(1) Boston-based giant United Fruit Company (UFC) comes crying to Unkee Sam (and Nanny Taxpayer) when a freely elected capitalist government appropriates some unused land (with due compensation, even though the land had been stolen for the company by an earlier US invasion).

(2) In the name of "free enterprise"—a mythical absence of government intervention—the US overthrows the government and intervenes heavily in the economy, banning labor unions, opposition press, and political parties.

(3) Inevitably, this leads to armed resistance.

Inevitably, this leads to US-sponsored terror.

Inevitably, this attracts SOA graduates like flies.

(4) In the past 40 years, the military has slaughtered at least 150,000 Guatemalans—mainly the last of the Mayans, few of them guerrillas—and kept millions more in utter misery and constant fear.

(5) Then an SOA grad spoils the fun by torturing an American nun, who lives to tell her tale.


The gory details …

2.2 percent of the landowners own 70 percent of the arable land prior to 1951; the annual per capita income of agricultural workers is $87. "[F]arm laborers had been roped together by the arms for delivery to the low-land farms where they were kept in debt slavery by the landowners". — former Guatemalan Foreign Minister Raul Oesegueda.

UFC functions in Guatemala as a state within a state. It owns the country's telephone and telegraph facilities, administers its only important Atlantic harbor, and monopolizes its banana exports. A subsidiary of the company owns nearly every mile of railroad track. — Thomas McCann, UFC official, An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit

Jacobo Arbenz becomes Guatemalan president in March 1951 after being elected by a wide margin. The centerpiece of his program is land reform. His government expropriates large tracts of uncultivated acreage (including some of UFC’s) and distributes it to approximately 100,000 landless peasants, improves union rights for the workers, and institutes other social reforms. For tax purposes, UFC had declared the value of the land to be $525,000, and the government offers that price in reimbursement (by some accounts it offers even more, as much as $1.2 million). Guatemala also constructs an Atlantic port and a highway to compete with UFC's holdings, and builds a hydroelectric plant to offer cheaper energy than the US-controlled electricity monopoly. Arbenz's pro-capitalist strategy is to limit the power of foreign companies through direct competition rather than through nationalization, a policy not feasible of course when it comes to a fixed quantity like land.

"Foreign capital will always be welcome as long as it adjusts to local conditions, remains always subordinate to Guatemalan laws, cooperates with the economic development of the country, and strictly abstains from intervening in the nation’s social and political life." — Arbenz, in his inaugural address

"The United States has begun a drive to scuttle a section of the proposed Covenant of Human Rights that poses a threat to its business interests abroad.." The offending section deals with the right of peoples to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources. "It declares in effect that any country has the right to nationalize its resources …". New York Times, 10/28/55

Huge American corporations do not operate under a free enterprise system, but under heavy subsidies, protections, and military interventions at the expense of the common US taxpayer. UFC demands nearly $16 million for the land, and when it is refused, executives of the company pressure the Truman and Eisenhower administrations to overthrow Arbenz. The fruit company's influence amongst Washington's power elite is impressive. It has close ties to the Dulles brothers (John Foster, Secretary of State; Allen, CIA Director), various State Department officials, congressmen, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, etc. The wife of the company's public relations director is President Eisenhower's personal secretary. Under-secretary of State (and formerly Director of the CIA) Walter Bedell Smith is seeking an executive position with UFC at the same time he is helping to plan Arbenz’s overthrow. He is later named to the company's board of directors. — McCann

As always, the US government begins a steady stream of lies about "Communist infiltration" in Guatemala. In reality, Arbenz’s government is a staunch supporter in the UN of US-led initiatives regarding "Soviet imperialism", and does not even maintain diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, much less receive any kind of military assistance. "[The United States is categorizing] as ‘communism’ every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, any desire for social progress, any intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive liberal reforms." — Guatemalan Foreign Minister, Guillermo Toriello


The CIA crashes in …

After the hemisphere-wide propaganda campaign, a CIA-organized army invades from Honduras with direct CIA bombing of the country (sinking a British coffee/cotton ship falsely suspected of carrying fuel). In June 1954, the US forces Arbenz to resign and installs General Castillo Armas.

In July alone, thousands are arrested on suspicion of "communist activity". Many are tortured or killed. In August a law is passed and a committee set up which can declare anyone a communist, with no right of appeal. Those so declared can be arbitrarily arrested for up to six months, cannot own a radio or hold public office. Within four months the committee registers 72,000 names. A committee official says it is aiming for 200,000. Further implementation of the agrarian reform law is stopped and expropriations of land already carried out are declared invalid. UFC not only receives all its land back, but the government bans the banana workers' unions as well. Moreover, seven employees of the company who had been active labor organizers are found mysteriously murdered in Guatemala City.

The new regime also disenfranchises 75% of Guatemala’s voters by barring illiterates from the electoral rolls and outlawing all political parties, labor confederations and peasant organizations. To this is added the closing down of opposition newspapers (which Arbenz had not done) and the burning of "subversive" books, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Dostoyevsky novels, and the works of Guatemala's Nobel Prize-winning author Miguel Angel Asturias, a biting critic of UFC.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the resulting misery, at the hands of the US, of the mainly-lndian peasants and urban poor of Guatemala who make up 75% of the population. In a climate where everything grows, very few escape the daily ache of hunger or the progressive malnutrition ... almost half the children die before the age of five ... the leading cause of death in the country is gastroenteritis. Highly toxic pesticides sprayed indiscriminately by airplanes, at times directly onto the heads of peasants, leave a trail of poisoning and death ... public health services in rural areas are virtually non-existent ... the same for public education ... near-total illiteracy. A few hundred families possess almost all the arable land ... thousands of families without land, without work, jammed together in communities of cardboard and tin houses, with no running water or electricity, a sea of mud during the rainy season, sharing their bathing and toilet with the animal kingdom. Men o n coffee plantations earning 20 cents or 50 cents a day, living in circumstances closely resembling concentration camps ... looked upon by other Guatemalans more as beasts of burden than humans. A large plantation to sell, reads the advertisement, "with 200 hectares and 300 Indians" ... this is what remains of the ancient Mayas, the most splendid indigenous people on the planet according to American archeologist Sylvanus Morely.

On November 13th, 1960, a large portion of the Guatemalan military breaks out in armed rebellion against the US-installed government. They are not fighting for social change, and have spurned offers of support from peasants. They are particularly incensed about the use of their country by the CIA as a training base for an invasion of Cuba, some of them being admirers of Fidel Castro for his nationalist (i.e., anti-imperialist) policies. "[The American base is] a shameful violation of our national sovereignty. And why was it permitted? Because our government is a puppet." — a dissident officer, cited in Richard Gott, Rural Guerrillas in Latin America

After the initial successes of the rebellion, American and Cuban pilots take off from their training ground and bomb and strafe rebel headquarters outside Guatemala City, and bomb other towns and airfields captured by the rebellion. Caught completely by surprise, and defenseless against this superior force, the rebels’ insurrection collapses. The CIA resumes the preparation for the overthrow of the Cuban government. No announcement about the bombings is made in Washington, nor does a report appear in the American press. — Gott


Return of the people …

As fugitives, thrown into greater contact with the peasants, dissident officers eventually come to be moved by the peasants’ pressing need for land and for a way out of their wretched existence. In the early years of the 1960s, a guerrilla movement, with several of these officers prominent amongst the leadership, is slowly finding its way organizing peasant support in the countryside, attacking an army outpost to gather arms, staging a kidnapping or bank robbery to raise money, trying to avoid direct armed clashes with the Guatemalan military. "Democracy vanished from our country long ago. No people can live in a country where there is no democracy. That is why the demand for changes is mounting in our country. We can no longer carry on in this way. We must overthrow the [present] government and set up a government which represents human rights, seeks ways and means to save our country from its hardships, and pursues a serious self-respecting foreign policy." — opening statement of guerrillas, cited by Gott

Statement by Father Thomas Melville, 1968:

Having come to the conclusion that the actual state of violence, composed of the malnutrition, ignorance, sickness and hunger of the vast majority of the Guatemalan population, is the direct result of a capitalist system that makes the defenseless Indian compete against the powerful and well-armed landowner, my brother [Father Arthur Melville] and I decided not to be silent accomplices of the mass murder that this system generates. We began teaching the Indians that no one will defend their rights, if they do not defend themselves. If the government and oligarchy are using arms to maintain them in their position of misery, then they have the obligation to take up arms and defend their God-given right to be men. We were accused of being communists along with the people who listened to us, and were asked to leave the country by our religious superiors and the U.S. ambassador [John Gordon Mein]. We did so. But I say here that I am a communist only if Christ was a communist. l did what I did and will continue to do so because of the teachings of Christ and not because of Marx or Lenin. And I say here too, that we are many more than the hierarchy and the U.S. government think. When the fight breaks out more in the open, let the world know that we do it not for Russia, not for China, nor any other country, but for Guatemala. Our response to the present situation is not because we have read either Marx or Lenin, but because we have read the New Testament.The National Catholic Reporter, 1/31/68

Recruitment amongst the peasants is painfully slow and difficult; people so drained by the daily struggle to remain alive have little left from which to draw courage, people so downtrodden scarcely believe they have the right to resist, much less can they entertain thoughts of success; as fervent Catholics, they tend to believe that their misery is a punishment from God for sinning.

In March 1962, thousands of demonstrators take to the streets in protest against the economic policies, the deep-rooted corruption, and the electoral fraud of the government. Initiated by students, the demonstrations soon pick up support from worker and peasant groups. Police and military forces eventually break the back of the protests, but not before a series of violent confrontations and a general strike take place.


The Empire strikes back …

The American military mission in Guatemala, permanently stationed there, sees and hears in this, as in the burgeoning guerrilla movement, only the omnipresent "'communist threat". As US military equipment flows in, American advisers begin to prod a less alarmed and less-than-aggressive Guatemalan army to take appropriate measures. In May the United States establishes a base designed specifically for counter-insurgency training. (The Pentagon prefers the term "counter-insurgency" to "counter-revolutionary" because of the latter's awkward implications.) The installation is directed by a team of US Special Forces (Green Berets) of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent to make the North American presence less conspicuous. The staff of the base is augmented by 15 Guatemalan officers trained in counter-insurgency at the US School of the Americas at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone.El Imparcial (Guatemala City conservative newspaper), 5/17/62 and 1/4/63

American counter-insurgency strategy is typically based on a carrot-and-stick philosophy. Accordingly, while the Guatemalan military are being taught techniques of ambush, booby-traps, jungle survival and search-and-destroy warfare, and provided with aircraft and pilot training, a program of "civil action" is begun in the area of heaviest guerrilla support: some wells are built, medicines distributed, school lunches provided etc., as well as promises of other benefits made, all aimed at stealing a bit of the guerrillas’ thunder and reducing the peasants' motivation for furnishing support to them; and with the added bonus of allowing American personnel to reconnoitre guerrilla territory under a non-military cover. Land reform, overwhelmingly the most pressing need in rural Guatemala, is not on the agenda.

The attempt at "winning the hearts and minds" of the peasants proves to be as futile in Guatemala as it was in southeast Asia. When all the academic papers on "social systems engineering", are in, and all the counter-insurgency studies of the RAND Corporation and the other think-tanks are said and done, the recourse is to terror: unadulterated, dependable terror. Guerrillas, peasants, students, labor leaders, and professional people are jailed or killed by the hundreds to put a halt, albeit temporarily, to the demands for reform. E.g., eight political and trade union leaders are murdered by driving over them with rock-laden trucks. — Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, Guatemala: Occupied Country; Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala

"[US Colonel John] Webber immediately expanded counterinsurgency training within Guatemala's 5,000-man army, brought in U.S. Jeeps, trucks, communications equipment and helicopters to give the army more firepower and mobility, and breathed new life into the army’s civic-action program. Towards the end of 1966 the army was able to launch a major drive against the guerrilla strongholds ... To aid in the drive, the army also hired and armed local bands of ‘civilian collaborators’ licensed to kill peasants whom they considered guerrillas or ‘potential’ guerrillas. There were those who doubted the wisdom of encouraging such measures in violence-prone Guatemala, but Webber was not among them. ‘That's the way this country is,’ he said. ‘The communists are using everything they have including terror. And it must be met.’" — Time, 1/26/68

Webber’s charge is for home consumption. There is no comparison between the two sides as to the quantity and cruelty of their terror, as well as in the choice of targets; with rare exceptions, the left attacks only legitimate political and military enemies, clear and culpable symbols of their foe; and they do not torture, nor take vengeance against the families of their enemies. Two of the left’s victims are John Webber himself and the US naval attaché, assassinated in January 1968. A bulletin later issued by a guerrilla group states that the assassinations have "brought to justice the Yanqui officers who were teaching tactics to the Guatemalan army for its war against the people". — Time, 1/26/68


Death under the dictators …

In the period October 1966 to March 1968, between 3,000 and 8,000 Guatemalans are killed by the police, the military, rightwing "death squads" (often the police or military in civilian clothes, carrying out atrocities too bloody for the government to claim credit for), and assorted groups of civilian anticommunist vigilantes. By 1972, the number of their victims is 13,000. Four years later the count exceeds 20,000, murdered or disappeared without a trace. — Amnesty International estimates

Anyone attempting to organize a union or other undertaking to improve the lot of the peasants, or simply suspected of being in support of the guerrillas, is subject ... unknown armed men break into their homes and drag them away to unknown places ... their tortured or mutilated or burned bodies found buried in a mass grave, or floating in plastic bags in a lake or river, or Iying beside the road, hands tied behind the back ... bodies dropped into the Pacific from airplanes. In the Gualán area, it is said, no one fishes any more; too many corpses are caught in the nets ... decapitated corpses, or castrated, or pins stuck in the eyes ... a village rounded up, suspected of supplying the guerrillas with men or food or information, all adult males taken away in front of their families, never to be seen again ... or everyone massacred, the village bulldozed over to cover the traces ... seldom were the victims in a guerrilla band.

One method of torture consists of putting a hood filled with insecticide over the head of the victim; there is also electric shock—to the genital area is the most effective; administered by using military field telephones hooked up to small generators; the United States supplies the equipment and the instructions for use to several countries, including South Vietnam where the large-scale counter-insurgency operation is producing new methods and devices for extracting information from uncooperative prisoners; some of these techniques find their way to Latin America.

American pilots take off from Panama, deliver loads of napalm on targets suspected of being guerrilla refuges, and return to Panama … the napalm falls on villages, on precious crops, on people … the napalm explodes like fireworks and a mass of brilliant red foam spreads over the land, incinerating all that falls in its way, cedars and pines are burned down to the roots, animals grilled, the earth scorched ... the guerrillas will not have this place for a sanctuary any longer, nor will they or anyone else derive food from it ... halfway around the world in Vietnam, there is an instant replay. In Vietnam they are called "free-fire zones"; in Guatemala, "zonas libres": "Large areas of the country have been declared off limits and then subjected to heavy bombing. Reconnaissance planes using advanced photographic techniques fly over suspected guerrilla country and jet planes, assigned to specific areas, can be called in within minutes to kill anything that moves on the ground." — Normal Diamond, "Why they shoot Americans" [re: Webber], The Nation, 2/5/68

In Guatemala City, right-wing terrorists machine-gun people and houses in full light of day ... journalists, lawyers, students, teachers, trade unionists, members of opposition parties, anyone who helps or expresses sympathy for the rebel cause, anyone with a vaguely leftist political association or a moderate criticism of government policy ... relatives of the victims, guilty of kinship ... common criminals, eliminated to purify the society, taken from jails and shot. "See a Communist, kill a Communist"', the slogan of the New Anticommunist Organization ... an informer with hooded face accompanies the police along a city street or into the countryside, pointing people out: who shall live and who shall die ... "this one's a son of a bitch" ... "that one ... ". Men found dead with their eyes gouged out, their testicles in their mouth, without hands or tongues, women with breasts cut off ... there is rarely a witness to a killing, even when people are dra gged from their homes at high noon and executed in the street ... a relative will choose exile rather than take the matter to the authorities ... the government joins the family in mourning the victim …


Life under the dictators …

One of the death squads, Mano Blanca (White Hand), sends a death warning to a student leader. Former American Maryknoll priest Blase Bonpane has written: "I went alone to visit the head of the Mano Blanca and asked him why he was going to kill this lad. At first he denied sending the letter, but after a bit of discussion with him and his first assistant, the assistant said, ‘Well, I know he’s a Communist and so we’re going to kill him.’ ‘How do you know?’ I asked. He said, ‘I know he’s a Communist because I heard him say he would give his life for the poor.’" — Washington Post, 2/4/68

In August 1968, a young French woman, Michele Kirk, shoots herself in Guatemala City as the police come to her room to make "inquiries". In her notebook Michele had written: "It is hard to find the words to express the state of putrefaction that exists in Guatemala, and the permanent terror in which the inhabitants live. Every day bodies are pulled our of the Motagua River, riddled with bullets and partially eaten by fish. Every day men are kidnapped right in the street by unidentified people in cars, armed to the teeth, with no intervention by the police patrols. — cited by Gott

By the end of 1968, the counter-insurgency campaign has all but wiped out the guerrilla movement.

During a curfew so draconian that even ambulances, doctors and fire engines reportedly are forbidden outside ... as American police cars and paddy wagons patrol the streets day and night ... and American helicopters buzz overhead ... the United States sees fit to provide further technical assistance and equipment to initiate a reorganization of Arana's police forces to make them yet more efficient. — New York Times, 12/27/70

"In response to a question [from a congressional investigator in 1971] as to what he conceived his job to be, a member of the US Military Group (MILGP) in Guatemala replies instantly that it was to make the Guatemalan Armed Forces as efficient as possible. The next question as to why this was in the interest of the United States was followed by a long silence while he reflected on a point which had apparently never occurred to him." — US Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, 12/30/71

In 1976 a major earthquake shakes the land, taking over 20,000 lives, largely of the poor whose houses were the first to crumble ... an American church relief worker who arrives to help the victims is shocked at their appearance and their living conditions; then he is informed that he is not in the earthquake area, that what he is seeing is normal. — New York Times, 2/18/76

"The level of pesticide spraying is the highest in the world, and little concern is shown for the people who live near the cotton fields" ... 30 or 40 people a day are treated for pesticide poisoning in season, death can come within hours, or a longer lasting liver malfunction ... the amounts of DDT in mothers’ milk in Guatemala are the highest in the Western world. "It's very simple," explaines a cotton planter, "more insecticide means more cotton, fewer insects mean higher profits." In an attack, guerrillas destroy 22 crop-duster planes; the planes are quickly replaced thanks to the genius of American industry ... and all the pesticide you could ever want, from Monsanto Chemical Company of St. Louis and Guatemala City. — New York Times, 11/9/77

During the Carter presidency, in response to human-rights abuses, Congress enacts a partial embargo against military and economic aid to Guatemala.


Conflicting views …




Testimony of an Indian woman, awarded the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize:

My name is Rigoberta Menchú Tum. I am a representative of the "Vincente Menchú" [her father] Revolutionary Christians ... On 9 December 1979, my 16-year-old brother Patrocino was captured and tortured for several days and then taken with twenty other young men to the square in Chajul ... An officer of [President] Lucas Garcia's army of murderers ordered the prisoners to be paraded in a line. Then he started to insult and threaten the inhabitants of the village who were forced to come out of their houses to witness the event. I was with my mother, and we saw Patrocino; he had had his tongue cut out and his toes cut off. The officer jackal made a speech. Every time he paused the soldiers beat the Indian prisoners. When he finished his ranting, the bodies of my brother and the other prisoners were swollen, bloody, unrecognizable. It was monstrous, but they were still alive. They were thrown on the ground and drenched with gasoline. The soldiers set fire to the wre tched bodies with torches and the captain laughed like a hyena and forced the inhabitants of Chajul to watch. This was his objective—that they should be terrified and witness the punishment given to the "guerrillas."

Testimony of Fred Sherwood, CIA pilot during Arbenz overthrow in 1954, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala:

Why should we be worried about the death squads? They're bumping off the commies, our enemies. I’d give them more power. Hell, I’d get some cartridges if I could, and everyone else would too ... Why should we criticize them? The death squad—I’m for it ... Shit! There's no question, we can't wait ’til Reagan gets in. We hope Carter falls in the ocean real quick ... We all feel that he [Reagan] is our saviour. — Guatemala , 9/80

"I admit that the MLN [Movement for National Liberation; the principal party in the government regime] is the party of organized violence. Organized violence is vigor, just as organized color is scenery and organized sound is harmony. There is nothing wrong with organized violence; it is vigor, and the MLN is a vigorous movement." — radio broadcast by head of the MLN, Mario Sandoval Alarcon, Washington Post, 2/22/81

In the first few months of the Reagan administration, Guatemalan security forces, official and unofficial, massacre at least 2,000 peasants (accompanied by the usual syndrome of torture, mutilation and decapitation), destroy several villages, assassinate 76 officials of the opposition Christian Democratic Party, scores of trade unionists, and at least six catholic priests. — Washington Post, 5/14/81

19 August 1981 ... unidentified gunmen occupy the town of San Miguel Acatan, force the Mayor to give them a list of all those who had contributed funds for the building of a school, pick out 15 from the list (including three of the Mayor's children), make them dig their own graves and shoot them. — Washington Office on Latin America report, 9/4/81


Reagan criticizes a brutal regime …

In December, Ronald Reagan finally speaks out against government repression. He denounces Poland for crushing by "brute force, the stirrings of liberty ... Our Government and those of our allies, have expressed moral revulsion at the police-state tactics of Poland's oppressors.." — New York Times, 12/28/81

In its first two years, the Reagan administration funnels covert military supplies to Guatemala through Israel, uses Cuban exiles "for secret training in the finer points of assassination" in Guatemala, and once again trains Guatemalan officers at the US School of the Americas in Panama. — The Guardian (London), 12/9/83, 1/10/83, 5/17/83; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/27/81

By 1981, the toll of people murdered by the government since 1954 has reached at least the 60,000 mark, and the sons of one-time death-squad members are now killing the sons of the Indians killed by their fathers.

During the bloody reign of SOA graduate Gen. Romeo Lucas García, 1978-1982, there are at least 5,000 political murders and 25,000 civilian deaths at the hands of the military. — National Catholic Reporter, 4/8/94

Guatemala continues to suffer the worst record of human-rights abuses in Latin America. — Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Los Angeles Times, 12/25/88


An American nun is tortured …

Sister Diana Ortiz, a U.S. Ursuline nun, was working in a poor rural area, teaching Mayan children to read, write and reflect on the Bible in the context of their Mayan culture. She was kidnapped on November 2, 1989, after having received numerous death threats. Part of her story:

I was abducted … by members of the Guatemalan security forces. They took me to a clandestine prison where I was tortured and raped repeatedly. My back and chest were burned more than 111 times with cigarettes. I was lowered into an open pit packed with human bodies—bodies of children, women, and men, some decapitated, some lying face up and caked with blood, some dead, some alive—and all swarming with rats.

After hours of torture, I was returned to the room where the interrogation initially occurred. In this room I met Alejandro, a tall man of light complexion. As my torturers began to rape me again, they said to him, "Hey Alejandro, come and have some fun." They referred to him as their "boss." Alejandro cursed in unmistakable American English and ordered them to stop, since I was a North American nun and my disappearance had become public. …

Alejandro professed that he was concerned about the people of Guatemala and consequently was working to liberate them from communism. He kept telling me in his broken Spanish that he was sorry about what had happened to me. … I asked him what would happen to the other people I saw tortured. At this point, he switched to distinct, American English. He told me not to concern myself with them. … He made it clear that he had been given the videotape and photographs that would incriminate me of crimes I had been forced to participate in. This was an obvious threat.

The memories of what I experienced that November day haunt me …. I can smell the decomposing bodies, disposed of in an open pit. I can see the blood gushing out of a woman’s body as I thrust a small machete into her. For you see, I was handed a machete. Thinking it would be used against me, and at that point in my torture wanting to die, I did not resist. But my torturers put their hands onto the handle, on top of mine. And I had no choice. I was forced to use it against another human being. What I remember is blood gushing—spurting like a water fountain—and my screams lost in the cries of the woman. In spite of the memories of humiliation, I stand with the people of Guatemala. I demand the right to heal and to know the truth. I demand the right to a resurrection. — White House vigil, 3/96

"Our own United States government has been closely linked to the Guatemalan death squads, and has a great amount of detailed information about those of us who have survived as well as those who have perished. We need and demand this information so that we can heal our wounds, bury our dead, and carry on with our lives." — Sister Ortiz

The U.S. embassy in Guatemala "initiated a smear campaign against Ortiz immediately upon report of her abduction". — Sojourners, 7/96

"[C]lose the loop on the issue of the North American named by Ortiz. … The EMBASSY IS VERY SENSITIVE ON THIS ISSUE." — declassified State Department document of 3/19/90; two completely blacked-out pages follow.

SOA graduate General Hector Gramajo is ordered by a U.S. court to pay $47.5 million in damages based on the civil suit which held him responsible for Sister Ortiz’s rape and torture. He ignored the order and blamed Ortiz’s hundred-plus burn marks on a failed lesbian love affair. — In These Times, 4/15/96


The American role …

Two years after his involvement in Ortiz’s kidnapping and torture, General Gramajo delivers a commencement address at the School of the Americas.

Following the invocation, the guest speaker, retired Gen. Hector Gramajo from Guatemala, addressed the audience of graduate officers. Gramajo voiced concern for the continued vigilance in the Americas against communism and drug trafficking. Comparing the current state of communism to a dragon, Gramajo said the crumbling of the Berlin Wall signaled the beheading of the dragon; however, its tail is still poised to deliver a devastating blow to the countries of Latin America. — The Bayonet, Fort Benning’s authorized newspaper, 1/3/92

Guatemalan soldiers at the army base in Santiago Atitlán open fire on unarmed townspeople carrying white flags, killing 14 and wounding 24. The people had come with their mayor to speak to the military commander about repeated harassment from the soldiers. — report of Witness for Peace, summer 91

"The United States, said to be disillusioned because of persistent corruption in the government of President Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo, is reportedly turning to Guatemala’s military to promote economic and political stability ... even though the military is blamed for human rights abuses and is believed to be involved in drug trafficking." — Los Angeles Times, 5/7/90

In June 1990, a prominent American businessman living in Guatemala, Michael DeVine, is kidnapped and nearly beheaded by the Guatemalan military after he apparently stumbles upon the military's drug trafficking and/or other contraband activities. The Bush administration, in a show of public anger of the killing, cuts off military aid to Guatemala, but secretly allows the CIA to provide millions of dollars to the military government to make up for the loss. The annual payments of $5 to $7 million apparently continue into the Clinton administration. — New York Times, 3/23/95

In March 1992, Guatemalan guerrilla leader, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, is captured and disappeared. For the next three years, his American wife, attorney Jennifer Harbury, wages an impassioned international campaign—including public fasts in Guatemala City (nearly to death) and in Washington—to pressure the Guatemalan and American governments for information about her husband's fate. Both governments insist that they know nothing. Finally, in March 1995, Rep. Robert Torricelli of the House Intelligence Committee reveals that Bamaca had been tortured and executed the same year of his capture, and that he, as well as DeVine, had been murdered on the orders of Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, who had been on the CIA payroll for several years. (Alpirez thus becoming another illustrious graduate of Fort Benning’s School of the Americas). The facts surrounding these cases were known early on by the CIA, and by officials at the State Department and National Security Council at least a few mon ths before the disclosure. — New York Times, 3/23/95

"I am sure he is a good officer. He does not drink. He does not argue. He is a good father. He is the kind of officer who you would want under your command." — General Gramajo on Colonel Alpirez, New York Times, 3/26/95

When Col. Alpirez’s murders of Americans are revealed to the U.S. public by Rep. Torricelli, Newt Gingrich demands punishment … of Torricelli.

The estimated government murder toll, since the US overthrew the freely democratically elected capitalist government of Jacobo Arbenz, stands for the moment at 200,000.