Peruvian voters chose the progressive populist Ollanta Humala by a 51-49 percent margin last week over Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country’s jailed former dictator. The close electoral margin suggests deep fault lines in the Andean nation, but the victory was another step towards regional independence from the United States, which remains increasingly marginalized on a continent traditionally considered the American “backyard.”
Peru now joins a core Latin American bloc of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela attempting to build greater economic integration and diplomatic independence. Even the United States’ staunchest ally, Colombia, has moved slightly out of Washington’s orbit, while Manuel Zelaya of Honduras and Jean-Bertrande Aristide, both former presidents ousted in U.S.-supported coups, have returned to their countries with their rights of association restored.
For an informative map of U.S. interventions in Latin America, go to the Spring 2011 issue of Presente, an organ of the School of the Americas Watch.
...and a Commission Proposes Ending the War on Drugs
The U.S. administration’s major initiative across Central and Latin America is the “war on drugs”, which was denounced last week by a prestigious 19-member commission including former UN chief Kofi Annan, former U.S. official George Schultz, forrmer presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, and Greek prime minister, George Papandreou. The commission called for demilitarizing U.S. policy as well as legalizing marijuana.
For the complete report, please see the Global Comission on Drug Policy.
Ghosts of Guatemala
Robert García is founder and executive director of The City Project in Los Angeles, an organization that advocates and litigates for environmental and social justice. He recently returned from Guatemala and circulated this letter to friends. Tom Hayden is a board member of the City Project.
This op/ed in the New York Times helps explain why I am here.
In 1954, the United States and CIA overthrew the democratically elected president of Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz. The U.S. backed military dictatorships assassinated almost 200,000 people in the next 50 years. The government engaged in genocide against Mayans, obliterating entire villages. The bishop of Guatemala Juan Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in 1998 for publishing a report documenting the atrocities committed by the U.S. backed military strongmen.
My grandfather was a linotypist for a newspaper in Guatemala before the democratically elected goverment was overthrown in 1954. He was a member of the free press, and a member of a labor union. He told me 20 years later with tears in his eyes how the people of Guatemala City took to the streets demanding that the government open up the armories and give them guns to defend against the CIA backed invasion. The government refused, the president fled, and the democracy fell. My grandfather and other members of his labor union were lined up at the newspaper offices in front of a firing squad. The order was given to shoot. The rifles were empty. It was psychological torture. Union members could not get jobs under the dictatorship. My father went first to Panama, then to the United States. The rest of us followed within a few years.
What happened in Guatemala was suppressed in the United States media for decades. The overthrow of democracy in Guatemala is now understood as the beginning of U.S. policy towards Latin America for the next four decades and more, as manifested by the blockade of Cuba, the disappeared in Argentina, the violence under Pinochet in Chile, the suppression of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the efforts to undermine Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
I have returned to Guatemala only twice, once for the summer to learn about the nation in 1973 when I turned 21, and the second time to bury my father. I lived in fascist Spain under Franco in 1971-72. Being in Guatemala in 1973 was worse than being in fascist Spain. I have been to Cuba three times under socialism, in 2000 and 2010. Being in socialist Cuba was better than being in Guatemala. Guatemala is beautiful geographically, it is known as the Switzerland of Central America. I have always told people I do not go back even to visit Guatemala because I see ghosts.