Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rios Montt trial: Just one of the small fry.

Guatemalans set up a “disappeared wall” during one of the protests to demand the trial of Ríos Montt. Photo: Natasha Pizzey-Siegert source
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444 retired

Today, the trial of one of Central America’s most murderous dictators begins in Guatemala. Efrain Rios Montt is being charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the murder of as many as 200,000 people, mostly members of the Mayan community, during Guatemala’s civil war that lasted 26 years from 1960 to 1996.

As with other stooges of US capitalism and the CIA in Latin America, hopefully Rios Montt will get his just rewards. But we see this all the time, secondary figures like Rios Montt, Slobodan Milosevic, Assad being labeled war criminals, if these people are guilty of crimes against humanity what about the people that were behind them?

The US through the CIA supplied the Guatemalan dictatorship with arms along with the Israelis. Ronald Reagan said of Rios Montt, "President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. ... I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice."

US capitalism’s interference in the affairs of Guatemala has deep roots. In 1954 a CIA sponsored coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz on behalf of the United Fruit Co. and other big landowners. Arbenz had introduced land reforms that threatened the domination of the United Fruit Company over Guatemalan society. Only 2% of landowners owned 72% of the arable land, much of it unused. United fruit alone held 600,000 acres of mostly unused land. The Guatemalan colonel that the CIA selected to replace Arbenz immediately outlawed hundreds of trade unions and returned more than 1.5 million acres to United fruit Co.

Instrumental in planning the coup were the Dulles brothers, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen Dulles who was director of the CIA. These two also helped orchestrate the CIA coup that overthrew the secular democratic government of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and replaced him with the murderous Shah. They were former partners of United Fruit’s main law firm in Washington. By 1985 some 75,000 people were dead or had disappeared at the hands of the Guatemalan dictatorship; a huge amount in this tiny country. Some 150,000 Indians fled to Mexico and beyond. Many of the brothers and sisters we see on the streets as day laborers are from this area.

Hilary with Mubarak:  a friend of the family.
It is the support the US gives these undemocratic regimes that allows civil conflict to go on for so long causing tremendous suffering for the population.  The regime of Hosni Mubarak, the murderous Egyptian dictator was also a recipient some $2 billion of US taxpayer money.  As Egyptians were fighting for democratic rights and an end to Mubarak’s tyranny and torture chambers, Hilary Clinton, then US Secretary of State told Egyptian TV that "We consider Egypt to be a friend."  And that "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States."

Behind Rios Montt and the slaughter of 200,000 Guatemalans in this conflict stood George HW Bush, Oliver North, Ronald Reagan and all these other far more important war criminals.  The same with Mubarak, Milosevic, Gaddafi whose police were trained by the British. 

We must not lose sight of this when these small fry are paraded to the world as orchestrators of crimes against humanity and genocide.  They are never from Britain or the US.  The US predatory war in Iraq has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s and displaced hundreds of thousands more.  The western support for the so-called Syrian opposition is them yet again linking up with very dubious characters as they did with Bin Laden and others; it is not workers they look to, but any section of the ruling class or religious hierarchy that will allow multinational corporations to continue to plunder the region’s resources. .  Let’s also not forget that up until 1999, every Taliban government official was on the payroll of the US government. 

The world has yet to enjoy the pleasure of seeing mass murderer Henry Kissinger brought to the dock.  The blood of Rene, Schneider, the constitutionalist Chilean general is on Kissinger’s hands, as is Allende’s and the deaths of some 3 million Vietnamese.

While Guatemalan’s should rejoice at Rios Montt being brought to trial these events are of limited significance as long as their masters roam free.

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