The Bush administration has significantly strengthened ties with the Guatemalan military at the same time that human rights violations by the military are rising sharply. This increased cooperation with the Guatemalan military inevitably puts a stamp of tacit U.S. approval on ongoing military oppression.
According to the 1989 review by Human Rights Watch, U.S. military involvement in Guatemala includes: sale of 16,000 M-16 rifles to the Guatemalan army; construction by U.S. Army and Guatemalan military of a road circling Lake Atitlan, an area of active insurgency; training of Guatemalan paratroopers by U.S. Green Berets; parachute and jungle-survival training by U.S. Special Forces for Guatemala’s elite Kaibil counter-insurgency troops; and a series of civic action exercises by armed and uniformed National Guard units from Kentucky, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Hawaii, mostly in Chimaltenango, a province with considerable rebel activity.
In November, 1989, Amnesty International reported to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States that: “Abuses of human rights have increased in Guatemala since 1988, with a sharp increase in the number of disappearances and extra judicial executions by security forces, uniformed or in the form of death squads.”
From 1986 to 1989, extra judicial executions per year almost doubled and kidnappings/disappearances more than tripled. A total of 2,638 extra judicial executions, as well as 857 kidnappings and disappearances and 655 injuries from attacks were recorded.
Meanwhile, the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, in Washington, D.C., reported on the fate of a U.S. citizen which received little U.S. press coverage. On November 2, 1989, a United States citizen, Sister Diana Ortiz, 31, of the Ursuline order based in Maple Mount, Kentucky, who was working as a teacher in Guatemala, was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and sexually molested by three men, one of whom was a uniformed Guatemalan police officer.
The Human Rights Watch contends this should have triggered a suspension of U.S. training programs for the Guatemalan police, at least while an investigation was carried out. But the State Department said that the U.S. didn’t register a protest because the case fell under Guatemalan jurisdiction and the Guatemalan police were investigating. Compare this with the response by the Bush administration to the alleged sexual threatening of a U.S. lieutenant’s wife by Panamanian armed forces. Bush used the latter to partially justify the invasion of Panama by 26,000 U.S. troops.
Yet, in spite of growing evidence implicating Guatemalan security forces in human rights violations, U.S. military assistance and presence in Guatemala continues to increase. In fact, in 1989, Guatemala ranked tenth out of 90 countries receiving U.S. economic assistance.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: WENDY STRAND
SOURCE: GUATEMALA UPDATE PO Box 31903, Seattle, WA 98101, DATE: February 1990
TITLE: “US AID SAID TO ENCOURAGE RIGHTS VIOLATIONS”
AUTHOR: JANA SCHROEDER
SOURCE: GUTEMALA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION/USA 1359 Monroe Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20017, DATE: 1/24/90
TITLE: “U.S. CITIZEN KIDNAPPED AND TORTURED IN GUATEMALA”
AUTHOR: JOANNE HEISEL
COMMENTS: Jana Schroeder, of Guatemala Update, points out that while Guatemala has the largest population and economy of all Central American Countries and the most U.S. economic investment, it “receives even less news coverage than other Central American countries.” She adds that the “escalating level of direct U.S. military involvement in Guatemala is unlikely to be reported when the civil war there is not openly acknowledged.”
The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA (GHRC/USA) sent information about Sister Diana Ortiz’s kidnapping and torture to the major news media, some members of Congress, human rights and religious organizations, the UN, the OAS, and the U.S. State Department. Yet, according to Joanne Heisel, of GHRC/USA, the story of Sister Ortiz “most certainly DID NOT receive sufficient exposure in the mass media in 1989! As far as we know, it was covered only by National Public Radio (NPR), The Washington Times (NOT the Post!), National Catholic Reporter, and local Kentucky media. It was NOT covered by the ‘newspapers of record,’ the major newsweeklies (Time and Newsweek), or any national network broadcast news media (to our knowledge).” Heisel adds that “If a U.S. citizen (a nun, no less!) can be kidnapped, beaten, sexually abused and tortured without public outcry, imagine what must be happening to the tens of thousands of Guatemalan peasants who have absolutely no voice with which to speak out.”