Guatemala, Rios Montt and Genocide: CIA and US should also be on Trial
Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Guatemalan justice system sentenced Efrain Rios Montt of crimes against humanity and genocide against the Mayan Indians in 2013. This verdict was based on past realities in this nation whereby the murder of Mayan Indians and political killings were part and parcel of society. His 80 year prison sentence in 2013 effectively meant that he should die in prison for his role in past crimes against Mayan Indians and other individuals in Guatemala. Not surprisingly, given the delicate nature of this trial and important power mechanisms in Guatemala, then his conviction was overturned by the Constitutional Court based on “due process.” Therefore, the trial is scheduled to re-open in early 2015 however is Rios Montt being treated fairly given the longevity and brutal reality of what happened in Guatemala in this period of history? Also, if Rios Montt is deemed guilty then what about the role of America, the CIA and other political elites in Guatemala?
Equally important, it is abundantly clear that America under many presidents supported the violation of human rights for many decades in countries which include El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. This list can easily be extended to other nations like Chile. However, the point is that America and various paramilitaries on the right were involved in many brutal realities whereby the CIA played a powerful role.
Very few people will shed a tear for Rios Montt given the massacres that took place while he led this country briefly. Yet, massacres in Guatemala and other regional nations happened well before Rioss Montt came to power and likewise other brutal massacres took place after he was forced from power. Therefore, how can Rios Montt be separated and singled out to such a great extent given the role of so many individuals? Likewise, it is clear that many American administrations and CIA leaders were involved in arming, assisting and manipulating the United Nations (UN) in order to cover-up so many crimes.
Robert Parry covered many unfolding stories about Nicaragua and other important areas for AP and Newsweek. He comments that “Though many Latin American governments have practiced the dark arts of “disappearances” and “death squads,” the history of Guatemala’s security operations is perhaps the best documented because the Clinton administration declassified scores of the secret U.S. documents in the late 1990s.”
“The original Guatemalan death squads took shape in the mid-1960s under anti-terrorist training provided by a U.S. public safety adviser named John Longon, according to the documents. In January 1966, Longon reported to his superiors about both overt and covert components of his anti-terrorist strategies.”
The Guardian media group in 1999 stated that “Bill Clinton has made a dramatic break with the policy of previous presidents by expressing regret for the role the United States played in backing a brutal counter-terrorism campaign that caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in Guatemala’s civil war.”
“Mr Clinton made the apology in Guatemala City during his current four-nation visit to central America. It followed the publication last month of the findings of the independent Historical Clarification Commission which concluded that the US was responsible for most of the human rights abuses committed during the 36-year war in which 200,000 people died.”
This is the problem because Rios Montt was in power between March 1982 and August 1983. However, given the countless massacres that took place before this time period and that massacres continued after Rios Montt was forced from power; then how can he be held accountable if other powerful players within the America government and CIA escape similar judgments? Similarly, the same applies to past Guatemalan political and military individuals who were behind untold massacres for many decades – therefore, why is Rios Montt being singled out to such an extreme?
Bill Clinton stated “It is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong…And the United States must not repeat that mistake. We must and we will instead continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Guatemala.”
Therefore, it means that while many commissions have firmly pinned the involvement of America and the CIA in countless massacres throughout many nations in South America in the past; that somehow one apology stating that the US “must not repeat that mistake” again is apparently good enough to escape prosecution.Ironically, Bill Clinton during his political office was also involved in murky dealings in Bosnia and Croatia whereby Islamic jihadists and Croatian paramilitaries were given covert support – and whereby the CIA held central links in the chain – during the Bill Clinton administration.
The US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research way back in 1967 noted the “accumulating evidence that the [Guatemalan] counterinsurgency machine is out of control…counter-terror units were carrying out abductions, bombings, torture and summary executions of real and alleged communists.”
Robert Parry reports that “In April 1981, a secret CIA cable described a massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory. On April 17, 1981, government troops attacked the area believed to support leftist guerrillas, the cable said. According to a CIA source, “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.”
“Despite the CIA account and other similar reports, Reagan permitted Guatemala’s army to buy $3.2 million in military trucks and jeeps in June 1981. To permit the sale, Reagan removed the vehicles from a list of military equipment that was covered by the human rights embargo.”
If Rios Montt is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide then what about the role of other powerful people in Guatemala; within the corridors of power in America over many decades; individuals within the CIA involved in murky dealings; and other ratlines which equally applies to private companies which benefitted from economic sales to the forces of torture in Guatemala? The issue isn’t the innocence or guilt of Rios Montt because very few people will doubt his role within the chains of command; it is about other more powerful individuals which assisted in these crimes against humanity.
Turning back to The Guardian article published in 1999 it states that “I have never seen anything like it,’ said Kate Doyle, the Guatemala project director at the National Security Archive, a private research body which has obtained the US documents. Ms Doyle said the documents tell the fullest story so far of our intimacy with the Guatemalan security forces.”
“A 1966 document reveals that US security forces set up a safe house inside the presidential palace in Guatemala City for use by Guatemalan security agents and their US contacts. It became the headquarters for the so-called dirty war.”
In this sense, if so many other people escape the net of justice then Rios Montt is “a collective scapegoat” for all the other powerful individuals in America and Guatemala who have escaped similar indictments. Therefore, it is essential that “the book isn’t closed” because many individuals were involved in the chain of events in America and Guatemala.
Sadly, many powerful modern nation states are still involved in supporting terrorist networks, mercenaries from a distance and supporting nations which don’t even provide the barest forms of human rights. The reason they can do this is because judgments are too limited towards individuals like Rios Montt. Given this reality, the same power mechanisms of covert and overt support towards forces of evil are still happening in the modern world. Likewise, destabilizing nations under the disguise of humanitarian ideals is the modern modus operandi whereby human rights organization, the mass media, special advisors and PR personnel collectively work together in order to overthrow governments. Rios Montt was just a cog in the machinery therefore until the entire machinery is brought to justice then nothing will prevent powerful governments from doing what they please.
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