An Interview With Allan Nairn
By Anthony Arnove
Allan Nairn is a freelance journalist who has been reporting on Guatemala since 1980. In 1994, in The Nation, Nairn broke the story of the United States government's role in establishing and funding the brutal Haitian paramilitary death squad, FRAPH (the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti). Nairn received the James Aaronson and George A. Polk awards for his reporting on Haiti.
You recently visited Haiti. Could you talk about the context of that visit and what your impressions were of the situation in Haiti since the U.S. invasion?
The situation now is that the material standard of living is actually worse than it was under the embargo. And all indications are that it's going to get even worse because the Aristide government has agreed to and is starting to implement this World Bank/International Monetary Fund structural readjustment plan, which is apparently the most radical ever attempted anywhere in the world. It involves laying off half of the government employees, privatizing dozens of functions and services of the government, abandoning Aristide's old program of doubling the real minimum wage and implementing a working social security pension system for workers, essentially abandoning the idea of land reform, creating a whole new court system that will be more favorable to corporate interests, and giving special subsidies to export corporations.
This was one of they key conditions, probably the single key condition of the U.S. bringing Jean Bertrand Aristide back. And it's the direct opposite of what Aristide first stood for. It's the program of Marc Bazin, the World Bank economist who the U.S. had tried to install as president in the 1990 elections. It's the program of Bazin, but in the mouth of Aristide.
On the military front, terrorist groups like FRAPH, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, which was launched by U.S. intelligence, are still there. They and other paramilitaries still have their arms. In recent weeks the killing has started an uptrend again. In the countryside, U.S. Special Forces have actually been working directly with FRAPH, in a collaborative way. So you have the basic structures of power still there.
The U.S. idea in bringing back Aristide was to have Aristide without the Aristide program, Aristide without the popular movement. And so far they've achieved that. The old Aristide program of overturning the table of exploitation, as he put it, has been completely abandoned by this government. They don't even talk about it anymore. But, at the same time, the popular movement is trying to reorganize after the slaughter of 5,000 to 6,000 people after the coup. They're facing a confusing and demoralizing situation because people love Aristide, and they're not about to blame him for problems. So that diffuses a lot of the popular anger and protest.
The U.S. is trying now to divert all political energies into elections. It's clearly the U.S. intention to present people with an electoral choice that isn't really a choice. At this moment, it looks like there's a pretty good chance it will work, because Lavalas (the coalition that supported Aristide) has come out with a platform which says nothing. It's a very vague platform. It does not talk about returning to the idea of redistributing wealth. It doesn't even talk about the modest reforms that Aristide attempted during his first period of government, like the minimum wage, like social security. It's just vague platitudes.
So what that means is that even if Lavalas is elected and wins the majority in the parliament, as long as they hew to that platform, they won't do much. The IMF program, which the government is signed on and committed to, will continue to be implemented, and that means popular standards of living will be pulled down even further. It could be that, pressed by the grassroots, Lavalas deputies, once in parliament, may decide to become bolder and return to a more aggressive program. But, at this moment, there are no signs of that.
And the basic underlying reason for all of this is that they are under military occupation by the U.S. When you talk to popular movement people and Aristide government people, that's the answer that's given. That's a very powerful fact. Aristide does not have an army on the street; it's only the U.S. that has an army on the street. The Haitian armed force on the street, the interim police, is made up of killers and torturers, in large part from the old army. They were selected overwhelmingly by the U.S., and they are under the effective command of the U.S., under the UN fig leaf. Aristide has virtually no effective authority over those men.
Could you say more about the extent to which former human rights abusers in the Haitian Armed Forces and members of paramilitary organizations like the Tontons Macoutes and FRAPH are being recycled into the new army and police force?
The army, technically, is on hold at the moment. It's in the process of reorganization. It will probably come back in a few months, but the reorganization is still in process. It's the interim police that's the current armed force. And with the exception of some new recruits from the Guantanamo refugees [the Haitians refugees being held in the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba] -- who are put in a different category, wear different uniforms, and have lesser functions -- most of the other interim police are former members of the Haitian Armed Forces, former military people.
And just from my own interviews with them, one after the other they were people who had been part of the apparatus of killing and torture and disappearance. And they're in the new interim police force. In fact, when I asked the top commanders of the interim police force, people who report to Aristide, whether this was true, they said, Well, of course, what do you expect? That's what the army was. That's where we get our people from. It's not a fact that's in dispute.
FRAPH, the old Macoutes, are out there and they have their arms. There's been a fair amount of attention given to the point that the U.S. didn't disarm them. But the real point is that the U.S. has been actively collaborating with FRAPH, regularly meeting with their leaders in the countryside, telling them, You won't get trouble from us as long as you don't go around parading in the open with your guns. This is what Special Forces people will tell you in the countryside if you ask them about their relationship with FRAPH.
What is the United States doing on the ground in Haiti to back or run candidates for the June parliamentary elections and the presidential elections scheduled for December? What kind of propaganda efforts are the U.S. operations engaging in?
There's a lot of complicated maneuvering going on. I'm not even sure who the U.S. is backing. I think people's attention in regard to the elections can easily be diverted to secondary questions. The real question is, Is there a choice that's on the ballot for people? If people want to embrace the original popular movement program that swept Aristide into office and that Aristide tried to implement, in very modest form, in his first period, if that's what people want, can they vote for that and can they hope to get it put into effect?
When you talk to the Lavalas people, what they basically say is, We don't think we can do that now; we can't get away with that now. The U.S. troops are here; we've signed on to this agreement with the IMF and the World Bank; we're waiting for them to send money, which they haven't really sent yet; if we try to pull out of the agreement, we'll be in big trouble.
So, there's a lot of attention given to the question of whether the U.S. is favoring other candidates as opposed to Lavalas. Well, maybe they are at some level, but I don't think that matters a whole lot, because if not even the Lavalas electoral candidates feel they can stand for the program of basic change and reform, then the voters have no real choice, no real option, and through the vote, through the ballot box, they won't be able to change the society. And that's where it seems to stand at this moment.
In light of that, what do you make of the support for the U.S. intervention among sections of the left, or at least confusion among sections of the left about the intervention? Why hasn't there been more outspoken criticism and why have some people even argued that this is going to be a good thing for Haiti?
Well, I think the entire U.S. policy toward Haiti, including the occupation, has been the height of cynicism. Indeed, it's been criminal. The U.S. goal from the start of Aristide's administration was to prevent the implementation of the kind of social changes and reforms that he was talking about. The real story of the coup against Aristide is not out in the public record yet, but if you look at what is on the record, all the indications point in one direction, and that is that the U.S. was very happy with the coup. Immediately after it happened, they were explaining that Aristide had brought it on himself, that this was a professional army.
During the time of the coup regime, the U.S. stepped in and essentially launched FRAPH. They had Emmanuel Constant, the founder and head of FRAPH, on the U.S. payroll as a U.S. government employee, who was going around severing people's arms and torching parts of Cite Soleil and leaving bodies strewn in the streets. And Constant was just one of many military and paramilitary terrorists carried on the CIA payroll.
If the U.S. had seriously wanted to remove the coup regime, they could have done so easily, without sending in U.S. troops. They didn't choose to do that. Even while publicly saying that the coup regime had to go, the U.S. was privately continuing to pay many of the leaders via the CIA and to give many other forms of support to that regime, many of which are still yet to be disclosed. The nightmare scenario for the U.S. politically, the last thing they wanted, and the one thing which they would not tolerate, was for the coup regime to leave without any U.S. troops being there on the ground. Because then there would be a power vacuum that could only be filled by some kind of popular movement, popular uprising. That's the last thing the U.S. wanted.
After a while, it became clear that the coup regime did have to go, because, first, they hadn't consolidated internal control: the popular movement never gave up, Haiti remained very unstable, and foreign investors did not want to come into Haiti because it was seen as too risky a business climate. Even more importantly, the continued terror caused these constant spurts of refugees coming into Florida, which was a special problem for the Clinton administration because Florida was one of the few states the Democrats were hoping to hold onto in last fall's elections. And, in fact, they did, with Governor Lawton Chiles, the Democrat, winning by the skin of his teeth. But if Clinton had not changed the Haiti policy to bring Aristide back, there's no question Chiles would have gone down to defeat and the Democrats would have lost Florida too because the refugee outflow would have continued.
So, even though the U.S. had clearly been very happy with the coup regime in its earlier period, it was creating too many problems. And it became evident that Aristide as an individual was the only solution to that because he was the one who could stop the refugee outflow. He was the one who could set up a situation where you wouldn't have this constant brewing popular resistance against the Haitian government. So, the U.S. recognized that they had to bring Aristide back; but they didn't want to bring him back with his old program.
After years of vicious arm twisting in Washington -- tactics such as deploying FRAPH on the ground to murder his people and then using this to pressure him in negotiations. U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Lawrence Pezzullo actually described this to me. Pezzullo did not acknowledge that the U.S. was behind FRAPH, but Pezzullo did say that in the negotiations with Aristide, they would say to Aristide, Look, FRAPH has now become the dominant force on the ground. You're only choice is to move to the right in order to counterbalance that.
Then you had a scenario in which Aristide came back with U.S. troops on the ground, as the regime departed. In the final moments, there were tense moments in U.S. negotiations with the regime, with Cedras and company, because Cedras and Francois and his men were bargaining for everything they could get, and they did very well by all accounts -- tens of millions of dollars and also guarantees about the safety and survival of their colleagues in the military, which the U.S. also wanted to ensure. Although they naturally had slightly different angles on it, they had the same basic interests.
So, with posturing and blustering and threatening on both sides, these colleagues -- actually, I shouldn't even say colleagues, since a lot of the top coup regime people were actually employees of the U.S. government: it was really the U.S. negotiating with some of its own employees -- the deal was worked out, the U.S. troops came in, the occupation began, and you have the current situation.
I think it's clear why there's been confusion: because Aristide, the man who was the symbol and the political voice and leader of the popular movement, became part of the U.S. strategy. He's a card that's been played very ruthlessly by the U.S. The way Aristide looks at it, he thinks that he has also played the U.S., he has gotten something out of the U.S. And he has gotten some things. He has been able to return, but at the price of sacrificing his political program.
The main argument that's made by progressive political people who support the occupation or say it's tolerable, they say, Well, at least it stopped the terror, the running assassinations that the Cedras regime was carrying out. Well, that's a very misleading way of looking at what happened. It's allowing the U.S. to define the terms and define them in a very grotesque way. Because here you have U.S. government employees conducting these massacres and assassinations, and then suddenly the U.S. sends in some of its other employees, tells the first group of employees, OK, now you have to leave: no more massacres and assassinations for a while, and the U.S. government is supposed to get credit for that.
It's as if you're walking down the street, a mugger comes up to you, starts to bludgeon you with a blackjack, is cracking your skull, is drawing blood, and then suddenly he stops. Now, obviously, on the one hand, it's good that he stopped. But you don't give him any credit for that. You say he's a criminal, he should be arrested and put in jail, he shouldn't have been bludgeoning you in the first place, that's the key thing. And that's quite similar to what the U.S. has been doing to the Haitian population.
The U.S. has not been arrested. It's still there; it's still wielding the bludgeon; it's still in the hands of the surrogates of Washington, people like FRAPH, the paramilitaries, and members of the interim police force. In fact, killings by these forces never really stopped. They were running at a lower level, but now they're beginning an upward trend again. And that paramilitary structure is still there.
If you're asking, what should the U.S. policy have been in September 1994? The answer is the U.S. policy should have been to remove its employees, the Cedras regime, and remove them without sending in U.S. troops. Period. The more closely you look at the facts and what was going on, the more clear it becomes that that could have easily been done, and the more clear it becomes that the U.S. would never have done that.
Washington's idea was that once the Cedras army was out, the U.S. army had to be there to shape the future. There's no question that they could have pulled Cedras's army out of there and not sent in U.S. troops. So, when people just narrowly focus in and say, Oh, well, I guess it was better when Cedras was gone, it's completely missing the point.
You've described the ties between the U.S. government and the Guatemalan repressive forces as systematic. Could you explain how these ties developed and how they have been maintained?
The tie dates back many years. If you go into the Politecnica, the Guatemalan military academy, in the lobby they have the portraits of the former directors of the academy, and from the 1920s and 1930s there are many U.S. army officers who are up there, who were the actual directors of the Guatemalan military academy. But the modern period of this relationship really dates from 1954, when the Eisenhower administration, using the CIA, overthrew what had been a ten-year series of democratic governments in Guatemala, and put the army in power. The army still rules to this day.
The CIA sent down a team which culled the files of the government and popular groups, and they compiled a list of 70,000 names of union leaders, peasant organizers, student leaders, etc. They called it the Black Book of Guatemalan Communism. This became the basis of the death lists for the Guatemalan military death squads. In the early 1960s it was part of a program that involved Guatemala, El Salvador, Somoza's Nicaragua, and Honduras. The U.S. set up the systematic death squad apparatus in Guatemala.
Its counterpart in El Salvador was ANSESAL and ORDEN, headed there by General Jose Alberto Medrano, who was placed on the CIA payroll and who a few years ago described to me in great detail how the whole thing was done. And in Guatemala, the agency they set up was known at the time as La Regional; it was connected to G-2, Guatemalan military intelligence. It was linked to its counterpart in El Salvador and the other countries by a radio teletype system installed by technicians from the Agency for International Development Public Safety program, which was working with the CIA; also the Green Berets and the State Department had hands in this and played different roles in the program.
In the late 1960s, Colonel John Webber, who was the U.S. military attache to Guatemala, boasted publicly in Time magazine and other places about how it had been his idea to set up the White Hand, the Mano Blanca, the military death-squad operation in the northeast. Webber said they were licensed to kill guerrillas and potential guerrillas. By a final count, they killed about 183 guerrillas and 10,000 potential guerrillas, meaning civilians who had the wrong ideas. This has continued year after year.
Since the 1960s, there are actual CIA operatives who work inside the G-2, which coordinates the assassinations and disappearances. Virtually an entire top echelon of the Guatemalan military is carried on the CIA payroll, this according to Colonel John Hooker, who was the U.S. defense intelligence attache in Guatemala, and according to many others who spoke off the record. I was actually able to identify three recent G-2 commanders who had been on the CIA payroll: General Edgar Godoy Gaitan, General Francisco Ortego Menaldo, Colonel Otto Perez Molina. Also General Hector Gramajo Morales, the former defense minister, and General Roberto Matta Galvez, the former army chief of staff. But those are just a few names I happened to learn; it's far, far broader than that.
So, you have this military death squad apparatus that's been responsible for more than 100,000 assassinations, massacres of civilians, since 1978, and many of them are U.S. government employees who work side by side with actual North American CIA operatives. And the whole thing is facilitated by the Pentagon and the State Department -- the Pentagon is doing things like training the Kaibils, the rural massacre force that bills itself as the messengers of death, bringing Guatemalan officers to Washington and elsewhere for training and consultation visits, and actually having U.S. troops in Guatemala.
There are U.S. troops in Guatemala right now; there have been for the past few years during the spring on joint maneuvers in the countryside, in the massacre zones, with the Guatemalan military, where they build roads and do other things. The State Department year by year has been lying, covering up this U.S. support for the Guatemalan military. It's an across the board policy that starts with the White House. For example, it was Anthony Lake, Clinton's National Security Adviser, who last December made the decision to send U.S. troops to Guatemala again this spring, even after yet another increase in assassinations and disappearances, and even after the hunger strikes in Guatemala of Jennifer Harbury [the U.S. attorney seeking information about her husband, the Guatemalan guerrilla leader Efrain Bamaca Velasquez; evidence now suggests that Bamaca was killed by Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, an employee of the CIA]. So the idea that this is a rogue CIA operation is ridiculous; it's just not true.
In your Nation article C.I.A. Death Squads, you wrote that The killing of defenseless people has been state policy in Guatemala for 30 years. The question is not whether the U.S. government has known -- it is obviously aware of its own actions. It is why, with overt and covert aid, it has helped commit the army's murders. Why has it?
It should have said 40 years, by the way; that was a mistake in arithmetic. The reason is because -- as in El Salvador, as in Indonesia, and countless other places -- the U.S. has found killer regimes to be the easiest way of maintaining control. These are the regimes that open the door to U.S. corporations to exploit cheap, repressed labor and natural resources, that vote the way Washington wants in international forums, and are generally cooperative. I think they've found it's just been the most uncomplicated way to support these killer regimes, as opposed to allowing a more open political process, where all sorts of unpredictable popular forces might take power and may be unfriendly to U.S. corporations, and may go against Washington in foreign decisions.
If you look at the record, it hasn't taken much in the way of defiance to spur U.S. support for this kind of slaughter. Take the government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, which the U.S. overthrew in Guatemala in 1954. Arbenz said his goal was to turn Guatemala into a modern capitalist society, as opposed to a feudal society, which is the way he described it. But in doing that, he wanted to create a class of yeoman farmers, and so he wanted to take some of the unused farm lands of United Fruit, and expropriate them and pay United Fruit compensation, and then distribute them to small farmers, so they could be small capitalist peasant farmers. But United Fruit decided this was communism. John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles were close associates of the company and also heads of the State Department and CIA. It wasn't just as a result of United Fruit, but they were a major factor in calling in the CIA invasion.
If you look at the standard histories of the CIA, there are two actions pointed to as the shining successes in CIA history: one is Iran in 1953, in a similar situation, Mohammed Mossadegh, the prime minister of a parliamentary government, was having run ins with foreign oil companies. He was overthrown by the CIA, and Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, was brought in and the SAVAK was set up, a parallel terror apparatus to the one in Guatemala, with consequences that are still playing out to this day. Then the next year in Guatemala, a very similar operation, again spurred by relatively modest defiance.
Mossadegh and Arbenz were mainly economic nationalists. They were not Communists. Arbenz had Communists in his government, and there was a Communist Party which was an important political force in Guatemala, but it was not a Communist government or regime. It was just a regime that was moving toward modern capitalism, but that was inconveniencing a big U.S. corporation along the way.
What do you think of the New York Times and other corporate coverage of Guatemala since Representative Robert Torricelli's public exposure of the CIA's connection to the murders of a Michael DeVine and Efrain Bamaca Velasquez?
After 40 years of slaughter, the corporate press discovers Guatemala. If the big press had been giving front page coverage day after day in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s as the Guatemalan army was slaughtering civilians with full U.S. backing, with U.S. direction and support, those killings wouldn't have happened. I'm convinced that if the American public were aware of these terrors as they were happening, they wouldn't have stood for it, the policy wouldn't have been sustained, and the people wouldn't have been killed.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the American networks have some of that blood on their hands because they willfully chose not to cover in a persistent and accurate way the crimes that the U.S. government was helping to commit in Guatemala. And if someone says, Oh, we didn't know that the U.S. was behind these things, just go back and look at the record. This was public and semi-public policy, year after year U.S. support for the Guatemalan military.
They've made occasional mentions over the years, usually at the rate of an article every few months or so, almost always grossly distorting the facts. For example, one of the few New York Times feature articles devoted to a single massacre, say, in the 1980s, was a piece by Stephen Kinzer about the massacre at El Aguacate. They had a good size article and photo. The catch was, they blamed the massacre on the guerrillas, which has been established as false and which at the time was easy to establish as false. The Aguacate massacre was committed by the army and the army made an effort to cover it up, an effort personally spearheaded by General Gramajo.
Gramajo brought massacre survivors to his house, the Casa Crema, the residence of the Defense Minister, and said, OK, we're going to send you up to Washington, you're going to say the following. And they did; they retold their lines in Washington; they were escorted around Washington by a lobbyist named Paul Reichler, who also worked as a lobbyist for the Sandinistas, and they told their story. The New York Times bought the cover-up, as did a few other people.
The dozens and dozens of other massacres, the 662 rural villages wiped out by the army's own count, somehow the Times was not inclined to print feature stories on those massacres. Some were occasionally mentioned in some article. But the context was often: commanders out of control, young reformist officers backed by the U.S. are now trying to change this. There would be a new wave of young reformist officers every few years.
One of the leading young reformist officers was General, then-Colonel, Matta, commander of El Quiche, a CIA asset. He carried out the 662 massacres in the countryside. Look through old clippings from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times about how Matta was bringing reform to the countryside. They called it the beans and bullets program. New York Times columnist Tom Wicker wrote about how they were trying to win over the hearts of peasants. The Washington Post and Newsweek had pieces about how they were trying to win the hearts and minds of the peasantry. The Guatemalan military got this coverage because, after they would wipe out these villages, they would herd the survivors into resettlement camps, model villages they called them. Then, after having burned the crops in the fields and slaughtered the farm animals, they would bring them food, with all the cameras there and all the reporters.
This was portrayed as a rural economic reform program. Just go back and look at the coverage; you'll find mountains of it. This was reform in rural Guatemala. Every few years you'd have a new wave of reformist young officers who were being backed by Washington. General Gramajo was one of the favorites. To this day, the Times quotes him as a credible source.
In this latest round of coverage, there have been some good things. There was the disclosure that there were those secret CIA payments [of $10 million, according to the New York Times] to the Guatemalan military after President Bush claimed to have cut off military aid in December 1990. That brought out that one new fact, which is important. But, beyond that, almost none of it is new. It's good that they are putting it on the first page. But all of this information about the U.S. support for Guatemalan intelligence, for the Guatemalan killing apparatus, has been out there for years and years, on the record, completely accessible to the New York Times and the Washington Post; they've willfully chosen not to use it until this disclosure by Torricelli put it on the Washington front burner.
Then, they've put this grotesque political spin on it which says that this was a rogue CIA operation, that the State Department and White House didn't know, and the State Department and White House have been trying to stop this. The one example they used to dramatize this non-existent epic battle between the State Department and the CIA was Ambassador Thomas Strook. The Times recently ran a piece describing the broad-shouldered affable oil man from Wyoming. staring into the heart of darkness, shocked to learn what the CIA was doing. In fact, as ambassador, Strook had full access to the list of CIA assets in the military, as do all ambassadors as a matter of course. He was fully aware, as was most everyone in the embassy, that the CIA had a liaison relationship with G-2. In the spring of 1990, senior diplomats, Strook among them, semi-openly briefed the U.S. press on this operation.
At that time, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ran articles in which they commented, almost in passing, that the U.S. was working with the G-2 in order to ensure stability, as both the Times and the Los Angeles Times put it. The Los Angeles Times even mentioned, in passing, that the CIA was making payments to the G-2. All of this came from briefings by Strook and his diplomats. There's no way he can claim that he didn't know, as he is now claiming, and as the New York Times is now reporting on the front page, evidently not having read its own clip file.
Strook oversaw, as ambassador, a broad program of support for the Guatemalan military, encompassing everything from the sale of weapons, to having U.S. trainers at the Politecnica, to U.S. Green Berets training the Kaibils, the massacre force in the countryside, to bringing Guatemalan officers up for regular training and consultation visits to Washington. You name it, a whole broad range of things. And this doesn't even include the covert CIA program of support for G-2. Strook was also the point man in attacking victims, like Sister Dianna Ortiz, the American nun who was raped and tortured by the Guatemalan military, by men under the command of General Gramajo, the CIA asset.
On January 29, 1990, Strook wrote this vicious letter attacking Sister Ortiz shortly after her ordeal, in which he accused her of violating the Ten Commandments because she had the temerity to say that it seemed to her that the supervisor of her tormentors was a North American who was connected to the U.S. Embassy. She said this because he put her in a jeep and was driving her toward what he said was the embassy. She was able to hop out and escape. The fact that she publicly disclosed this caused Strook to send this vicious, abusive, threatening letter to her, clearly trying to silence her. This is the affable ambassador who the Times portrays as trying to counteract CIA support for the military. It's just not true. This has been across the board policy.
The U.S. media describes the bloodshed in Guatemala as resulting from a civil war. How accurate a picture is that?
It's very inaccurate. There has been an on and off war between guerrillas and the army in Guatemala, but that accounts for only a small percentage of the deaths. There have been a few thousand guerrillas and a few thousand government troops killed over the years in that fighting. But the vast majority, more than 95 percent of those killed, have been civilians assassinated by the U.S.-backed, U.S.-run Guatemalan military.
Even if the guerrilla war ended tomorrow, and it may end very soon, there's no reason to think that the repression against civilians will stop. If you look, there have been several historical periods -- for example the time after the late 1960s Mano Blanca campaign in the northeast and various other periods where there has been essentially no guerrilla activity in Guatemala -- where they were snuffed out as an armed force, and the assassinations and disappearances continued at the same high level.
They're moving step by step toward ending the guerrilla war. So that means there'll be no more combat. But the murders of civilians, as long as people keep trying to organize, and, as long as that army remains in power, will continue.
Do you see any likely changes in U.S. repressive agencies (not just the CIA but the Defense Intelligence Agency and other covert operations) or the School of the Americas -- or any change in U.S. policy toward Guatemala specifically and Latin America in general -- as a result of the recent exposures of U.S. complicity in widespread human rights abuses in Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, and elsewhere?
With only a handful of exceptions -- some members of Congress, not including Torricelli, who has supported the basic U.S. policy in Latin America, as well as supporting the School of the Americas -- the people who make U.S. policy have shown no intention of changing the policy. There is a move by Senator Patrick Moynihan and others to abolish the CIA and redistribute its functions, but that's just for bureaucratic, organizational purposes. They're talking about preserving covert operations and so on, but redistributing them to the State Department and the Pentagon.
Of course, that's not the issue. It doesn't matter who does it; it matters what's done. If you look at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Guatemala, the senators all share the idea that the U.S. has a security interest in Guatemala and that what the CIA was doing in Guatemala, with the exception of a few narrow questions about Colonel Alpirez and the two killings -- that they could be discussed. Everything else had to be kept in the dark and that the practice of the U.S. working with and supporting the Guatemalan military should continue. They were openly reaffirming that.
Official Washington clearly has no intention of changing its criminal habits. But the political turmoil that's been generated by the disclosures does create an opening for people who want to put a stop to U.S. support for mass murder overseas.
Anthony Arnove is a graduate student at Brown University and a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO).