Connoisseurs of foreign policy propaganda should skip the lies of the Commisars on Calvert Street (The Sun)
for the imaginations of the Washington Post. In a recent, highly typical article by
Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson entitled "Guatemalan Vote is Boost for Democracy" (11/13/95),
they put on a clinic of it.
We are told that a fair election in Guatemala was being held (11/10). This milestone is
"only the third peaceful civilian transition of their government in half a century."
According to "observers", what has come about is the end of apathy caused by "decades
of military coups, rigged elections, corruption and a civil war that has left an estimated
120,000 dead." Some mention of the U.S. role in that country is given.
This year military aid from the U.S. was reduced in the wake of "several high-profile
cases of human rights violations" (i.e., the revelation that the CIA killed
Jennifer Harbury's husband and others). But we haven't always been so active. Following the
CIA-engineered, 1954 coup of a "left-leaning president", a "Marxist
insurgency" arose whose members roamed "the countryside", and from
whom there have been "still occasional killings, giving Guatemala's army a pretext
for not relaxing its grip on society."
In short, since the CIA overthrew the legally elected government of Jacobo Arbenz the U.S.
has watched from the sidelines as Guatemalans, plunged into civil war, bypassed democracy.
Unfortunately, this is an account that by omitting key details is nothing short of history
William Blum's "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II"
is an attempt at recording the truth. After Dwight Eisenhower's CIA toppled Arbenz, falsely
claiming Arbenz was a "communist", Ike's CIA aborted an attempted 1960 coup by
moderates in the Guatemalan military. With help from the mainstream press, which declined
to report that the U.S. had bombed and strafed Guatemala City, the coup was over before
Thus, many of the coup plotters went underground; i.e., they became "guerrillas".
Since organizing people who are nearly 100% illiterate, who have no public health facilities,
who are living in circumstances that often resemble "concentration camps" is
difficult, the guerilla movement was slow in coming. Yet, in 1962 a demonstration by
thousands to protest the government's economic policies was followed by the establishment
of a U.S. military base to ward off the "communist threat". Military aid flowed
in and the Guatemalan army was suitably trained and prodded into action. In the terror
that followed, "Guerrillas, peasants, students, labor leaders, and
professional people were jailed or killed by the hundreds to put a halt, albeit temporarily, to
the demands for reform."
Notice that Blum does not include "communists" in his list of victims. The U.S.
has crushed--often violently--untold numbers of progressive movements since 1945. In
every case the mainstream press falsely repeated that our actions were to
thwart "Marxists" or "Communists" with no proof offered.
In 1963, the Kennedy administration overthrew the freely-elected Guatemalan government
of General Ydigoras. His crime, Blum says, was in favoring an election for his successor.
Camelot's choice for president, Col. Enrique Peralta Azurdia, immediately killed eight
political and trade union leaders by having rock-laden trucks driven over them.
But Peralta wasn't brutal enough, so the U.S. backed Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro to
victory in an unfair, 1966 election. With Mendez in place, aid to the Guatemalan military
shot up. Correspondingly, terror escalated sharply. Between 1966 and 1968, approximately
3,000 and 8,000 Guatemalans were murdered by U.S.-financed, trained, and abetted
right-wing elements; by 1976 this figure had reached 20,000, all murdered without a trace.
Blum describes the onslaught against the guerrillas in blood-curdling pages that are
available to every reporter in the country. The terror continued up to and through the
"human-rights" Carter presidency. When Sun-kissed "Gipper"
Reagan rose to power, the U.S. helped the Guatemalan military massacre at least 2,000
peasants in 1981.
Following the 1982 coup of General Efraín Montt, a favorite of Reagan's, "2,600
Indians and peasants were massacred, while during [Montt's] 17-month reign, more than 400
villages were brutally wiped off the map." Reagan visited Montt following the
carnage, and like Hitler's inspection of Auschwitz, confirmed Montt's support for human
To close, if we are to ensure that our recorded history is in fact, truthful, we must
all try to read beyond newspaper propaganda.