One generally overlooked feature of the Guatemalan government and military’s 36-year (1960-96) genocidal counterinsurgency campaign against the country’s Mayan population is the strategy of targeting women with violence.
Rape, mutilation, sexual slavery, forced abortion, and sterilizations were just some of the sadistic tools used in a systematic practice of state-sponsored terror to crush the surviving population into submission through fear and shame via the suffering of their mothers, sisters, and daughters.
In 1999, UN-backed truth commission, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), declared that during the war, “the rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice aimed at destroying one of the most intimate and vulnerable aspects of the individual’s dignity…[and] they were killed, tortured and raped, sometimes because of their ideals and political or social participation…”
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.
Elliott Abrams, a former high level State Department official during the 1980s, testified last week that the Reagan administration knew that Argentina’s military junta was systematically stealing babies from murdered and jailed democracy activists and giving them to right-wing families friendly to the regime.
In a meeting with the Junta’s ambassador in Washington on December 3, 1982, Abrams suggested that the dictatorship could “improve its image” by creating a process with the Catholic Church of returning the children, some of whom were born in secret torture chambers, to their legitimate families. The contents of this meeting were recorded in a memo Abrams wrote, which was declassified by the State Department in 2002 and is now a key piece of evidence against former junta officials in this high profile trial.
Guatemala, El Salvador, and the United States all stake different positions concerning the Latin American massacres.
by John Washington
On this past 14th of January an ex-general of the Guatemalan Army, Otto Pérez Molina, took office as the right-wing, self-proclaimed strong-arm (mano dura) President of Guatemala, promising to get tough on organized crime and drug-trafficking. The new President’s message, however, comes with baggage: Guatemalan Army’s recent and sordid history. The 36-year Civil War in the country, in which the Army committed systematic and ethnically-targeted massacres and razing, ended only fifteen years ago, in 1996. But the distaste in some for the new President comes not only from implication by association, that is, that he was simply part of an organization responsible for atrocities. Pérez himself has been openly and repeatedly accused of direct involvement in tortures and massacres. It has also been repeatedly claimed that Pérez Molina was on the CIA payroll and, according to the website, SOA Watch, that he was a graduate of the infamous School of Americas. Though Pérez claims to support “a military deactivation” in the country, how can Guatemalan citizens, especially those who suffered 36-plus years of abuse at the hands of the military, trust an ex-general who also proclaims to be willing to “use all the necessary military force” to ensure internal security? The message that Pérez sends is contradictory and, despite his dubious proclamation of “military deactivation,” undeniably militant, threatening to Calderón (President of Mexico whose drug-war crackdown has driven the country to the precipice of what some are calling a failed state) an already torn social fabric.
“Fair trade is a hand up, not a handout.” I heard this distinction between charity and an economic exchange many times while doing anthropology research among fair trade advocates. With today marking World Fair Trade Day, it’s a good time to examine what fair trade is, and what it isn’t.
The premise of “fair trade” is to create markets in the Global North for goods from the Global South, either through businesses that sell directly from the producers (usually handicrafts) or through third party commodity labeling.
Often when people hear about my research on this phenomenon, they ask, “So is it really fair?” This question assumes that “good/bad” labels can be accurately deployed to understand the world’s problems and remedies. The justness of fair trade on the production end of the exchange should be evaluated based on many factors, including the producers’ involvement in shaping what is considered “fair” trade. Other researchers are attempting such evaluations, and the results differ by region and product. Beyond assessing the “fairness” of this consumer movement, I am interested in the roots of fair trade’s appeal to people of the Global North. To understand that, I analyzed the marketing of fair trade goods and interviewed fair trade advocates.