GSN MONDAY MAILER MAY 14 2012
Espero no me tomen por spammer. Les copio aquí el vínculo al reportaje de Oswaldo Hernández en Plaza Pública sobre los hechos de Santa Cruz Barillas, que no son alentadores:
Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
. . . Working for human rights in Guatemala since 1982
The Guatemalan Government trains its guns on peaceful protesters
As over 10,000 peaceful marchers gathered in Guatemala City's central plaza, soldiers stationed on the tops of the surrounding buildings pointed their machine guns down at the crowd. Police on the ground penned in men, women and children, leaving them nowhere to flee. The marchers had walked for nine days to meet with their elected leaders and ask for an end to the violent evictions terrorizing their communities and for the passage of a law to promote true rural development to alleviate the crushing poverty suffered by the majority of Guatemalans.
In their arms they carried only their children and in their hearts they carried a conviction that another Guatemala is possible. Yet they were met with military force in a scene horrifyingly similar to that in which their family members were gunned down by Guatemalan soldiers in the Panzós Massacre of 1978.
Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee released it's draft Appropriations Bill, and it does not include the ban on funding to the Guatemalan Army which has been in place for three decades. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to release it's draft Appropriations Bill any day, at which time members of the House and Senate will come together to create a final, compromise bill.Please, contact your Representatives and Senators and ask them to make sure the ban is in place in the final bill.
The government of Otto Pérez Molina claims that U.S. aid to the Guatemalan military is necessary to combat the narco-trafficking and violent crime wracking the country, but the truth is that the military is being used to intimidate and silence the Guatemalan people. Army bases are being opened not in regions where drugs are trafficked, but in regions where indigenous communities dare to stand up to large corporations taking over their land. In addition, the Guatemalan military funds organizations such as the Association of Military Veterans (AVEMILGUA) which threaten and intimidate human rights defenders and those trying to push forward cases of grave human rights violations, such as genocide, in the Guatemalan justice system.
What is the Military Ban?
As a result of the massive human rights abuses committed by the Guatemalan military during the internal armed conflict, in 1990, the U.S. banned all funding to the Guatemalan army. Over the years, the ban has been weakened, and certain branches of the military have been exempt, such as the navy and air force. Currently members of Congress are under heavy pressure to completely lift the restrictions that remain in place.
Why Shouldn’t the Ban Be Lifted?
The ban stands as a symbol of U.S. commitment to human rights in Guatemala, and lifting the ban now sends the wrong message. The military has not cooperated with investigations of human rights violations from the internal conflict. Meanwhile, the army's role in citizen security is rapidly expanding. In addition, there is serious concern that assistance to the Guatemalan army will end up in the hands of the cartels it is supposedly combating. The U.S. Congress must continue to pressure the Guatemalan government to respect human rights before giving any funding to the army.
Historical Context: Guatemala’s Internal Armed Conflict
From 1960-1996, Guatemala suffered a violent internal armed conflict. The war resulted in 150,000 deaths, 47,000 disappearances, 626 massacres, 300,000 orphans, over 1.2 million refugees. The Historical Clarification Commission established that the government was responsible for 93% of all human rights violations and acts of violence committed during the war. The Commission also found that 86% of the victims were indigenous, and that the government had committed acts of genocide against the Mayan population.
Clandestine criminal structures tied to the military which developed during the war still rule much of Guatemalan society. Only a handful of the hundreds of thousands of crimes committed during the war have been prosecuted.
In January 2012, former General Otto Pérez Molina assumed the Presidency in Guatemala. His administration is led by current and former members of the military and military intelligence networks, and he is rapidly expanding the role of the army and militarizing citizen security. Pérez Molina himself has been accused of torture and other crimes against humanity. And yet, right now, the U.S. Congress is considering lifting an existing ban on funding to the Guatemalan army.
1. Guatemala has a long way to go to achieve justice for human rights violations.
The vast majority of atrocities committed during the internal armed conflict have never been prosecuted. Of the 626 massacres documented, only four have led to a conviction. In only two cases have high-ranking military officers have been prosecuted for human rights atrocities. Most cases of forced disappearance and other crimes remain in impunity. Furthermore:
· Recent cases accusing former heads of state of genocide — including former Dictator Efrain Rios Montt – have been stalled at every turn. The case against current Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina was illegally dropped soon after he was elected. He is accused of participating in the forced disappearance, torture and death of Efraín Bámaca, husband of U.S. lawyer Jennifer Harbury.
· The military has not produced key documents essential to uncovering the truth of the attrocities committed during the war, and the Defense Ministry continues to impede access to an exhumation of victims of torture and forced disappearance taking place on the Cobán military base.
· The military also enjoys impunity for recent human rights violations. For example, members of the military were allegedly involved in the gang rape of 11 Q’eqchi’ women in the community of Lote 8, El Estor during a forced eviction to clear land for a nickel mining company. The Guatemalan government has not investigated, and no one has been held accountable.
2. The military has expanded far beyond border protection, becoming the primary enforcer of citizen security.
Under Pérez Molina, the army is increasingly assuming the functions of the police, despite the fact that the army is not trained in law enforcement and has no jurisdiction to detain or make arrests.
· Former military officials have been appointed to key positions in governmental institutions relating to citizen security and civil intelligence. Former Kaibil Special Forces have been named to the top three military positions.
· Military checkpoints have been installed across the country, and new military bases have been opened in the country's interior, particularly in areas with land disputes or heavy opposition to large-scale development projects.
· The military is regularly present during evictions that violate international human rights regulations. In the Polochic Valley in March 2011, hundreds of soldiers and members of the Special Forces participated in the eviction of over 800 indigenous families. One community member was killed.
3. Members of the military are involved in drug trafficking and brutal violence.
Members of the Kaibil Special Forces unit have been linked to “Los Zetas,” a violent Mexican trafficking group. Recently, former Kaibiles were charged with participating in a massacre in which 27 peasants were beheaded in El Petén Guatemala in May 2011, and another massacre in which ten people were killed in an auto shop in Cardenas, Mexico.
4. Despite evidence that criminal organizations operate within the highest levels of the Guatemalan military, U.S. funding has been used to train and support Guatemalan soldiers, including the Kaibiles.
Since 2007, the U.S. military has provided heavy weapons to the Kaibiles and trained them in air assaults and small unit tactics. In 2009, the U.S. Army Corps renovated barracks for the Kaibiles and U.S. marines trained at the Peten base with Kaibil forces.
There are alternatives to military solutions to combat crime and violence!
Instead of further funding to the military, the U.S. should support efforts to strengthen institutions such as the police and the courts, and to arrest and prosecute members of clandestine criminal networks. Committing to continue our financial support of the UN-backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is a great place to start.
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