“I first went to Guatemala as a young and very naïve graduate student in 1980. It was only a few months after the Spanish Embassy fire, an event I knew of only by having stumbled across something about it in Time magazine. I asked an advisor at Tulane if it was a safe time to go to Guatemala, and he replied, ‘If you wait for a safe time to go to Guatemala, you’ll never go there,’ a reply that was both generally true but also specifically wrong, in that Guatemala in 1980 was in the upswing of an unprecedented and catastrophic cycle of political violence.”
– pgs. ix, x, TERROR IN THE LAND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Montt 1982-1983, Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Oxford University Press, 2010
“Between 1982 and 1983, the military government of Guatemala prosecuted a scorched-earth campaign of terror against largely Mayan rural communities in the name of anticommunism. Under the leadership of General Efraín Ríos Montt, tens of thousands of people perished in what is now known as la violencia, or ‘the Mayan holocaust.’ Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s president-by-coup, was and is an outspokenly born-again Pentecostal Christian – a fact that would seem to be at odds with the atrocities that took place on his watch.”
– Frontispiece, ibid.
“Ruben Chamax would later claim that General Otto Pérez Molina was one of the officers who had come into Don Mike’s little store with Colonel Lima Estrada on the night of the murder. It was assumed by the prosecution that the officers had gathered in Don Mike’s to monitor the crime, but there was an even more logical reason for them to be there. The murder of Bishop Gerardi was the most audacious and risky assassination the Guatemalan Army had ever attempted, and it must be perceived as a defense of the institution rather than of individuals. No military man should be able to shirk responsibility. Everybody’s tail should be snagged – a ring of tigers holding each other’s tails in their jaws.”
– pg. 239, THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER, Francisco Goldman, Grove Press, New York, 2007
To a great extent, the reason Belize managed to achieve political independence in 1981 was because the hostile republic of Guatemala was a pariah state on the world map. In 1981 Guatemala was engaged in a Central American version of the Holocaust with Guatemala’s majority Indigenous citizens as the victims, the Guatemalan military as the murderers, and the wealthy neo-European Guatemalan elite as the interested, approving observers.
A civil war had begun in Guatemala in 1960 (some scholars say 1966). It was a one-sided war, because the United States was on the side of the Guatemalan military and Guatemala’s ruling elite. The situation had become so outrageous in Guatemala that a progressive United States president, Jimmy Carter, decided in 1977 to suspend American arms shipments to the Guatemalan military. (The arms void was immediately filled by Israel, Taiwan, and Argentina.)
Perhaps Jimmy Carter’s 1977 decision gave the Panamanian leader, General Omar Torrijos, his cue, but it was around that time that Torrijos declared his support for Belize’s independence. Torrijos, in so doing, broke ranks with the other Central American nations, which had always supported Guatemala’s territorial claim to Belize. The People’s United Party (PUP) government of Premier George Price had been sending Senator Assad Shoman and Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers on various diplomatic missions worldwide to drum up support for Belize’s independence, especially from nations referred to as Non-Aligned. Torrijos’ support provided significant impetus for this so-called “internationalization” campaign on the part of Belize.
From 1948 onwards, after the founding of Zionist Israel, a group of three racist, genocidal nations, all special friends of the United States, had been special friends of each other. These were anti-Palestinian Israel, apartheid South Africa, and anti-Indigenous Guatemala. The Holy Bible represented a public relations shield for the Israelis, allowing them to get away with all kinds of atrocities against the Palestinians. Apartheid South Africa was not so fortunate, and eventually world opinion forced South Africa to release Nelson Mandela in 1990 after 27 years in jail. A few years later, Mandela was elected president and apartheid was dismantled. (It must always be noted and remembered that Cuba played an important military role in defeating South African apartheid.) Defeated in the United Nations on the matter of Belize’s independence, the Guatemalan ruling class later decided to clean up its image. That was when Guatemala installed its first civilian president, Vinicio Cerezo, in 1986, after 35 years of military rule.
Since that time Guatemala has committed itself to a public relations campaign which seeks to convince the region and the world that Guatemala has given up racism and genocide. After 1981, Belizean political leaders essentially began congratulating themselves on a job well done, with the achievement of political independence, and soon Belizeans began to party and to play.
Belize has now been caught off guard by the Guatemalan military pressure in the Sarstoon River area since late February of this year. Guatemalan politicians and diplomats have successfully wooed and completely disarmed their Belizean counterparts over the last few years. Belizean politicians and diplomats have been unable or unwilling to understand the significance of Guatemalan military behavior at the Sarstoon. Belizean politicians and diplomats believe the Guatemalan hype: they believe that this is a new Guatemala. But, Pérez Molina was an officer in Ríos Montt’s army. The Indigenous majority in Guatemala know that nothing in the rotten economic system of the republic has changed. Because the economics of Guatemalan injustice has not changed, the politics of Guatemala has not really changed. Scratch Guatemala, and you will find racism, and genocidal concepts.
Perhaps the most ingenious move of the Guatemalan ruling classes has been to introduce the generals of the military into their ranks. Since the counter-revolution in 1954, Guatemala’s generals have gobbled up huge chunks of land, especially in the Petén, and they have become some of the wealthiest people in Guatemala. It is safe to say that the Guatemalan business, industrial, and agro-industrial elite are now as one with the leaders of the military, both retired and active. Guatemala’s politicians and diplomats are of little substance. The real power lies with the business, industrial, and agro-industrial elite in collusion and conspiracy with the military. What has been going down at the Sarstoon since late February is all about Guatemala’s traditional elite and their military bedmates.
Grabbing some of Belize is a sure way for the Guatemalan upper classes and the military to ease some of the socio-economic pressure inside the republic. It was that same socio-economic pressure from the oppressed Indigenous masses and their working class allies which provoked the civil war brutality from the Guatemalan military, acting for and on behalf of the republic’s upper classes. Now, the leaders of the Guatemalan military are embedded inside the ruling elite. This is where Guatemala looks very strong, especially to the one Sedi Elrington.
When you tear off that veil of hypocrisy, injustice, and state violence against the people, however, Guatemala is weak. Guatemala is weak, because Guatemalans are a divided people. Guatemala is built on a lie. Too many Belizean politicians and diplomats believe that lie. Today, the important thing is for us Belizeans to find a way to build true national unity. El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. The people united will never be defeated.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.