For 36 years, Guatemala was embroiled in a deadly civil war that took the lives of over 200,000 people.But not if you ask its newly elected president — and former top military official — Otto Perez Molina.
Molina is days away from assuming control of Guatemala, which has become one of the world’s most homicidal nations, thanks to a spilling over of drug trafficking and violence from neighbouring Mexico. Molina ran on a platform of an “iron first” against soaring crime, according to the Associated Press (via NPR).
Part of that campaign promise includes obtaining military aid from the U.S., which cut all funding after an American civilian was murdered by the Guatemalan army in 1990.
Beginning in the 1950s and 60s, the government of Guatemala was infused with funding, training and weaponry from the CIA and the Green Berets to combat the perceived “communist threat” in the mountainous areas of Guatemala.
The counterinsurgency carried out by the military, mainly against the rural, indigenous population, led to a myriad of human rights violations, from torture and kidnapping to outright murder.
Yet it took the murder of Michael Devine, an American businessman, for the U.S. to turn its back on the military it had helped create. The country’s civil war officially ended in 1996.
Now, Molina wants to welcome back American involvement in the country’s affairs, in order to procure enough firepower to beat back the rising tide of Mexican drug running that has helped raise Guatemala’s homicide rate to 41 people per 100,000 residents.
In order to regain military aid, the government must prove to the the U.S. State Department that the military is “respecting internationally recognised human rights.”
Molina has said that there was never a genocide or any type of human rights abuses in his country. This comes despite recognition by the United States, the United Nations and even the Catholic Church that American-funded atrocities committed by the Guatemalan military did occur.
During the war, Molina was a top official at a military base in the Nebaj region, which at one point was removed from the country’s map altogether in order to pursue a “scorched earth” policy to fight the insurgency.
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