U.S. media depicts Guatemala unfairly


Once again, Guatemala is being treated by the United States government and media as a country where human rights arenÕt respected. Why? Because one Harvard graduate, Jennifer Harbury, is attempting to recover the body of her alleged husband, Commander Efrain Bamaca, a killer guerilla leader who died two years ago from war casualties. I donÕt know if anyone here in the U.S. is still waiting for the body of Jimmy Hoffa, but itÕs the same type of case. In my opinion, her attempt is only a new battle to obtain recognition instead of disapproval.

A valorous woman? I donÕt think so, when all that she is doing involves more political issues than human rights matters. If she says that she married and loved Commander Bamaca, why has she kept her maiden name? In addition, in Guatemala we havenÕt found any photographic proof that she and Bamaca were together. There are only assumptions paid for by URNG (Guatemalan Revolutionary Union), the guerilla group which Harbury supported in a book she wrote last year. Maybe sheÕs planning to write a second book about her desperate search for a lost body. Perhaps Robert Torricelli and other congressmen in the U.S. are opening their ears to her because Harbury is a Harvard Law School graduate. However, what about those more than 100,000 Guatemalan victims and families who are making claims for justice for Guatemala? Of course, no one will demand a U.S. government investigation because those victims are neither Harvard graduates nor U.S. citizens.

However, my anger is not only because foreigners are trying to interfere in Guatemalan society, but also in Guatemala we donÕt need or deserve more remorse and sorrow about the past. ItÕs a fact that Guatemala has an internal war (a war that is now more words than battles), but everybody is turning his head to the past instead of looking forward to the future. Usually, news services talk about the poor Guatemala, the country of injustice, the human rights violators, and the innocent and the uncivilized society which has more Indians than any other country in Latin America. I donÕt understand how other countries, especially the U.S., can hope to solve our societyÕs problems if the Pentagon cuts military aid to our armed forces. ItÕs also a fact that Guatemala has never received as much military aid as other countries in Central America.

Even though El Salvador received U.S. military support during the last decade, that U.S. influence had no effect on either side in El SalvadorÕs internal war. Yet, on the other hand, the Guatemalan army won their war without any help from the U.S. governmentŅ except from the CIA operations, which werenÕt part of the winning factor. Concerning the Guatemalan armyÕs repression toward Indians, URNGÕs collaborators and other foreigners? Repression is everywhere. One has to judge both parties, and the responsible party will pay for the killings (in a round of peace negotiations, the United Nations is planning how those criminals will be judged).

In addition, I canÕt understand why the U.S. government and its officers are concentrating more on solving problems in Guatemala than on solving their own problems, such as discrimination toward minorities, health care, education and crime. In Guatemala we suffered more Cold War effects than any other country because historical reports showed that the CIA commanded a revolution 40 years ago in order to assist a U.S. company, the United Fruit Company, that had problems with the government regarding land rights and distribution. Therefore, since 1954, the CIA has been operating in Guatemala to support military insurrections, presidential elections, etc.

As everyone has told me, each person is equal to another; thus I donÕt know why Washington is surprised now about only two killings (Bamaca and a U.S. citizen Michael Devine) in light of the hundreds of thousands of Central American causalities. Well, my personal experience is not fundamental evidence of the atrocities in Guatemala, although IÕve received death threats from the armed forces and a media mogul, and a gun was aimed directly at my face during an assault. Perhaps I canÕt express deep feelings because IÕve never lost a relative because of our internal war; nonetheless, IÕve listened to battle experiences of Guatemalan soldiers and officers, especially from a lieutenant who was my classmate in high school, whose testimonies express the other side of the heroic guerilla movements. ThatÕs the main reason I just want to say to people like Jennifer Harbury: ŌLeave Guatemala alone and let our citizens solve our own problem.Ķ And for the rest of the people, please donÕt be scared of unsolved mysteriesŅ theyÕre everywhere.

E. Chang

Guatemalan Graduate Student/CESL

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