In March of 1951, Jacobo Arbenz came to power in Guatemala after having been resoundingly elected by the people. A little more than three years later, he was forced to resign in the midst of armed intervention. His reforms to redistribute unused land to poor peasants had fallen afoul of the United Fruit Company, which owned and warehoused vast tracts of Guatemalan land. The American corporation solicited the US government to overthrow the populist president and the Eisenhower administration delivered with the help of the Department of State and CIA, which happened to be led by the Dulles brothers, who had strong ties to the company. Arbenz’ ousting put an end to democracy in Guatemala for decades and replaced it by military rule. A civil war followed several years later, resulting in the deaths of over 200,000 people. The country remains one of Latin America’s most impoverished to this day.
Less than 24 hours after President Bush met with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom at the White House on Monday, a worker from a union that filed a trade complaint with Washington against the Guatemalan government was murdered.
A few years back an organization was formed in Mexico to help immigrants that amass along the border, waiting entry into the United States. The group is called BETA, and is all along the U/Mexican border in any community of any size.
On the outskirts of Guatemala City the body of an 18-year-old woman of indigenous ethnicity was recently discovered by her frantic parents who had been searching long and hard. Forensic evidence showed that she had been repeatedly raped and tortured and that her head had been severed from her body with a blunt knife while she was still alive.
The elevator door opened. Three men stood inside. Unlike Pepe and me, they were not wearing business suits. They were dressed casually in slacks and sweaters. One wore a leather jacket. What got my attention, though, were the guns. All three carried AK- 47s.
“An unfortunate necessity in Guatemala these days,” Pepe explained. He ushered me toward the waiting elevator. “At least for those of us who are friends of the United States, friends of democracy. We need our Maya killers.” Continue reading →