Wednesday, February 16, 2005

An Anti-Democracy Foreign Policy: Guatemala: "Unfortunately, the CIA “success” in Iran, which produced the CIA’s ouster of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, bred a CIA “success” in another part of the world, Latin America. One year after the 1953 coup in Iran, the CIA did it again, this time in Guatemala, where U.S. officials feared the communist threat even more than they did in Iran.

"This time, the target was the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, a self-avowed socialist whose domestic policies were in fact modeled after the socialist New Deal policies of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

"Arbenz’s socialist mindset had driven him to adopt an “agrarian reform plan,” a type of land-distribution scheme that unfortunately is all too common in Latin America. The plan entailed the confiscation of a portion of land owned by a major U.S. corporation operating in Guatemala at that time, United Fruit, and its redistribution to Guatemalan peasants. While the plan was an almost perfect embodiment of the socialist concept of taking property from the rich to give to the poor, in actuality it was no different in principle from the wealth-redistribution revolution that FDR’s welfare-state concept brought to America, whereby the primary purpose of the federal government became taxing the income of the rich in order to redistribute the money to the needy (or, in reality, to the politically privileged)."

The author here cannot perceive that the god- or nature-given land and natural resources of Guatemala (or any country) belong to the people of that country, not foreign corporations, or foreign (or domestic) elites. Land reform is an inevitable and necessary process when the concentration of land ownership has reached manifestly unjust as well as politically and economically unsustainable levels. The opposition to this process (as here in Gautemala and elsewhere) speaks for itself. And the description of the 'needy' as the 'politically privileged' is comical. Land, wealth, guns, death squads and immunity demonstrate where the real political privilege exists.

"Consequently, flush with the “success” of its coup in Iran the year before, in 1954 the CIA secretly organized and engineered a military coup in Guatemala that ousted the democratically elected Arbenz from power. Schlesinger and Kinzer write:

"'The United States organized, financed, and equipped the invasion forces. U.S. personnel flew the rebel aircraft and filled the airways with bogus transmissions suggesting a much larger force had invaded. Unrelenting U.S. diplomatic and political pressure encouraged treason and demoralized supporters. CIA assets in the officer corps and the administration worked actively to undermine President Arbenz's authority and block efforts to move against the rebels.'

"Unaware that the CIA was orchestrating the military coup against him, throughout the crisis Arbenz turned to the U.S. government for help, innocently placing his faith in a government that was purportedly committed to advancing democracy. On Sunday, June 27, 1954, democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz was ousted from office and fled Guatemala. The CIA replaced him with an unelected Guatemalan military dictator, Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, whom the CIA designated the “Liberator” of the Guatemalan people.

"Canceling the presidential election scheduled for 1955 and continuing “emergency” suspension of civil liberties, including freedom of the press, Castillo Armas retained the unwavering support of the U.S. government. A year after taking office, he visited Washington, where he was warmly greeted by Vice President Richard Nixon and, not surprisingly given that he was a military man, was accorded the privilege of reviewing a U.S. military honor guard with Nixon at his side. Nixon visted Guatemala in 1955, declaring that “this is the first instance in history were a Communist government has been replaced by a free one.” "

It is a great crime that the United States has perpetrated here, a crime that is the very negation of democracy in the most violent and horrific manner possible. And yet too often it does not occur to people to cease taking official statements at face value and pay attention only to the facts.

" "The [Historical Clarification Commission], which was headed by a German lawyer, Christian Tomuschat, estimated that the conflict had caused more than 200,000 deaths, and blamed the military for 93 percent of them. In a speech presenting the report, Mr. Tomuschat said that while he and his fellow commissioners knew when they began their work more or less what had happened during the conflict, “no one of us could have imagined the dimensions of this tragedy, not even the Guatemalan commissioners who had lived through the experience directly.”

" “It is with profound sadness that the commission learned of the extreme cruelty with which many of the violations were committed, of the large number of girls and boys who were victims of violent cruelty and murder, and of the special brutality directed against women, especially against Mayan women, who were tortured, raped and murdered,” Mr. Tomuschat said. “State security forces blindly pursued the anti-Communist struggle without respect for any legal principles or the most elemental ethical and religious values.” "

" 'A deep-seated culture of violence has taken root in Guatemala. Military regimes, army units and police squads have set an awful example, teaching entire generations that terror and murder are appropriate ways to achieve both political and personal ends. For their crimes they have enjoyed nearly complete immunity, as the police and judicial systems exist to serve the unjust ruling order....

" '[With the signing of the 1996 peace accord] a long and bleak winter has ended in the supposed land of eternal spring, and that is a genuine cause for rejoicing. The terms of public debate have shifted dramatically, with even many conservatives openly accepting the need for change in terms that would have been considered subversive only a few years ago. Now begins the long task of rebuilding a shattered land, not simply politically and economically but also morally. It will take all the efforts of the long-suffering Guatemalan people, and all the help the outside world can give them, to consolidate the great victory they have won and finally drive a stake through the heart of darkness that terrorized them for so many years.' "

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