Wednesday, March 25, 2009

U.S. Knews of Human Rights Abuses in Guatemala

Last week, I brought you the "where" of Alberto. This week I bring the "why." Like many Central Americans I have previewed on this site, Alberto can only be added to my list of those displaced due to civil war and violence. Guatemala experienced one of the longest (30 years, circa 1960 to 1996) and deadliest (up to 200,000 dead) civil wars in Latin America. Alberto's family, his being in Norfolk, can be traced back to the 1980s, when his family fled the increased terror under Fernando Romeo Lucas.

Guatemalans protesting disappearances in 1980s

Documents released last week by the National Security Archives reveal the extent of US involvement in the human rights abuses in Guatemala from the early 1960s until the peace accords in 1996.

The US State Department acknowledged throughout the thirty-six year civil war that it knew of the kidnappings of activists, labor organizers and high school students perpetrated by the Guatemalan government, and did nothing to halt the abuses.

"The government is obviously rounding up people connected with the extreme left-wing labor movement for interrogation," then-U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin said in a 1984 cable.

The most infamous case, one that Chapin actually thought would be solved, was the disappearance of Fernando García, a student and labor leader, who was declared missing in 1984. Records from the released documents show his name appearing on a log of kidnapped persons kept by the Guatemalan National Guard.

Last week, Guatemalan authorities arrested two police officers on charges related to the 1984 disappearance of Edgar Fernando García, a trade union activist.

Guatemala's military often have secured immunity from prosecution under the 1996 accords for crimes, which NYU historian Greg Grandin, who was a part of the true commission in that country in the late-1990s has called "genocide."

200,000 people were killed in the Guatemala's civil war. The majority peasant and Indian, which makes up 87 percent of the country.

The US supplied weapons, aid, training and support throughout the thirty-six year war, which some could say began in 1954, with the CIA-backed overthrown of elected president Jacobo Arbenz - the first such action in Latin America.

For more information, visit:
National Security Archives
Guatemalan Solidarity

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