Guatemala, called, “The Land of Eternal Spring”, is a small, but incredibly beautiful country in Central America. There are lush tropical forests, active volcanoes, and Lake Atitlán, which Aldous Huxley remarked that it was “too much of a good thing”.
A 36-year long civil war systematically and deliberately exterminated the noble Mayan people of Guatemala. 200,000 were killed, in which about 83% were Mayan, according to a U.N. supported commission called, “Guatemala: Memory of Silence.”
Peace accords took place in 1996. Nonetheless, firearms are not in short supply with gangs that are increasingly violent. Guatemala is also a major transit point for drugs on the way to Main Street USA. And the remaining Mayan people face discrimination in all aspects of life.
Enter Otto Pérez Molina, a former general. He is also the first former military official to win the presidency since the mid-1980s. He lost the previous election, in which he promised an “iron fist.” And on the first day in office he ordered the military to “neutralize” the drug syndicates.
To the north, Mexican president Felipe Calderón is waging a similar battle. Murders and kidnappings have soared, especially in northern Mexico.
Does a similar fate face Guatemala? Should someone who worked in intelligence for one of Latin America’s most brutal killing machines speak of Guatemalan unity? How can someone whose regime was fighting a proxy war for the U.S. talk about change, and then in the next breath talk about lifting the ban on U.S. military aid?
According to Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer, who spoke on Democracy Now!, we should be concerned: “Well, we’re all extremely concerned, given his [Pérez Molina] background in human rights violations in Guatemala. He’s always declared that he was not involved in the genocidal campaign of 1982 in the Quiché Highlands, but in fact a video showing [journalist] Allan Nairn interviewing him, precisely as he stands over several battered corpses, has been making the rounds in Guatemala. He was a major at the time. And this, of course, was the year when 70 to 90 percent of the villages in the Ixil Triangle were razed.”
The lush tropical forests with the beautiful quetzal. The world’s best coffee. The rich and vibrant colors of buildings, textiles and churches. Too much of a good thing isn’t good. And nothing is free, either. Perhaps, Guatemala, sadly, will continue to pay dearly for their “Land of Eternal Spring”.