Open Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama in response to his apology to the Guatemalan people regarding the recent media coverage that a Wellesley professor through her research found hidden evidence that unethical “Tuskegee” like Syphilis and Gonorrhea experiments were being made in Guatemala by U.S. Health officials with the “suppose” acknowledgment of Guatemalan health department.
As a collected group, we want to publicly acknowledge the U.S. apology to the Guatemalan people and Guatemalan immigrants abroad. However, we, a coalition of Guatemalan nationals, immigrants and allies, also feel that the real contrition is for the U.S. to move swiftly in making reparations.
It is imperative that we demand a speedy and timely resolution to the U.S. appointed two study panels, and that the Guatemalan President Colom make a firm stand and take action for the people of Guatemala and not just provide lip service.
Today, more than ever, anti-immigrant sentiments, continued failed U.S. policies, drug-cartel wars, erratic climate produced by global warming are all directly affecting developing nations like Guatemala. Continued exploitation of the land, natural resources, and labor by U.S. funded industrialists as well as presently U.S. funded forced sterilization of Guatemalan marginalized and Mayan communities our presence and message is of the essence!
How many more apologies are needed to the Guatemalan people?
100 years of U.S. influence in Guatemalan economics and politics has had tremendous negative impact on the social and civil liberties of Guatemalans in the past and in the present.
According to information pulled from USAID.Gov today, Guatemala has a wealth of natural & cultural resources yet it is the third most unequal country in the world in terms of income distribution, and thus is a land of contrasts -- an estimated 58% of its people live in poverty. Most of the poor are rural indigenous people, often women of Mayan descent who have suffered a long history of repression and exclusion from fully participating in society and who were most seriously affected by the 36-year armed civil conflict. As a result of historical inequalities and the lowest health and education spending in the region, Guatemala struggles with some of the lowest social indicators in the hemisphere (http://www.usaid.gov/gt/history.htm).
In a press-release by the USA Guatemala Peace and Development Network and Red por la Paz y el Desarrollo de Guatemala. The organizations stated the following historical particulars:
In the early part of the 20th century, the U.S. Government helped the United Fruit Company (UFCO) to transform itself into what Miguel Angel Asturias, Guatemalan Nobel Prize in Literature, named the “Green Pope.” The Green Pope subsequently became known as “the octopus” in the country, with tentacles in all areas of Guatemala’s economy and politics.
In 1954, Washington intervened directly in Guatemala to abort the “Democratic Spring” brought about by the October Revolution of 1944, precisely, inter alia, to restore UFCO’s privileges and unlimited power. The overthrow of democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz ushered in a long period of state repression and, eventually, armed resistance movements. After a 36-year internal armed conflict, state repression only came to a halt with the signing of the Firm and Lasting Peace Accord between the government and the insurgents on December 29, 1996.
During this long nightmare for the Guatemalan people, from 1954 to 1996, the armed and intelligence forces of the U.S. used Guatemala as a testing ground for counterinsurgency warfare. Guatemalan military and security officers trained at the School of the Americas and other military installations in Panama and the U.S., unleashed their version of state terrorism against the Guatemalan population. Torture and extra-judicial execution became common, and Guatemala became the first country in Latin America where “forced disappearance” appeared as a counterinsurgency tool. Guatemala is the Latin American country with the highest number of forced disappearances: 45,000. Washington supported successive militarized governments in charge of repression, and military aid was provided even after the U.S. Congress officially cut it.
According to the UN-supported Historical Clarification Commission (CEH), genocide took place in Guatemala at the same time that President Reagan was embracing the policies and actions of de facto leader General Efrain Rios Montt. The CEH concluded that “agents of the State of Guatemala, within the framework of counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people which lived in the four regions analyzed…” The CEH also pointed to the responsibility of the United States, stating: “The United States demonstrated that it was willing to provide support for strong military regimes in its strategic backyard.
In the case of Guatemala, military assistance was directed towards reinforcing the national intelligence apparatus and for training the officer corps in counterinsurgency techniques, key factors that had significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation.”
Along with this history, we now learn that the U.S. Government supported the multiple coup attempts against another democratically elected president, Juan José Arévalo, from 1945 to 1950, at the same time that U.S. medical personnel were deceiving Guatemala’s government by claiming to be carrying on health campaigns while actually experimenting with Guatemalan citizens.
President Clinton acknowledged the destructive political policies of his predecessors and apologized for them when he visited Guatemala, in March 1999. We have also heard the apologies from the Obama Administration for these medical experiments. But apologies are not enough. We believe that much more can and should be done. It is possible, just, and necessary to take action to repair part of the damages caused, and compensate some of the many victims and their families. It takes courage to recognize unethical policies and actions, but it requires wisdom and determination to respond to Guatemala’s needs by taking concrete steps.
Immigration does not happen in a vacuum. It is caused by internal conflicts whether by natural causes, or global warming, or human and civil rights violations made against marginalized and third world nations which have been and continue to be perpetuated by the United States government, institutions, industries and individuals.
It is these types of conflicts and the lack of action by those in power that have galvanized our energy and has urged us to move forward to address through this forum a resolve for the displaced and migratory diasporas of many Guatemalan and other Latin-America nationals.
As mentioned before, real contrition for all the wrongs Guatemala has suffered by the "tentacles" of failed US Foreign Policy can be shown by making speedy reparations. The real contrition will be by providing protection to a people who have lived in a state of repression caused by failed U.S. policies in Guatemala.
As a coalition of Guatemalan nationals, immigrants and allies we stand in solidarity with the Guatemala Peace and Development Network and Red por la Paz y el Desarrollo de Guatemala (GPDN/RPDG) in requesting the immediate action on the following measures:
The U.S. Government must establish a fund for fair compensation of the victims of the experiments and their families.
The U.S. Government, as a good-will gesture, should immediately respond positively to the request presented by the Guatemalan Government on June 4th, 2010, to grant TPS for Guatemalans in the United States. It is an administrative way, with no participation by Congress, that would help to cope with recent calamities in the country caused by the Pacaya Volcano eruption, the tropical storm Agatha, and the flooding rains in September.
Finally, the U.S. should consider a sort of “Marshall Plan” for development, which many in Central America and the international community were expecting at the end of the internal wars. In fact, that is probably the only way to significantly decrease migration from Mexico and Central America into the United States.
As said before, even these steps cannot compensate for all the damage caused by the United States in Guatemala. However, it could mark a new beginning and a different policy toward Guatemala, Central America, and the entire Latin American region.
Signed by a coalition of Guatemalan nationals, immigrants, organizations and allies:
Shirley Aldana-Schwarz, USC Anthropology student and concerned Guatemalan citizen
Carlos Bautista, …..
Ana Castillo, Artist and Chapinas Unidas
Joaquin Cienfuegos - Cop Watch Los Angeles
Susana De Leon, Artist and President of Mujeres Iniciando en las Americas (MIA)
Freddie Hernandez, Canal Chapin
Lealani Montes, Film maker, Chapinas Unidas
Lucia Munoz, Founder of Mujeres Iniciando en las Americas (MIA)
Heidy Pineda, ….
Rebecca Ronquillo, ….
Azalea Ryckman, Proprietor of Hecho De Mano Store, Founder of Mujeres Abriendo Caminos, and Radio Voces de Mujeres