You may not know it from reading or listening to the major U.S. media, but the rest of the world has been steeped in news coverage of a former Guatemalan head of state recently on trial in a national court (though proceedings are currently on hold) for genocide and crimes against humanity. The accused, General Efraín Ríos Montt, was one of the most vicious mass killers the United States—or Israel—ever produced.
Communities that suffered through the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s are once again faced with violence as they defend their land against international interests. This article was published in the Spring 2012 issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas, "Central America: Legacies of War."
William Brownfield, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), toured Central America last week to quell the growing opposition to U.S. drug war policies that have failed to reduce demand for drugs in the United States or disrupt supply routes from producer countries.
Even to many who paid attention to the rest of Latin America, Central America was terra incognita into the 1970s. I distinctly remember one night in the late 1970s when I pulled out the atlas and located the Central American countries in the very small area that they occupied on the continental map. This was the beginning of my intense engagement with Central America, and there was much more to learn.
Thirty years ago, today, on March 23, 1982, Guatemalan general Efraín Ríos Montt overthrew President Romeo Lucas García. The new military junta suspended the Constitution, closed the legislature, and installed one of the bloodiest military regimes in Guatemalan history. Three decades later, for the first issue of our 45th anniversary volume, we look to the legacies of war in Central America.
On Sunday, voters in Nicaragua and Guatemala chose their country’s next presidents. In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega sailed to victory and a third term. In Guatemala, retired general Otto Perez Molina was elected despite concerns over his involvement in human rights violations during the former military regime.
In the 1940s U.S. Public Health Service medical science researchers conducted appalling experiments on vulnerable populations in Guatemala. The revelations are back in the news.