Guatemalan Genocide

“Whenever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the protection of our properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many” From the majestic words of the brilliant Philoshope John Locke, a governmental system has the obligation to provide and work for the people, in either a direct or indirect matter.The system should satisfy and benefit the citizen in every possible aspect, rather than preventing the forward advancement of a nation’s people.
Locke believed that the power of government should be controlled by the governed, and if the government fails to preserve the rights of the people, the power should be stripped away and the governed have the given right to overthrow the existing government. Although this principal is democratic in nature, it is a key factor in the relationship between the government and the governed of any given nation.In many Latin American countries, a strong central government has always been the most common form of administration. The government, regardless of being a democratic or a socialist one, manages and controls the majority if not all of the aspects of the country such as the regulation commerce, the distribution of natural resources, the overall management of the banking systems and the department of agriculture.This makes the country much more subjective to corruption and an unbalance of power with in its own system because the government has so much influence and control within the nation that it almost forms a political or social “monopoly”, in which there is no higher authority to regulate or police what, and in what way different aspects of “The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them, when they Endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves, or any part of the community, masters, or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties or fortunes of the people”In the middle 1900’s, the republic of Guatemala, had much instability within its own people, governmentally and militarily due to the racial tension between Mayan Indian natives and European decent citizens. The tensions between the two began to escalade and thicken to a point that violent protesting and riots erupted all over the country in a matter of years. The Guatemalan government, using the national army and its counter insurgency force, began a systematic campaign of repressions and suppressions against Mayan Indians, whom they claimed were working toward a communist coup (Fein 72).
It was because of the political instability and public crisis within the Guatemalan government and the country’s social system that made it an ideal time for the URNG (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union) to begin its plan to totally revolutionize the nation, which led to the massacre of thousands of innocent Guatemalan lives. Many groups have adopted Marxist communism as well as extreme socialistic dogmas and applied them to their own society for their self benefit.In the last two-hundred years, Latin America has seen numerous revolutionary acts, groups and ideologies that were meant to break the barriers of old, and traditional customs that were believe to have been ineffective towards the advancement of the nation. In the late 1960’s, many Guatemalan citizens, especially laborers and natives, had a huge lack of faith and trust within their own government. Their resentment towards the system had developed from the irresponsibility of the national government for not spreading the wealth and prosperity to the natives whose hard labor made that flourishing possible.The laborers, which consisted of rural Indians who made up the majority of the work force in the country, worked for American investors of coffee plantations did not see any benefit from their painstaking work. Causing them not to trust in the governmental system that promised them many things such as better medical assistance within rural parts of the nation, better roads and highways around inaccessible towns and villages in many places of Guatemala and the better overall appreciation of the working natives.

Since then, the tensions between the national government and the native people have not been cleared. During the 1970’s more and more protests and uprisings in the capital and the southwest part of the nation became very frequent, and overtime, very violent. The Peace Pledge Union expressed a dramatic and detailed example of the violent acts that the military of Guatemala racticed on Indian natives in search of subversives, Children were often beaten against walls, or thrown alive into pits where the bodies of adults were later thrown; they were also tortured and raped. Victims of all ages often had their limbs amputated, or were impaled and left to die slowly. Others were doused in petrol and set alight, or disemboweled while still alive. Yet others were shot repeatedly or tortured and shut up alone to die in pain the wombs of pregnant women were cut open.However, it took the Guatemalan military some time to actually suppress the violent uprisings and protests because of the intimidation they had received from the URNG (Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union), a group of socialistic radicals who thought that it was needed to take matters into their own hands by running, claming that the guerilla had ties with powerful drug lords and traffickers who supplied them with weapons and ammunition surpassing that of the military’s.
This was a major element that was over seen by the Guatemalan military. If the military would had been tactical enough to for see that the guerilla organizations lacked in supplies and in men to support their violent uprisings against the government, the lives of thousands of innocent Guatemalan lives could have been saved. In the early 1980’s the Guatemalan army persisted in its battle with the Marxist-led guerilla movement by killing tens of thousands of Mayan Indians as suspected subversives.Remnants Of various guerrilla organizations joined together with the URNG and refused to stop fighting until they achieved justice with brute force. Being that the Guatemalan government did not have a solution to end the violence between the Indian rebels and the rest of the nation, the battle between them seemed endless. The lack of support or diplomatic backing from the United Nation and the United States resulted in an escalation of seriousness within the conflict and made the situation less suppressant.A key role that made the situation worsen was that the United Nations was not quick to react to the clash.
The UN believed that the situation was to be left into the hands of the Guatemalan people according to Benjamin Valentino, author of the book, Final Solutions: Mass Killings and Genocide. According to the United Nations, the situation in the country was not as intense or as serious as they thought it would be. However not only was the UN misinformed about this dilemma, but the whole world did not ealize the magnitude of what was happening in this third world country. Often referred to as “The Silent Genocide” the world around them had no or very little knowledge of what was actually happening to thousands of Guatemalan citizens (Victoria 56). The United Sates had very little involvement during the 1950’s. When the US realized that the president of Guatemala, Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, had supposed communist advisors in his cabinet. The US saw this as a major threat of having a communist influence country so close to American soil.
The Eisenhower administration planned to overthrown the president, and the Central Intelligence Agency intimidated the Guatemalan army into abandoning Arbenz, and instead adopting US selected Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas. This drastic change reversed the land reforms and many other achievements of the pervious government. Over time Armas was easily influenced by the corrupt officials in the central government. Armas then resigned paving the way for socialistic leader and General of the battalion in Suchitepequez, Juan Jose Arevalo, to take office.The United States had one other major influence in the revolution and that was the funding of training programs to the revolutionary leftist guerillas that committed acts of genocide against the rural Mayan natives. According to Mireya Navarro of The New York Times, “the report, by the Historical Clarification Commission, contradicts years of official denials of the torture, kidnapping and execution of thousands of civilians in a war that the commission estimated killed more than 200,000 people”.Navarro later went on saying that; “Although the outlines of American support from Guatemala’s military have been well known, the nine-volume report confirms that the CIA aided Guatemalan forces.
The commission listed the American training of the officer corps in counterinsurgency techniques as a factor that ‘had a significant bearing on the human rights violations during the armed confrontation’”. The report also states that the US was very much well aware of its contribution to the training of the military units that were committing acts of genocide, and yet still supported the Guatemalan army.These factors contributed in creating a chaotic and unstable state of mind in the central government which was an ideal environment or situation that made it possible for revolutionary groups such as the URNG to dominate in the confrontation in the country. The unstable government system and the growing chaotic social status made it more subjective for the URNG to have its ways in the conflict. The native Indians did not trust the government despite the reformation after the grasping dictator that was focused mainly on the progression of the country excluding the natives.The amount of racism and prejudice put on the natives was just the right amount for them to realize the unjust doings of there own government. This angered them because their own government or in this case, there own country would disregard the Indians and pay more attention to huge investors in land ownership.
The enraged natives increased the amount of violent protests in the streets, killing people who they though were against the advancement of the “campesinos” rural labor workers.The constant battles and conflict between the rural natives and the rest of the country caused the nation to be divided on this topic. The division that the country had on this situation, caused many individuals to have mixed and violent feelings towards supporters and/or rebels (revolucionistas vs. nacionales). Those who were against the rebels (natives) were targeted and persecuted by the armed rebel groups including the URNG. Those in favor of the rebels were persecuted by the government and were looked upon as domestic criminals and communistic threats.This led to a total confusion on who were the nacionales and who were the revolucionistas.
The Guatemalan military took no precaution in this situation and stated targeting those who they felt were of the two. This led to innocent killings, murders, rapes and tortures of Guatemalan civilians and military operatives. The UNRG took advantage of the disarray of the country and its citizens, to appeal to the Guatemalan public and slowly take hold of the nation. They preached their Marxist ideology to the Guatemalan people.Saying that it was a God given right to rebel against a government that no intention or consideration for its own people. This appealed very well to the public due to the fact that the citizens needed reliance, other than the government, on some sort of plan, which they found in the UNRG. The citizens were tired of promises and plans; they needed something to depend on that was productive and realistic.
This increased the number of leftist party members in the country. The central government responded by increasing their involvement in the different districts of the country.The military ran raids in rural towns and native villages the middle of the night, storming through houses killing and slaughtering those who rebelled against the government or had connections or supported the URNG. According to the Peace Pledge Union, a organization the analyzes and studies the complexity of violent conflicts and protest, “Covert operations were also carried out by the military units called ‘commandos’, backed up by the army and military intelligence. They carried out planned executions and forced ‘disappearances’.Death squads largely made up of criminals, murdered suspected subversives or their allies; under dramatic names, such as ‘the white hand’ or ‘eye for an eye’, they terrorized the country and contributed to the deliberate strategy of psychological warfare and intimidation. ” This is the thousands of lives of men, women and children that were taken over the time period of eleven years.
Mass murder resulted in a scare all over the country; citizens were being murdered by their very own people. This made it easier for the URNG to advance even deeper into situation because of all the disarray and confusion among the citizens and the military.Others can say that the nation’s military did their best in suppressing the riots and rebellions by receiving a raise in funds from the government, in an effort to salvage the country. That the military did all in its entirety to benefit the people of Guatemala and to protect them form the revolutionary force that was the leftist URNG. However, their responsiveness toward the dire situation was sluggish and incompetent. The military waited to long for a stable resolution to the conflict, at the expense of thousands of Guatemalan Lives.Others can also say The UNRG revolutionary group was an organization that kept in perspective the progress of the Guatemalan people and not to spread the ideology of Marxism.
That the URNG was just a mere organization that wanted to better the lives of the Guatemalan citizens through action, and had no intent or the desire to spread revolutionary and idealistic methods and dogmas. However, even though their intent towards the beginning of the situation was good and beneficial, they realized the need for drastic change overtime, causing them to become more and more power hungry and influential ideologically toward the Guatemalan public.The lives of thousands of Guatemalans could have been salvaged if the national government had better judgment and intention when it came to supplying the public with civil service. If the central government would have remained firm and stable with proper military suppression and keeping civil order in a time of crisis and chaos, the result would have been completely different, and if that would have been kept stable, the revolutionary group would have not been able to stand a chance to the military suppression of the government and therefore would have not been able to justify the lives of thousands with leftist ideology.But it was because of the lack of stability with in the governmental system and the social status, which took the lives of Thousands of Guatemalan people who deserved to die for a better cause and not the failure of people they chose to take control of the nation to make a significant difference.

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