Drugs and Business: Central America Faces Another Round of Violence

by Annie Bird

This report appeared at NACLA.

On August 23 about 300 campesinos from the Nueva Esperanza community, near the Laguna del Tigre Natural Park in northern Guatemala, were evicted from the lands to which they held title and forced across the border into Mexico. Interior Minister Carlos Menocal justified the action, claiming the families assisted drug traffickers, though he presented no evidence.1

While drug trafficking corridors have proliferated through Central America’s natural reserves over the last decade, Nueva Esperanza’s real crime appears to have been that it was located in the way of the Cuatro Balam mega-tourism project. Cuatro Balam is a planned 14,000-square-mile tourism complex amid the Mayan Biosphere cluster of natural reserves and an array of Mayan archaeological sites, all to be united by a proposed electric train and linked to Chiapas, Mexico, via a new highway.

Three years before the eviction, Guatemalan president Álvaro Colom (2008–12) announced plans to clear the area of “invaders and drug traffickers” to make room for Cuatro Balam. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) began funding the project in 2009. On June 30, 2010, Colom inaugurated Cuatro Balam, announcing that six military posts would be installed in Laguna del Tigre.

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Past is present in Latin America

Addressing the Summit of the Americas Obama explained “I didn’t come here to debate the past, I came here to deal with the future.” However, without accepting the role of the US in Latin America, which the States contemptuously titled its “backyard,” how can those in the backyard, who are now largely defined by their resistance to this status, agree consensus on a future? In the following report the Real News examine the past that Obama wants to ignore and they explore why that past is inextricably linked to the present and the future. The report also contains an excellent feature on Oscar Romero a liberation theologian assassinated by US backed right wing militia.

More from Al Jazeera:

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Why isn’t the Salvadoran election top news on CNN?

The FMLN have won a historic election in El Salvador. Yet the news is being downplayed in the US media. In the following guest post my friend Jairo Lugo, who teaches Film and Journalism at the Stirling University and who previously worked as a journalist in Latin America, explains the possible causes. (Also check out this report about the call by some congressmen for an end to US interference in Salvadoran politics, and this one about the threats to Salvadorans working in the US by some Republicans should they vote the wrong way).

Update: Check out Democracy Now’s excellent coverage of the election.

No one familiar with Latin American politics can ignore the significance of El Salvador. For years it was at the center of the struggles of the Cold War. At a certain time it received nearly 1 million US dollars a day in military support. Dozens of films and thousands of pages were devoted to this struggle. Since the Viet Nam debacle, El Salvador became the hottest focus of US foreign policy.

It was in El Salvador where ‘the advance of communism had to be stopped’, the US government claimed. US created and funded death squads killed hundreds of people and disappear many more. All was done in the name of preserving the continent from the claws of communism.

Because of this it was odd not to find a single mention of yesterday’s election results in the top stories of CNN. Besides the long-term US foreign policy interest, the history of death squads and the billions of dollar in military assistance, there is also the issue of the thousands of refugees from El Salvador who ended up living in the US. The story should therefore be of much interests, even if the wrong people have won the elections.

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