s.
“The soldiers, on orders from Major ‘Tito Arias’, better known as Otto Pérez Molina … co-ordinated the burning and looting, in order to later execute people,” Reyes told the court by video link.
Pérez Molina, who retired as a general, was elected president for the conservative Patriotic party and assumed office on 14 January 2012. As president, Pérez Molina is protected by an amnesty granted to public officials and cannot be subpoenaed.
The secretary general of the presidency, Gustavo Martínez, called the testimony “poorly intentioned declarations and in bad faith”. He said the presidency reserved the right to take action against Reyes.
In line with the gruesome testimony that has marked the trial of Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, Reyes described what happened in one massacre in the early 1980s.
“The people who were to be executed arrived at the camp beaten, tortured, their tongues cut out, their fingernails pulled out,” he said.
Ríos Montt is on trial along with his former head of intelligence in connection with the deaths of 1,771 Mayan Indians during the military dictatorship he led from 23 March 1982 to 8 August 1983, during which he led a US-backed counterinsurgency against guerrillas.
The court also heard testimony from the victims of massacres. Some told the judges about the shelling of villages, beheadings and body parts kicked around like footballs.
“I saw them kill an old woman and officers cut off her head,” said Julio Velasco Raymundo, 40, who witnessed one massacre as a child. “Those officers played with the old woman’s head like it was a [foot]ball.”
He said he saw soldiers dig trenches with earth-movers, then send children to collect rubbish, which the troops threw on to the bodies, soaked in gasoline and set on fire.
He also told the court he saw the Guatemalan army shelling villages full of civilians.
Velasco said his life was saved by a soldier who carried him away from a massacre even though a higher-ranking officer wanted to kill him.
“I remember a specialist [soldier], a man who, in spite of the war and all the things they did, there were good people,” Velasco recalled. “One day the specialist put me in a tractor tyre and rolled me away, and that saved my life.”
A forensic expert, Mario David García, said the bodies of pregnant women were found among the victims of massacres who were disinterred years later.
The former dictator has remained almost completely silent during the years of proceedings against him, but his lawyers have said there is no clear evidence of his responsibility for the crimes committed by Guatemalan troops.

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