Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 17/20
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The same has been true in neighboring Guatemala. Latin America scholar Piero Gleijeses writes that in the traditional "culture of fear," ferocious repression sufficed to impose peace and order; "Just as the Indian was branded a savage beast to justify his exploitation, so those who sought social reform were branded communists to justify their persecution." The decade 1944-1954 was a unique departure, marked by "political democracy, the strong communist influence in the administration of President Jacobo Arbenz (1951-54), and Arbenz's agrarian reform" -- "years of spring in the country of eternal tyranny," in the words of a Guatemalan poet. Half a million people received desperately needed land, the first time in the history of the country that "the Indians were offered land, rather than being robbed of it":
A new wind was stirring the Guatemalan countryside. The culture of fear was loosening its grip over the great masses of the Guatemalan population. In a not unreachable future, it might have faded away, a distant nightmare.
The Communist Party leaders were regarded by the U.S. Embassy as the sole exception to venality and ambition. They "were very honest, very committed," "the only people who were committed to hard work," one Embassy official commented. "This was the tragedy," he added: they were "our worst enemies," and had to be removed along with the reforms they helped implement.
The nightmare was restored in a coup organized by the CIA, with the cooperation of Guatemalan officers who betrayed their country in fear of the regional superpower, Gleijeses concludes. With regular U.S. support, the regime of terror and torture and disappearance has been maintained, peaking in the late 1960s with direct U.S. government participation. As the terror somewhat abated, there was "a wave of concientización (heightening of political awareness)," largely under church auspices. It inspired the usual reaction: the army "intensified the terror, murdering cooperative leaders, bilingual teachers, community leaders, and grassroots organizers" -- in fact, following the same script as in El Salvador and Nicaragua. By the early 1980s, the terror reached the level of wholesale massacre in the Indian highlands. The Reagan administration was not merely supportive, but enthusiastic about the achievements of their friends.
Recall that the Guatemalan generals are moderates who observe the pragmatic criterion. When Indians who had fled to the mountains to survive drifted back, unable to survive the harsh conditions and begging forgiveness, "the army was generous," Gleijeses observes: "It no longer murdered the supplicants, except now and then, as a reminder."
When order was once again restored, the generals accepted U.S. advice and instituted a democratic façade, behind which they and their allies in the oligarchy would continue to rule. The same terror that controlled the Church also silenced the call for reform; "rare is the Guatemalan who expresses his political beliefs," Gleijeses comments. Peasants say that they will not support advocates of agrarian reform because they "don't want any trouble" from the army. "Arbenz taught us how to build a house," one told an anthropologist, "but not how to make it strong, and at the first wind the house fell on top of us." Democracy in the preferred mode is unlikely to face any popular threat, under these conditions.74
The basic problem of the "years of spring" was the excess of freedom and democracy. The CIA warned in 1952 that the "radical and nationalist policies" of the government had gained "the support or acquiescence of almost all Guatemalans," a sign of what the CIA was later to call their "low level of intellectualism" (see p. 51). Worse yet, the government was proceeding "to mobilize the hitherto politically inert peasantry" and to create "mass support for the present regime." The government was advancing these goals by labor organization, agrarian and other social reform, and nationalist policies "identified with the Guatemalan revolution of 1944." The revolution had aroused "a strong national movement to free Guatemala from the military dictatorship, social backwardness, and `economic colonialism' which had been the pattern of the past," and "inspired the loyalty and conformed to the self-interest of most politically conscious Guatemalans." The democratic programs of the government offered the public a means to participate in achieving these goals, which ran directly counter to the interests of the oligarchy and U.S. agribusiness. After affairs had been restored to normal by the CIA coup, a secret State Department intelligence report commented that the democratic leadership that had thankfully been overthrown had "insisted upon the maintenance of an open political system," thus allowing the communists to "expand their operations and appeal effectively to various sectors of the population." Neither the military "nor self-seeking politicians" were able to overcome this deficiency, finally cured by the coup.75
Once again, the U.S. found itself in the familiar stance: politically weak, but militarily and economically strong. Policy choices follow naturally.
It has been a constant lament of U.S. government officials that the Latin American countries are insufficiently repressive, too open, too committed to civil liberties, unwilling to impose sufficient constraints on travel and dissemination of information, and in general reluctant to adhere to U.S. social and political standards, thus tolerating conditions in which dissidence can flourish and can reach a popular audience.76
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74 Gleijeses, Politics and Culture in Guatemala (Michigan, 1988), sponsored by the State Department.
76 Ibid. For additional examples, see On Power and Ideology, 22f.; Necessary Illusions, 67-8, Appendix V, sec. 1. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.Stumble It!