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      Monday
      Sep122011

      Guatemalan Elections May Mark Desperate Retreat to Military in Response to U.S. Drug War

      INTRODUCTIONThe US-sponsored drug war apparently is driving a majority of Guatemalans to vote for widening repression in the name of law-and-order. A former general implicated in murders and repression, Gen. Otto Perez Molina, is expected to be elected president this week as the country spirals into the violence of the drug war. The US-backed drug war on the Mexican border, which has led to 40,000 deaths since 2007, is causing a steady spillover into Guatemala with its 575-mile border with Mexico. The murder rate in Guatemala is twice that of Mexico.

      The US ambassador to Guatemala, Stephen McFarland, is a former head of the US Cuba desk in Washington who was embedded with US Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province during the 2007 military “surge.” According to FOX on December 13, 2010, “US officials who specialize in counter-narcotics worry that Al Qaeda will soon realize the porous nature of the Central American-US border,” noting that the Guatemalan border must be “tackled” before “the drugs come too far north.”

      Robert Garcia is a Guatemalan-born Los Angeles human rights attorney. His report follows:

      Guatemalan Elections May Mark Desperate Retreat to Military in Response to U.S. Drug War

      By Robert Garcia, The City Project

      The Guatemalan people have suffered from repressive United States policies for over 60 years as a result of the ongoing War on Drugs, overthrow of the democratically elected government in 1954, and intentional infliction of syphilis in 1946 to 1948.

      The blow back from U.S. drug war policies as Guatemalans head to the polls on September 11, 2011, is devastating democracy and public safety in Guatemala. Guatemala seeks protection from the U.S. war on drugs. As the Economist has reported, “Central American governments are not solely responsible for the countries’ problems. The drugs policies of the United States are also to blame.” The United States could help, for example, through “an aid programme that would tie money for roads, ports and security hardware to increases in the tax take to pay for better security and social conditions. Such schemes will not, however, solve “the fundamental problem: that as long as drugs that people want to consume are prohibited, and therefore provided by criminals, driving the trade out of one bloodstained area will only push it into some other godforsaken place.”

      The United State overthrew the democratically elected government in 1954 and installed a military dictatorship that resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 Guatemalan people over the next 50 years. See Ghosts of Guatemala by Robert Garcia from Tom Hayden’s Peace and Justice Resource Center.

      The United States conducted immoral and illegal experiments on syphilis amounting to torture against Guatemalan people from 1946 to 1948. Click here to download the Complaint filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia against officials of the United State Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and others on behalf of former soldiers, orphans, prisoners, and mental health patients in Guatemala who were purposefully infected with syphilis, or their heirs and the family members who were also impacted by the disease. Click here to read the Press Release by attorneys for the plaintiffs in Guatemala and the United States. According to the Press Release, Brigadier General Telford Taylor recognized at the opening of the Doctors’ Trial at Nuremberg, “Whatever book or treatise on medical ethics we may examine, and whatever expert on forensic medicine we may question, will say that it is a fundamental and inescapable obligation of every physician under any known system of law not to perform a dangerous experiment without the subject’s consent.” Click here to read New York Times coverage about the gruesome torture.

      The New York Times reports on the upcoming elections in Guatemala:

      They burned villages, killed children and, just a winding road away from here in 1982, the Guatemalan military also massacred hundreds of Mayan peasants, after torturing old men and raping young women.

      But now, all across these highlands once ravaged by a 36-year civil war, the region’s bloodiest anti-Communist conflict, Guatemalans are demanding the unthinkable — a strong military, back in their communities.

      That is how desperate this country has become as gangs and Mexican drug cartels run fever-wild, capturing territory and corrupting institutions so that Guatemala will remain a safe haven for cocaine, guns, money laundering and new recruits.

      “It’s even scarier now than during the war,” said Josefina Molina, 52, making tamales a few steps from where a neighbor was killed two days earlier. “The danger used to be in the mountains — now it’s everywhere.”

      Guatemala’s presidential election on Sunday could represent a turning point. The three top contenders have all called for a stronger, crime-fighting military, borrowing heavily from the Mexican model of attacking the drug cartels head-on, even though that strategy has claimed more than 40,000 lives without yielding peace...

      More than 60 percent of Guatemala’s roughly 7.3 million registered voters are between 18 and 30 years old.

      In their eyes, the war that killed an estimated 200,000 Guatemalan civilians is a vague shadow. The old ideological fight over whether leftist insurgents — angered by an American-backed coup in 1954 — would lead the country to Communism means nothing to them... The country’s poorly financed schools do not include lessons on the war... [M]ost young Guatemalans are unaware of their country’s history...

      There are obvious long-term solutions, proposed repeatedly by experts: police reform, a stronger justice system with judges appointed for life and a security tax on the rich, similar to what Colombia enacted a few years ago.

      Read the rest of this story in the New York Times.

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