Contents Uncle Sam’s Rap Sheet--150 Years of Aggression toward Latin America. Zoltan Grossman and other sources Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (excerpt) Eduardo Galeano. Tr. by Cedric Belfrage Los Nadies. poema de Eduardo Galeano Weather in the Neotropical Doldrums: Could there be a Latin American Spring. Stephen Duplantier El Despertar en América. Tr. Luis Navarro y Ken Knabb Eleven Proofs of Lack of Merit and of Bad Service by the Major Perpetrators of a Series of Monumental Horrors Committed Against People of the Indies. Stephen Duplantier El Salvador Massacre. Norman Stockwell El Mozote Massacre El Salvador, U.S. Interventions and the Illusion of Communism. Raymond Raza Disturbing the Peace. James Hodge and Linda Cooper Zero Hour. Ernesto Cardenal Tr. by Donald D. Walsh Hillary’s Bones: A Coup Tutorial. Stan Goff Negroponte’s Rap Sheet. Frank Morales The General and the Mermaid. Stephen Duplantier 1984 Bluefields: Volando. Eduardo Galeano. Tr. Stephen Duplantier Alaíde Foppa: Une très courte biographie, A very brief biography. Ghislaine Yergeau Elogio de Mi Cuerpo. Alaíde Foppa. Tr. by Ghislaine Yergeau Smiles of Lost Days: Alaíde Foppa’s Family Album The Shark and the Sardine. Juan José Arévalo. Tr. by June Cobb and Raul Osegueda
Neotropica 3 2011-2012
Stephen Duplantier Editor-in-Chief Art Director Design & Production Patricia Spinelli Senior Editor Food and Lifestyle Editor Advertising & Promotion Director Gene Warneke Associate Editor Environmental Editor Ghislaine Yergeau Associate Editor Writers & Contributors this issue Juan José Arévalo Ernesto Cardenal Linda Cooper Stephen Duplantier Alaíde Foppa Eduardo Galeano Stan Goff Zoltan Grossman James Hodge Frank Morales Raymond Raza Norman Stockwell Ghislaine Yergeau ISSN 1659-4657 Neotropica is an online magazine published seasonally in Costa Rica for readers in Central America and the rest of the world. Neotropica is published by Editorial Rizomas in Costa Rica. Associated with Center for Gulf South History and Culture, Inc, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation in New Orleans, Louisiana Mailing Address: Apartado Postal 586-4250 San Ramón, Alajuela, Costa Rica Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Copyrights are retained by the individual authors and creators of the works. No copyrights on reprinted material and artwork have been intentionally violated. All use is fair use for educational purposes. Unsolicited manuscripts may be accepted for consideration, though no payments for work received and published will be made without negotiation with the editors. Opinions expressed are solely those of the writers. While we are still allowed to, we try to speak truth to power. Occupy the world.
by Stephen Duplantier The last 100 and more years of Latin American history show the sickening regularity with which the U.S., through its military and predatory commercial might, has invaded, bombed, subverted, overthrown, and by any means available, coerced the people, institutions, and environment of the republics of Central America. When the Marines pulled out after any of the hundreds of invasions and occupations of Central America over the last century, what was left behind? Only the military detritus of some unlucky pregnant prostitutes, freshly dug graves, bullet-pocked masonry buildings, and usually a new dictator sitting behind a big desk still wearing his presidential inauguration sash. The battles in the long war of the U.S. against Sub America have not been waged to conquer territory and make it an equal part of the imperium. This is not the Wehrmacht in the Sudetenland. The capitalist core of the U.S. only needs to keep the subordinate Latin periphery in line and not causing trouble with the periodic punishments of invasions and shuffling presidents around a bit. When the Marines decamp, the scarred battlefields are in the minds and imaginations of Latin Americans. The shards of battle have been assimilated into the mental ecosystems and the imaginal DNA of the people. Latin American experiences in the longuedurée of this perpetual war has added another
layer to the archaeology of amnesia and may best be named with a new word—nanomachy—a war against the small and weak (from the Greek nano— small, and machy—war). That layer is the strata of the disappeared space. Someone is here, and then they are gone forever with no records or paperwork or documentation. This disappearing act is not the cheap stage trick of a conjuror, but the evil work of rightist politics. Latin America is a fractally scarred landscape of buried pain, trauma, destruction, and failure, with its subtle battlefields at once everywhere and nowhere. Where is the site of a particular battle when death squad operatives capture people in the night in unmarked cars and whisk them away to secret military torture chambers and then put them bound and gagged on helicopters at 2:00 A.M., then flying them out over the deep oceans past the continental shelf to push the screaming victims into the dark sea? I would say that every street traversed by the speeding death cars, and every flight path of the U.S.-made helicopters, and every secret diplomatic cable and phone call, every room where CIA-spooks posing as U.S. embassy officials winked at assembled colonels trained at he School of the Americas, who nodded gravely knowing they now knew what to do and had permission from their puppet masters to do it, every flight of every officer who went to the School of Assassins and had sat in Spartan military classrooms at Ft. Benning and learned to deal with
those “troublemakers” in their home countries (who only wanted justice and a chance at a non-miserable life) by torturing, killing, and terrorizing them— these are the battlefields of the Latin nanomachia. On a map, these non-places could be plotted as ubiquitous crisscrossing lines of battles against innocent non-combatants. No rolling picturesque Flanders Fields with sad, but stately grave markers and red poppies blowing in the breeze in the Latin landscapes of the wars against the small and weak. Here the battle vectors mark the geography of the entire isthmus and southern continent as a war zone. Overseas, the soldiers who died in famous named battles and who lie in neat rows in landscaped meadows—like so many game pieces on a savage board game—are no luckier than the dead innocent civilians of the unnamed battles in the 100+ years of war on Sub America. All are just as dead. Every survivor and family of the disappeared of Latin America knows the horrid truth. But the disappeared always hide in the shadows of uncertainty and mystery in their nonpresence. They could have gone away on a long trip to an unmapped place with no telephone or postal service. Today, an email sent to them would never be answered. The slight gap in complete knowledge about what has happened is a sickening ray of hope. Amnesia at the social and individual level is inevitable because so little of reality can be remembered. Memory serves a skimpy and quirky buffet. Amnesia itself may not be willful, but could result from the structure of memory. All memory is defective, and gaps are what make the memory rich or poor. Sifting through the remains of what is not there, or is not recoverable in any meaningful way, does not constitute even an imaginary archaeology of memory, but an epistemologically false archaeology, for it is a way of knowing that does not really know--a way of not-knowing. An archaeology of amnesia needs an imaginaire to fill in the gaps with brush strokes of interpretation and a creative subjectivity. The archaeological imaginary is like Benedict Anderson’s political imaginary: just as nations are not really real, so too is memory only a figment, so selective, so fallible as to make what it does finally “remember” more a
work of art, an artifice, not really a record of events as much as being human-made objects that serve as aide-mémoires, mnemonic triggers and not the memory itself, only tattered bookmarks in an old dusty tome. The imaginary archaeologist who digs in the murky strata of amnesias is practicing an archaeology of what is not-there, yet the shards unearthed tell a vital tale. In the United States, the early anti-Bolsheviks and Red Baiters, the generations of Cold War Warriors of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the Reagan Cowboys in the 80s, and the Neocons of the 90s who have continued into the new century and even as late as today, have been the ideologists who crafted what Gore Vidal has called the United States of Amnesia. These were and are the official liars and caricaturists for the creation of various incarnations of mostly Communist bogeymen, but lately also of Islamic devils and terrorists and narco-terrorists. The made-up, and now hegemonic “truths,” whatever their relation to reality, planted false memories, and ultimately ended up killing millions of people. It wasn’t that the OSS, then the CIA, the State Department, and the agencies and departments of the U.S. War Machine tried to get it right in the first place. Although there were multiple chicaneries and complexities all around, the final post-mortem was these now-official lies demanded the expenditure of uncountable bulk cargo shiploads of money, and a purposefully and directly-caused failed development, lost opportunity, and cruel pain and death in Latin America. An answer to a question of why it all happened this way feels like psychosis should be part of the explanation. What other answers explain the official national lies and the forced amnesia of this era. Hypermodernity started with World War I as a time of increased devastation of human life and lost hope through the cruelties of mechanized warfare and the creation of permanent war economies. Wars have been continuous in human history, but in hypermodern times, they have become especially pervasive and cruelly efficient. Our time is one of Wars on Just About Everything. Maybe just as bad, on the ubiquitous battlefields of landscape and psyche, are buried things that never were, but could
Operation Just (be)Cause Major General James H. Johnson, Jr. commanding the 82d Airborne Division confers with I/75th Rangers staff on how and where to attack in Panamá, 1989
“The capitalist core of the U.S. only needs to keep the subordinate Latin periphery in line and not causing trouble by the periodic punishments of invasions and shuffling presidents around a bit. When the Marines decamp, the scarred battlefields are in the minds and imaginations of Latin Americans. The shards of battle have been assimilated into the mental ecosystems and the imaginal DNA of the people.”
La Comandancia of Panamá destroyed by U.S. airpower, 1989
and should have been. Would it have been so hard to have simply allowed people in Latin America to have normal, relatively happy lives? To just let be those people who worked hard and lived among family and friends in peaceful communities, with whatever imaginative and expressive social life they chose? The U.S. said,”No, we do not permit it.” And in the forced absence of just being left alone, on the Uber-battlefield of Latin America, people still tried to make sense of their lives and, with all their might, worked to overcome troubles and be happy and, largely despite towering difficulties of constantly being molested by the United States, made themselves as happy as they could. Yet looming in the shadows are the partial and bitter amnesias of the lost non-memories of not-singing
and not-dancing and not-telling the stories of their worlds that were never permitted to exist. The archaeology of amnesia means showing what the hypermodern imperial power machine does not want to be shown, We are in need of a haunting by the ghosts of the recent past who have disappeared but who will not go away. This issue of Neotropica is a contribution to uncovering traces of perished memories and letting the ghosts fly free.
Uncle Sam’s Rap Sheet
150 Years of Aggression toward Latin America 1846
The U.S., fulfilling the “doctrine” of Manifest Destiny, goes to war with Mexico and ends up with a third of Mexico’s territory.
U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.
U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.
U.S. Marines invade Nicaraguan Pacific port of San Juan del Sur.
U. S. Marines invaded Bluefields, Nicaragua.
U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.
Tennessee adventurer William Walker and his mercenaries take over Nicaragua, institute forced labor, and legalize slavery.
U.S. Marines and Navy annex the Canal Zone after forcing Panamá to break away from Colombia.
First of five U.S. interventions in Panama to protect the Atlantic-Pacific railroad from Panamanian nationalists.
The Platt Amendment inserted into the Cuban constitution grants the U.S. the right to intervene when it sees fit.
U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.
U.S. Marines invade Honduras to tamper with the election.
U.S. Troops invade Argentina to protect “assets.”
When negotiations with Colombia break down, the U.S. sends ten warships to back a rebellion in Panama in order to acquire the land for the Panama Canal.
1857 1890 1891
U.S Marines invade Chile, clash with nationalist forces. U.S. troops invade Haiti.
U.S. Marines invade Bluefields, occupy it for a month.
U.S. Marines and Navy invade Panamá province of Colombia and stage a fake revolution to break away from Colombia. Strategic goal is land to build a canal.
U.S. Marines invade the Port of Corinto.
U.S. declares war on Spain, blaming it for destruction of the Maine. (it was probably an accident.) The war enables the U.S. to occupy Cuba, seizes island of Puerto Rico. U.S. invades Cuba. Seizes Guantanamo and holds it to this day.
U.S. troops invade Dominican Republic to “protect U.S. interests.”
U.S. sends customs agents to take over finances of the Dominican Republic to assure payment of its external debt.
U.S. Marines help Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz crush a strike in Sonora. U.S. troops land in Honduras for the first of five times in next 20 years..
Marines occupy Cuba for two years in order to tamper with elections.
Marines invade and intervene in Honduras to settle a war with Nicaragua.
U.S. Marines occupy Haiti to restore order, and establish a protectorate which lasts till 1934.
U.S. Marines invade Nicaragua.
Marines occupy the Dominican Republic, staying till 1924.
U.S. troops intervene in Panama for first of 4 times in next decade.
Pancho Villa, in the sole act of Latin American aggression against the U.S., raids the city of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans.
Liberal President José Santos Zelaya of Nicaragua proposes that American mining and banana companies pay taxes; he is forced to resign through U.S. pressure. The new president, Adolfo Díaz, is the former treasurer of an American mining company.
U.S. troops enter Mexico to pursue Pancho Villa. They can’t catch him.
Marines intervene again in Cuba, to guarantee sugar exports during WWI (1917-33).
U.S. Marines occupy Panamanian province of Chiriqui for two years to maintain public order.
U.S. Marines occupy Nicaragua to help support the Díaz regime. The Liberal regime of Miguel Dávila in Honduras has irked the State Department by being too friendly with Zelaya. He is overthrown by former president Manuel Bonilla, aided by American banana tycoon Sam Zemurray and American mercenary Lee Christmas, who becomes commander-inchief of the Honduran army.
U.S. Marines intervene in Cuba to put down a rebellion of sugar workers. Nicaragua occupied again by the U.S. for 20 years, to shore up the inept Díaz government. An election is called to resolve the crisis: there are 4000 eligible voters, and one candidate, Díaz. The U.S. maintains troops and advisors in the country until 1925. U.S. Marines test new weapons-the first use of airplane dive bombers to bomb and burn civilians. This is the war against Sandino. Sandino wins. U.S. Troops invade Panama to throw an election.
U.S. invades Honduras to throw an election.
U.S. invades Guatemala to fight against trade unions.
President Coolidge strongly suggests the overthrow of Guatemalan President Carlos Herrera, in the interests of United Fruit. The Guatemalans comply.
U.S. troops invade Honduras to throw an election.
U.S. Army troops occupy Panama City to break a general strike.
U.S. Marines, re-enter Nicaragua and occupy the country to settle a political situation. The U.S claimed a “NicaraguanMexican-Soviet” conspiracy and a “Mexican-Bolshevist hegemony” within striking distance of the Canal.
U.S. troops invade Nicaragua to protect U.S. banana and timber tycoons.
U.S. establishes a military academy in Nicaragua to train a National Guard as the country’s army. Similar forces are trained in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
U.S. bombs and then occupies Vera Cruz, in a conflict arising out of a dispute with Mexico’s new government. President Victoriano Huerta resigns.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo emerges from the U.S.-trained National Guard to become dictator of the Dominican Republic.
U.S. naval bombardment of Santo Domingo. Troops invade.
The U.S. rushes warships to El Salvador in response to a Farbaundo Martí revolt. President Martínez prefers to put down the rebellion with his own forces, killing over 8000 people (the rebels had killed about 100).
War with Mexico against nationalists (1914-1918). U.S. troops invade Haiti, bombing the capital. 20 year occupation follows (1914-34).
President Roosevelt announces the Good Neighbor policy with a straight face.
Marines finally leave Nicaragua, unable to suppress the guerrilla warfare of General Augusto César Sandino. Anastasio Somoza García becomes the first Nicaraguan commander of the National Guard. Roosevelt sends warships to Cuba to intimidate Gerardo Machado y Morales, who is murdering his people to put down nationwide strikes and riots. Machado resigns. The first provisional government lasts only 17 days; the second Roosevelt finds too left-wing and refuses to recognize. A pro-Machado counter-coup is put down by Fulgencio Batista, who with Roosevelt’s blessing becomes Cuba’s new strongman.
Sandino is assassinated by agents of Somoza, with U.S. approval. Somoza assumes the presidency of Nicaragua two years later. To block his power grab, Secretary of State Cordell Hull explains, would be to intervene in the internal affairs of Nicaragua.
U.S. relinquishes rights to unilateral intervention in Panama.
Ricardo Adolfo de la Guardia deposes Panamanian president Arias in a military coup-- first clearing it with the U.S. Ambassador.
The editor of the Honduran opposition paper El Cronista is summoned to the U.S. embassy and told that criticism of the dictator Tiburcio Carías Andino is damaging to the war effort. Shortly afterward, the paper is shut down by the government.
The dictator Maximiliano Hernández Martínez of El Salvador is ousted by a revolution; the interim government is overthrown five months later by the dictator’s former chief of police. The U.S.’s immediate recognition of the new dictator does much to tarnish Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy in the eyes of Latin Americans.
U.S. Army School of the Americas opens in Panama as a hemisphere-wide military academy. Its linchpin is the doctrine of National Security, by which the chief threat to a nation is internal subversion; this will be the guiding principle behind dictatorships in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Central America, and elsewhere.
U.S. Air Force bombers threaten Uruguay.
José Figueres Ferrer wins a short civil war to become President of Costa Rica. Figueres is supported by the U.S., which has informed San José that its forces in the Panama
Canal are ready to come to the capital to end “communist control” of Costa Rica.
U.S. commando operation in Puerto Rico crushes a rebellion.
Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, elected president of Guatemala, introduces land reform and seizes some idle lands of United Fruit-- proposing to pay for them the value United Fruit claimed on its tax returns. The CIA organizes a small force to overthrow him and begins training it in Honduras. When Arbenz naively asks for U.S. military help to meet this threat, he is refused; when he buys arms from Czechoslovakia, it only “proves he’s a Red.” The CIA broadcasts reports detailing the imaginary advance of the “rebel army,” and provides planes to strafe the capital. The army refuses to defend Arbenz, who resigns. The U.S.’s hand-picked dictator, Carlos Castillo Armas, outlaws political parties, reduces the franchise, and establishes the death penalty for strikers, as well as undoing Arbenz’s land reform. More than 100,000 citizens are killed in the next 30 years of military rule.
Eisenhower establishes Office of Public Safety to train Latin American police forces.
U.S. troops intervene in Panamá.
Eisenhower authorizes covert actions to get rid of Castro. Among other things, the CIA tries assassinating him with exploding cigars and poisoned milkshakes. Other covert actions against Cuba include burning sugar fields, blowing up boats in Cuban harbors, and sabotaging industrial equipment. Canal Zone becomes the focus of U.S. counterinsurgency training. A new junta in El Salvador promises free elections; Eisenhower, fearing leftist tendencies, withholds recognition. A more attractive right-wing counter-coup comes along in three months. Guatemalan officers attempt to overthrow the regime of Presidente Fuentes; Eisenhower stations warships and 2000 Marines offshore while Fuentes and U.S. puts down the revolt. U.S. Green Berets train Guatemalan army in counterinsurgency techniques. Guatemalan efforts against its insurgents include aerial bombing, scorched-earth assaults on towns suspected of aiding the rebels, and death squads, which killed 20,000 people between 1966 and 1976.
U.S. organizes force of 1400 anti-Castro Cubans, ships it to the Bahía de los Cochinos. Castro’s army routs it. CIA operations are failures. CIA-backed coup overthrows elected Pres. J. M. Velasco Ibarra of Ecuador, who has been too friendly with Cuba.
CIA engages in campaign in Brazil to keep João Goulart from achieving control of Congress. U.S. blockades Cuba. Nearly starts a world-ending nuclear war with Soviet Union.
CIA-backed coup overthrows elected social democrat Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic. A far-right-wing coup in Guatemala, apparently U.S.supported, forestalls elections in which “extreme leftist” Juan José Arévalo was favored to win.
João Goulart of Brazil proposes agrarian reform, nationalization of oil. Ousted by U.S.-supported military coup. U.S. troops shoot Panamanian supporters of independence and return of canal.
A coup in the Dominican Republic attempts to restore Bosch’s government. The U.S. invades and occupies the country to stop this “Communist rebellion,” with the help of the dictators of Brazil, Paraguay, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
U.S. sends arms, advisors, and Green Berets to Guatemala to implement a counterinsurgency campaign.“To eliminate a few hundred guerrillas, the government killed perhaps 10,000 Guatemalan peasants.” --State Depart. report on the program
A team of Green Berets is sent to Bolivia to help find and assassinate Che Guevara.
Gen. José Alberto Medrano, who is on the payroll of the CIA, organizes the ORDEN paramilitary force, considered the precursor of El Salvador’s death squads.
In this year (just as an example), U.S. investments in Latin America earn $1.3 billion; while new investments total $302 million. Salvador Allende Gossens elected in Chile. Suspends foreign loans, nationalizes foreign companies. For the phone system, pays ITT the company’s minimized
valuation for tax purposes. The CIA provides covert financial support for Allende’s opponents, both during and after his election.
U.S. stands by as military suspends an election in El Salvador in which centrist José Napoleón Duarte was favored to win. (Compare with the emphasis placed on the 1982 elections.)
U.S.-supported military coup causes Allende’s apparent suicide and brings Augusto Pinochet Ugarte to power. Pinochet imprisons well over a 100,000 Chileans (torture and rape were the usual methods of interrogation), terminates civil liberties, abolishes unions, extends the work week to 48 hours, and reverses Allende’s land reforms. Military takes power in Uruguay, supported by U.S. The subsequent repression reportedly features the world’s highest percentage of the population imprisoned for political reasons.
Office of Public Safety is abolished when it is revealed that police are being taught torture techniques.
Election of Jimmy Carter leads to a new emphasis on human rights in Central America. Carter cuts off aid to the Guatemalan military (or tries to; some slips through) and reduces aid to El Salvador.
Ratification of the Panama Canal treaty which is to return the Canal to Panama by 1999.
A right-wing junta takes over in El Salvador. U.S. begins massively supporting El Salvador, assisting the military in its fight against FMLN guerrillas. Death squads proliferate; Archbishop Romero is assassinated by right-wing terrorists; 35,000 civilians are killed in 1978-81. The rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen results in the suspension of U.S. military aid for one month. The U.S. demands that the junta undertake land reform. Within 3 years, however, the reform program is halted by the oligarchy. “The Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on,” says a lying Ronald Reagan.
U.S., seeking a stable base for its actions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, tells the Honduran military to clean up its act and hold elections. The U.S. starts pouring in $100 million of aid a year and basing the contras on Honduran territory. Death squads are also active in Honduras, and the contras tend to act as a state within a state.
The CIA steps in to organize the contras in Nicaragua, who started the previous year as a group of 60 ex-National
Guardsmen; by 1985 there are about 12,000 of them. 46 of the 48 top military leaders are ex-Guardsmen. The U.S. also sets up an economic embargo of Nicaragua and pressures the IMF and the World Bank to limit or halt loans to Nicaragua. Gen. Torrijos of Panama is killed in a plane crash. There is a suspicion of CIA involvement, due to Torrijos’ nationalism and friendly relations with Cuba.
A coup brings Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt to power in Guatemala, and gives the Reagan administration the opportunity to increase military aid. Ríos Montt’s evangelical beliefs do not prevent him from accelerating the counterinsurgency campaign.
Another coup in Guatemala replaces Ríos Montt. The new President, Oscar Mejía Víctores, was trained by the U.S. and seems to have cleared his coup beforehand with U.S. authorities. U.S. troops take over tiny Granada. One of the justifications for the action is the building of a new airport with Cuban help, which Granada claimed was for tourism and Reagan argued was for Soviet use. Later the U.S. announces plans to finish the airport... to develop tourism. U.S. troops occupy Honduras and build massive military facilities. 1983-89 Boland Amendment prohibits CIA and Defense Dept. from spending money to overthrow the government of Nicaragua-- a law the Reagan administration violates with impunity. U.S. troops invade and bomb Grenada 1983-84.
CIA mines three Nicaraguan harbors. Nicaragua takes this action to the World Court, which brings an $18 billion judgment against the U.S. The U.S. refuses to recognize the Court’s jurisdiction in the case. U.S. spends $10 million to orchestrate elections in El Salvador-- something of a farce, since left-wing parties are under heavy repression, and the military has already declared that it will not answer to the elected president.
U.S. Army “assists” in drug raids.
U.S. invades Panama with an army of 27,000 to dislodge CIA asset and graduate of School of the Americas Manuel Noriega, an event which marks the evolution of the U.S.’s favorite excuse from anti-Communism to drugs as the Pivotal Lie. 2,000 Panamanians killed.
CIA overthrows government of Guatemala.
U.S. invades Haiti. Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.
The U.S. battles global Communism by extending mostfavored-nation trading status for China, and tightening the trade embargo on Castro’s Cuba.
U.S. coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela by Reaganera right wing Cuban anti-Communists and others (See Stan Goff’s article in this issue). 2004 U.S. coup against Aristide of Haiti. Aristide is forcibly removed from Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince and flown to Africa.
U.S. sponsored coup d’etat against Honduras. Same cast of characters as in the Venezuela and Haiti coups, especially Otto Reich and others (See Stan Goff’s article in this issue).
The U.S. Southern Command is beating war drums in Latin America again using the “transnational criminal organizations” and “structural weakness of the Central American states” excuses/Pivotal Lies to beef up its “coordination” with Central American governments to combat the problem, according to news reports. In light of this list, Latin America had better look out for more of the same. (Complied from Zoltan Grossman’s list and other sources.) Editorial Commentary
Some of these “interventions” are well known, but most are not. The shock is seeing this constant belligerent behavior toward Latin America stacked up. When you see them all togther, the pattern is clear--it is a state of constant warfare against half of the hemisphere! This is by no means all of it. Not tallied are the “black” operations, the spying, and the undercover CIA assassinations that will never be known. It is important to remember that maybe the majority of these operations had only one strategic purpose; the extraction of resources from Latin America by private business interests assured and protected by publiclyfunded military assets. In other words, a growing international, and now a late stage, imperial capitalism. The cost in human lives, happiness, a sense of security, and money is completely incalculable. This is the contribution of the United States of America to slashing open the veins of Latin America.
Subamerica The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations. Centuries passed, and Latin America perfected its role. We are no longer in the era of marvels when fact surpassed fable and imagination was shamed by the trophies of conquest— the lodes of gold, the mountains of silver. But our region still works as a menial. It continues to exist at the service of others’ needs, as a source and reserve of oil and iron, of copper and meat, of fruit and coffee, the raw materials and foods destined for rich countries which profit more from consuming them than Latin America does from producing them. The taxes collected by the buyers are much higher than the prices received by the sellers; and after all, as Alliance for Progress coordinator Covey T. Oliver said in July 1968, to speak of fair prices is a “medieval” concept, for we are in the era of free trade. The more freedom is extended to business, the more prisons have to be built for those who suffer from that business. Our inquisitor-hang-man systems function not only for the dominating external markets; they also provide gushers of profit from foreign loans and investments in the dominated internal markers. Back in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson observed: “You hear of ‘concessions’ to foreign capitalists in Latin America. You do nor hear of concessions to foreign capitalists in the United States. They are not granted concessions.” He was confident; “Slates that are obliged ... to grant concessions are in this condition, that foreign interests are apt to dominate their domestic affairs. . . . ,” he said, and he was right. Along the way we have even lost the right to call ourselves Americans, although the Haitians and the Cubans appeared in history as new people a century before the Mayflower pilgrims settled on the Plymouth coast. For the world today, America is just the United States; the region we inhabit is a sub-America, a second-class America of nebulous identity.
Open Veins Latin America is the region of open veins. Everything, from the discovery until our times, has always been transmuted into European— or later United States— capital, and as such has accumulated in distant centers of power. Everything: the soil, its fruits and its mineral-rich depths, the people and their capacity to work and to consume, natural resources and human resources.
Realms of Gold ...Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men Look’d at each other with a wild surmise — Silent, upon a peak in Darien. —John Keats
Production methods and class structure have been successively determined from outside for each area by meshing it into the universal gearbox of capitalism. To each area has been assigned a function, always for the benefit of the foreign metropolis of the moment, and the endless chain of dependency has been endlessly extended. The chain has many more than two links. In Latin America it also includes the oppression of small countries by their larger neighbors and, within each country’s frontiers, the exploitation by big cities and ports of their internal sources of food and labor. (Four centuries ago sixteen of today’s twenty biggest Latin American cities already existed.) For those who see history as a competition, Latin America’s backwardness and poverty are merely the result of its failure. We lost; others won. But the winners happen to have won thanks to our losing: the history of Latin America’s underdevelopment is, as someone has said, an integral part of the history of world capitalism’s development. Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others— the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neocolonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison. Potosi, Zacatecas, and Ouro Preto became desolate warrens of deep, empty tunnels from which the precious metals had been taken; ruin was the fate of Chile’s nitrate pampas and of Amazonia’s rubber forests. Northeast Brazil’s sugar and Argentina’s quebracho belts, and communities around oil-rich Lake Maracaibo, have become painfully aware of the mortality of wealth which nature bestows and imperialism appropriates. The rain that irrigates the centers of imperialist power drowns the vast suburbs of the system. In the same way, and symmetrically, the well-being of our dominating classes— dominating inwardly, dominated from outside— is the curse of our multitudes condemned to exist as beasts of burden.
120 Million Children in the Eye of the Hurricane The gap widens. Around the middle of the last century the world’s rich countries enjoyed a 50 percent higher living standard than the poor countries. Development develops inequality: in April 1969 Richard Nixon told the Organization of American States (OAS) that by the end of the twentieth century the United States’ per capita income would be fifteen times higher than Latin America’s. The strength of the imperialist system as a whole rests on the necessary inequality of its pares, and this inequality assumes ever more dramatic dimensions. The oppressor countries get steadily richer in absolute terms— and much more so in relative terms— through the dynamic of growing disparity. The capitalist “head office” can allow itself the luxury of creating
and believing its own myths of opulence, but the poor countries on the capitalist periphery know that myths cannot be eaten. The United States citizen’s average income is seven times that of a Latin American and grows ten times faster. And averages are deceptive in view of the abyss that yawns between the many poor and the rich few south of the Rio Grande. According to the United Nations, the amount shared by 6 million Latin Americans at the top of the social pyramid is the same as the amount shared by 140 million at the bottom. There are 60 million campesinos whose fortune amounts to $.25 a day. At the other extreme, the pimps of misery accumulate $5 billion in their private Swiss or U.S. bank accounts. Adding insult to injury, they squander in sterile ostentation and luxury, and in unproductive investments constituting no less than half the total investment, the capital that Latin America could devote to the replacement, extension, and generation of job-creating means of production. Harnessed as they have always been to the constellation of imperialist power, our ruling classes have no interest whatsoever indetermining whether patriotism might not prove more profitable than treason, and whether begging is really the only formula for international policies. Sovereignty is mortgaged because “there’s no other way.” The oligarchies’ cynical alibis confuse the impotence of a social class with the presumed empty destinies of their countries. Says Josue de Castro: “I, who have received an international peace prize, think that, unhappily, there is no other solution than violence for Latin America.” In the eye of this hurricane 120 million children are stirring. Latin America’s population grows as does no other: it has more than tripled in half a century. One child dies of disease or hunger every minute, but in the year 2000 there will be 650 million Latin Americans, half of whom will be under fifteen; a time bomb. Among the 280 million Latin Americans of today, 50 million are unemployed or underemployed and about 100 million are illiterate; half of them live in crowded, unhealthy slums. Latin America’s three largest markets— Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico— together consume less than France or West Germany, although their combined population considerably exceeds that of any European country. In proportion to population Latin America today produces less food than it did before World War II, and at constant prices there has been a threefold decline in its per capita exports since the eve of the 1929 crisis.
Surplus Laborers For its foreign masters and for our commission-agent bourgeoisie, who have sold their souls to the devil at a price that would have shamed Faust, the system is perfectly rational; but for no one else, since the more it develops, the
greater its disequilibrium, its tensions, and its contradictions. Even industrialization— coming late and in dependent form, and comfortably coexisting with the latifundia and the structures of inequality— helps to spread unemployment rather than to relieve it; poverty is extended, wealth concentrated in the area where an ever multiplying army of idle hands is available. New factories are built in the privileged poles of development— Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Mexico City— but less and less labor is needed. The system did not foresee this small headache, this surplus of people. And the people keep reproducing. They make love with enthusiasm and without precaution. Ever more people are left beside the road, without work in the countryside, where the latifundios reign with their vast extensions of idle land, without work in the city where the machine is king. The system vomits people. North American missionaries sow pills, diaphragms, intrauterine devices, condoms, and marked calendars, but reap children. Latin American children obstinately continue getting born, claiming their natural right to a place in the sun in these magnificent lands which could give to all what is now denied to almost all.
The Advantages of Not Being Born At the beginning of November 1968 Richard Nixon loudly confirmed that the Alliance for Progress was seven years old and that malnutrition and food shortages had nevertheless intensified in Latin America. A few months earlier, in April, George W. Ball wrote in Life :”But at least for the next several decades, the discontent of poorer nations does not threaten world destruction. Shameful as it undoubtedly may be, the world has lived at least two-thirds poor and one-third rich for generations. Unjust as it may be, the power of poor countries is limited.” Ball had headed the U.S. delegation to the First Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, and had voted against nine of the twelve general principles approved by the conference for removing some of the handicaps of the underdeveloped countries in international trade. The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret; every year, without making a sound, three Hiroshima bombs explode over communities that have become accustomed to suffering with clenched teeth. This systematic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics. Ball says that it is still possible to act with impunity because the poor cannot set off a world war, but the Imperium is worried: unable to multiply the dinner, it does what it can to suppress the diners. “Fight poverty, kill a beggar!” some genius of black humor scrawled on a wall in La
Paz. What do the heirs to Malthus propose but to kill all the beggars-to-be before they are born? Robert McNamara, the World Bank president who was chairman of Ford and then secretary of defense, has called the population explosion the greatest obstacle to progress in Latin America; the World Bank, he says, will give priority in its loans to countries that implement birth control plans. McNamara notes with regret that the brains of the poor do 25 percent less thinking, and the World Bank technocrats (who have already been born) set computers humming to produce labyrinthine abracadabras on the advantages of not being born: “If,” one of the Bank’s documents assures us, “a developing country with an average per capita income of $150 to $200 a year succeeds in reducing its fertility by 50 percent in a period of twenty-five years, at the end of thirty years its per capita income will be higher by at least 40 percent than the level it would otherwise have achieved, and twice as high after sixty years.” Lyndon B. Johnson’s remark has become famous: “Let us act on the fact that less than $5 invested in population control is worth $100 invested in economic growth.” Dwight D. Eisenhower prophesied that if the world’s inhabitants continued multiplying at the same rate, not only would the danger of revolution be increased, but there would also be a lowering of living standards for all peoples, including his own.
Kill the Guerillerros Early The United States is more concerned than any other country with spreading and imposing family planning in the farthest outposts. Not only the government, but the Rockefeller and the Ford foundations as well, have nightmares about millions of children advancing like locusts over the horizon from the third world. Plato and Aristotle considered the question before Malthus and McNamara; in our day this global offensive plays a well-defined role. Its aim is to justify the very unequal income distribution between countries and social elates, to convince the poor that poverty is the result of the children they don’t avoid having, and to dam the rebellious advance of the masses. While intrauterine devices compete with bombs and machine-gun salvos to arrest the growth of the Vietnamese population, in Latin America it is more hygienic and effective co-kill guerrilleros in the womb than in the mountains or the streets. Various U.S. missions have sterilized thousands of women in Amazonia, although this is the least populated habitable zone on our planet. Most Latin American countries have no real surplus of people; on the contrary, they have too few. Brazil has thirty-eight times fewer inhabitants per square mile than Belgium, Paraguay has forty-nine times fewer than England, Peru has thirty-two times fewer than Japan. Haiti and El Salvador, the human
antheaps of Latin America, have lower population densities than Italy. The pretexts invoked are an insult to the intelligence; the real intentions anger us. No less than half the territory of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Venezuela has no inhabitants at all. No Latin American population grows less than Uruguay’s— a country of old folk— yet no nation has taken such a bearing in recent years, with a crisis that would seem to drag it into the last circle of hell. Uruguay is empty, and its fertile lands could provide food for infinitely more people than those who now suffer in such penury.
The Western Way of Life Over a century ago a Guatemalan foreign minister said prophetically: “It would be strange if the remedy should come from the United Stares, the same place which brings us the disease.” Now that the Alliance for Progress is dead and buried the Imperium proposes, more in panic than in generosity, to solve Latin America’s problems by eliminating Latin Americans; Washington has reason to suspect that the poor peoples don’t prefer to be poor. But it is impossible to desire the end without desiring the means. Those who deny liberation to Latin America also deny our only possible rebirth, and incidentally absolve the existing structures from blame. Our youth multiplies, rises, listens: what does the voice of the system offer? The system speaks a surrealist language. In lands that are empty it proposes to avoid births; in countries where capital is plentiful but wasted it suggests that capital is lacking; it describes as “aid” the deforming orthopedics of loans and the draining of wealth that results from foreign investment; it calls upon big land-owners to carry out agrarian reforms and upon the oligarchy to practice social justice. The class struggle only exists, we are told, because foreign agents stir it up; but social classes do exist and the oppression of one by the other is known as the Western way of life. The Marines undertake their criminal expeditions only to restore order and social peace; the dictatorships linked to Washington lay foundations in their jails for the law-abiding state, and ban strikes and smash trade unions to protect the freedom to work.
Written in the Stars Is everything forbidden us except to fold our arms? Poverty is not written in the stars; underdevelopment is not one of God’s mysterious designs. Redemptive years of revolution pass; the ruling classes wait and meanwhile pronounce hellfire anathema on everybody. In a sense the right wing is correct
in identifying itself with tranquillity and order: it is an order of daily humiliation for the majority, but an order nonetheless; it is a tranquillity in which injustice continues to be unjust and hunger to be hungry. If the future turns out to be a Pandora’s box, the conservative has reason to shout, “I have been betrayed.” And the ideologists of impotence, the slaves who look at themselves with the master’s eyes, are not slow to join in the outcry. The bronze eagle of the Maine, thrown down on the day the Cuban Revolution triumphed, now lies abandoned. Its wings broken, in a doorway in the old town in Havana. Since that day in Cuba, other countries have set off on different roads on the experiment of change; perpetuation of the existing order of things is perpetuation of the crime. Recovery of the resources that have always been usurped is recovery of our destiny.
Chronicles of Despoiliation The ghosts of all the revolutions that have been strangled or betrayed through Latin America’s tortured history emerge in the new experiments, as if the present had been foreseen and begotten by the contradictions of the past. History is a prophet who looks back: because of what was, and against what was, it announces what will be. And so this book, which seeks to chronicle our despoliation and at the same time explain how the current mechanisms of plunder operate, will present in close proximity the caravelled conquistadors and the jet-propelled technocrats; Hernan Cortes and the Marines; the agents of the Spanish Crown and the International Monetary Fund missions; the dividends from the slave trade and the profits of General Motors. And, too, the defeated heroes and revolutions of our time, the infamies and the dead and resurrected hopes: the fertile sacrifices. When Alexander von Humboldt investigated the customs of the ancient inhabitants of the Bogota plateau, he found that the Indians called the victims of ritual ceremonies quihica. Quihica meant “door;” the death of each chosen victim opened the door to a new cycle of 185 moons. From Eduardo Galeano’s OPEN VEINS of LATIN AMERICA FIVE CENTURIES OF THE PILLAGE 0F A CONTINENT Translated by Cedric Belfrage Monthly Review Press 1972, 1997
Hugo Chavez gives a copy of Open Veins to Barack Obama. It doesn’t seem like Obama has read it, and he certainly hasn’t passed it on to Hilary Clinton
Weather in the Neotropical Doldrums.
Could there be a Latin American Spring?
he metaphor of a springtime season to indicate an awakening and first steps toward sociopolitical changes was witnessed beginning in 2011 in the Arab countries. In the Neotropics (the New World tropics), unlike the temperate zones of the world with four seasons, there is only the wet and dry season thanks to the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Here there is no spring, or, depending on how you look at it, maybe it’s always spring. The old sailors in their wind-driven sailing ships called the equatorial area the Doldrums, because the winds which they depended on could go dead for weeks at a time becalming them on a still, swell-less ocean. Metaphors can obviously only go so far, and metaphors lie as much as they show truths. What would be the most apt metaphor for sociopolitical change in Latin America—springtime or doldrums?
Any springtime in Latin America would be met by weathermakers plummeting out of the sky dressed in camouflage, and with black-painted faces. These would be the Rangers and Seals jumping stealthily out of Apache helicopters, carrying weapons with uraniumtipped bullets, and backed by tens of thousands of Marines, sailors and the buzz-cut heads of army guys carrying all the weapons that unlimited Pentagon budgets can buy, all eagerly making their own weather as they troop across the Neotropics, rooting out any pockets of resistant springtime.
The metaphorical sociopolitical weather of Latin America has been a preoccupation of the United States for more than a hundred years. Long ago, the U.S. created the School of the Americas, first in Panamá, and now in Georgia in the southern U.S., as a way to preemptively cancel any springtime blossoms and soft new breezes. The School of the Americas has trained and is continuing to train tens of thousands members of Latin American militaries in techniques of counterinsurgency, crowd-control, guerrilla tactics, and the advanced studies section of this infamous school where U.S. military instructors lecture solemnly in courses that could accurately be named Seminar in Advanced Torture Techniques, Death Squad Studies, Practicum in the Coup d’Etat, etc. This sounds more like winter than spring.
Chuckling anchorman Bill asks Bob the Weatherman about the forecast for Latin America. (A cheery, well-coiffed Bob says,) “Hah, hah! Sure Bill. Well, springtime will be late in the Neotropics. The forecast calls for a wintry mix with severe coups and chance of Marine invasions on the way for all of Latin America. It’s time to pull out those bullet-proof vests! (chuckle, chuckle).”
The U.S., and before it imperial Spain, have been making bad weather in Latin America for 500+ years. But it is the U.S.-made winter storms of the last 100 or so years I am interested in. It’s actually difficult to count all the invasions, coups, covert CIA activity, the democracy-destroying corporate bribes, more brutal Is a Latin spring possible? The United States State corporate thuggery, the work of the paid collaborators Department and military obviously thinks so. and local corrupt proxies who did the work of the “Southcom” —the Pentagonese name for the military Yanquis, the lunatic filibusterers, mercenaries, command apparatus— is on alert. Southcom’s men, soldiers-of-fortune, heavy-handed ambassadors and armies, ships, and weapons are already in Latin all that congressional “good will” legislation (“Good America, and more are parked in coastal military bases Neighbor,” and “Alliance for Progress”) fraud. All of the in the U.S ready for battle. The commanders have above was solemnly and “legally” backed by doctrines their invasion plans already drawn up and sitting in (which are nothing more than one-sided imperial file cabinets, waiting, just waiting for any signs of the dares) such as the Monroe Doctrine, along with its stirring of springtime in the Doldrums. Roosevelt Corollary.
Let’s bracket the 16th century genocides and total wars against Latin America, and the subsequent centuries of pillage and rape. Let’s just look at the 100 Years War against Sub America, the one which people who look and sound just like you have been, and are still, waging. Is there a common element or at least the outline of a recognizable pattern that begins to explain
and make sense of this sickening series of assaults? Do we just say that it’s imperialism and late-stage capitalism and let it go at that? Why the Bad Luck in Latin America? The perfect red herrings were the Reds themselves. The U.S. State Department must have been secretly excited when Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto came out in 1848, and downright thrilled when the Russian Revolution put Bolsheviks in power. The excuses of fighting against Bolshevism and Communism in the U.S.,in Latin America, and the rest of the world caused more death and misery than they prevented. Anti-communism and Red Scares are not quaint historical episodes. The worst of the massacres, death squad murders, sadistic tortures, cruel disappearances, and destroyed bodies of hundreds of thousands of innocent Latin Americans occurred because of Red Scares fanned to hysteria by a certain kind of person. It is important to know if there is any patterns in the psychological makeup of the anti-communist. There is and we’ll see what it is shortly What causes anti-communism? It cannot have been that sincerely-purposed people studied economics and political science and came to the conclusion that capitalism is a better system for this reason or that. There is nothing rational about the Red Scares and the virulent anti-communism which provoked such incredible mayhem, misery, and destruction. Side by side with anti-communism in the horrific, eminentlyforgettable history of the Twentieth Century was the rise of fascism, the Second World War, and the Cold War (which is nominally over, but in a bizarre, postmodern twist, we will shortly be able to say, indeed if we cannot say it already, was won, not by that rogue cowboy Ronald Reagan, but by the Communist Capitalists of China). After World War II, scholars and smart people wanted to know why the Twentieth Century’s horrors happened. Theodor Adorno and his colleagues in the Frankfurt School tried to figure it out. Their research produced studies about the authoritarian personality. Here was an answer— a psychological type that began to explain otherwise inexplicable behavior. The authoritarian personality scale and social science methodology was revised and improved and today, in the work of Robert Altemeyer, stands as solid, empirically-proven, and statistically-verified with the highest practical possible level of accuracy.
The short answer to the eternal Why? of the anguished people in Latin America wailing over their dead, murdered, and disappeared mothers, fathers and sons and daughters (because the Weathermen take no prisoners) is a three-letter acronym— RWA. This is Canadian Robert Altemeyer’s shorthand for Right Wing Authoritarian. Altemeyer improved the original F Scale of Theodor Adorno and others who were looking for a psychological explanation for the fascism that convulsed the world before and during World War II. The psychological type which explained the fascism was authoritarianism. Altemeyer’s impeccable social science technique rings in at an extraordinarily high 90% correlation accuracy. In other words, with his scale and questionnaires, this scientist is measuring something that is really there. RWAs have plagued the Latin American lands for half a millennium, whether in the form of armorclad conquistadores, softer-robed, but nonetheless ideologically armor-clad missionaries, colonial administrators, encomenderos, caudillos, generals and colonels, pirates, Yanqui invaders (whether cowboy entrepreneurs or corporate types) Marines, CIA spies, assassins and drug smugglers. Maybe not all of them were not clinically certifiable as RWAs, but how could you tell the difference. What is Right Wing Authoritarianism? Social scientists find Right Wing Authoritarianism to be an attitudinal and behavioral pattern set of group identity politics that correlates significantly with political conservatism, the perpetuation of hierarchy, and the advocacy and use of dominant power to force what they consider to be the right order of things. Importantly, Right Wing Authoritarianism is not a political ideology, but a psychological category set. RWA group attitudes and behaviors show a high degree of submission to local authorities. RWA attitudes and behaviors show a general aggressiveness which the group perceives to be allowed and even encouraged by their leaders and is directed against various persons or groups to whom they are hostile. Right Wing Authoritarians demonstrate a high conformity to the conservative social conventions they believe is the right order of society and human affairs. As always with them, their beliefs have a bulwark of a sanctioning authority, whether religious dogma, or a
dominant leader. RWA groups and individuals show virulent hostility toward out groups, whether immigrant, Hispanic, Blacks, gays, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, union members, and women. (At the writing of this essay, daily news reports in the U.S. about the campaigns of various Republican contenders for president show them scrambling over each other to promise voters how mean they would be to minorities and out groups if elected president.) Here is a list I have of RWA tendencies that has Altemeyer has identified (paraphrased and quoted from Paul Rosenberg) Hostility & Fear Toward Out Groups. RWAs are more likely to: Punish common criminals severely in role-playing situation Admit they get personal pleasure from punishing such people Yet go easy on authorities who commit crimes and on people who attack minorities Be prejudiced against many racial, ethnic, nationalistic, and linguistic minorities Be hostile toward homosexuals Support LGBT-bashing Be hostile toward feminists Volunteer to help the government persecute almost anyone Be mean-spirited toward those who have made mistakes and suffered Be fearful of what they perceive as a dangerous world Key ideas: broad and robust evidence of hostility toward designated out groups; contempt, inability and unwillingness to adopt other points of view; systematic and reflex misunderstanding of demonized others; Malevolent In Group Cohesion. RWAs are more likely to: Strongly believe in group cohesiveness and loyalty to like-minded RWAs Insist on traditional sex roles Use cherry-picked religious dogma to self-righteously erase guilt Be religious fundamentalists and the most prejudiced members of their church Accept unfair and illegal abuses of power by government authorities Trust leaders who are untrustworthy (Nixon, Reagan, Bush) Key ideas: ethnocentric tribalism, group cohesiveness and blind loyalty are core values; distorted religious views support their out group antagonisms; empathetic and charitable aspects of dogma are ignored; stereotyped sex roles keep people in their place; blind allegiance to leaders. Faulty reasoning. RWAs are more likely to: Ignore logic and make incorrect inferences from evidence Hold contradictory and incompatible ideas Think that many problems are the most serious problem Accept insufficient evidence to support their beliefs Trust people who tell them what they want to hear Use many double standards in their thinking and judgments Key ideas: RWAs have an elevated tendency to commit the Fundamental Attribution Errorâ€”i.e., over-explaining othersâ€™ actions in terms of personalities and under-explaining them in terms of situational factors. This is what lies behind their misunderstanding of others and themselves. They believe what an unscrupulous leader might say and ignore the contextual evidence that they are simply being pandered to. RWAs are consistently and remarkably blind to their own failings.
Profound Character Flaws. RWAs are more likely to: Be dogmatic Be zealots Be hypocrites Be bullies when they have power over others Help cause and inflame intergroup conflict Seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive in situations requiring cooperation Believe they have no personal failings Avoid learning about their personal failings Be highly self-righteous Use religious sophistry to justify their acts and to maintain self-righteousness Generally RWAs have interlocked tendencies of conformist group identification, a habit of demonization of others, and a tolerance, if not propensity, for violence. RWAâ€™s Political Tendencies. RWAs are more likely to: Weaken constitutional guarantees of liberty, such as the Bill of Rights Accept unfair and illegal abuses of power by government authorities Trust leaders who are untrustworthy Sometimes join left-wing movements, where their hostility distinguishes them But much more typically endorse right-wing political parties In the U.S., be Republican Party lawmakers who have a conservative economic philosophy believe in social dominance are ethnocentric are highly nationalistic oppose abortion support capital punishment oppose gun-control legislation say they value freedom but actually want to undermine the Bill of Rights do not value equality very highly and oppose measures to increase it
El Despertar en América
Una situación radical es una revelación colectiva. . . . En tales situaciones la gente se vuelve mucho más susceptible de llevar a cabo nuevas iniciativas, más dispuesta a cuestionar las antiguas creencias, más proclive a penetrar la farsa habitual. . . . La gente aprende más sobre la sociedad en una semana que en años de “estudios sociales” académicos o “toma de conciencia” izquierdista. . . .Todo parece posible—y muchas más cosas lo son realmente. La gente apenas puede creer lo que tenía que soportar en “los viejos días”. . . . El consumo pasivo se convierte en comunicación activa. Los desconocidos entablan animadas conversaciones en las esquinas. Los debates se suceden sin parar, nuevos recién llegados reemplazan constantemente a aquellos que marchan a otras actividades o tratan de conseguir unas horas de sueño, aunque están normalmente demasiado excitados para dormir mucho tiempo. Mientras unos sucumben a los demagogos, otros empiezan a hacer sus propias propuestas y toman sus propias iniciativas. Los espectadores se lanzan al torbellino y atraviesan cambios increíblemente rápidos. . . . Las situaciones radicales son los raros momentos en que el cambio cualitativo llega a ser realmente posible. Lejos de ser anormales, revelan en qué medida estamos casi siempre anormalmente reprimidos. En comparación con ellas la vida “normal” parece la de un sonámbulo. —Ken Knabb: El placer de la revolución
l movimiento de “ocupación” que ha atravesado el país en las últimas cuatro semanas es ya la ruptura radical más significativa en América desde los años 60. Y esto es solo el principio. Comenzó el 17 de septiembre, cuando unas 2.000 personas se juntaron en New York para “Ocupar Wall Street” en protesta contra la dominación cada vez más flagrante de una minúscula élite económica sobre el 99% restante. Los participantes emprendieron la acampada que aún sigue en curso de un parque cercano a Wall Street (rebautizado como Plaza de la Libertád en honor a la ocupación de la plaza de Tahrir en Egipto) y crearon una asamblea general que ha seguido reuniéndose todos los días. Aunque casi totalmente ignorada en un primer momento por los medios oficiales, esta acción empezó rápidamente a inspirar ocupaciones similares en cientos de ciudades de todo el país y en muchas otras del mundo. La élite dominante no sabe por dónde van los tiros y se ha puesto a la defensiva. Mientras, los expertos mediáticos, sin la menor idea de lo que hablan, tratan de desprestigiar el movimiento por no haber podido articular un programa o lista de demandas coherente. Por supuesto los participantes han expresado numerosas reivindicaciones, que bastarían para cualquiera que haya puesto alguna atención en lo que está pasando en el mundo, pero han evitado acertadamente limitarse a una simple demanda o a unas cuantas, porque cada vez resulta más claro que todos los aspectos del sistema son problemáticos y que todos los problemas están interrelacionados. En lugar de ello, reconociendo que la participación popular es en sí misma una parte esencial de cualquier solución real, la asamblea de New York se ha presentado con una propuesta desarmantemente simple aunque eminentemente subversiva, animando a la gente del mundo a “Ejercitar su derecho a la asamblea pacífica; ocupar el espacio público; abrir un proceso para tratar los problemas que enfrentamos y generar soluciones accesibles a todos. . . . ¡Unámonos y hagamos oír nuestra voz!” Casi tan poca idea como los expertos mediáticos tienen aquellos radicales doctrinarios que permanecen abatidos al margen prediciendo que el movimiento será cooptado y criticando que no haya asumido al instante las posturas más radicales. Estas personas deberían saber que la dinámica de los movimientos sociales es mucho más importante que sus aparentes posturas políticas. Las revoluciones surgen de procesos complejos de debate e interacción social que llegan a alcanzar una masa crítica y provocan una reacción en cadena—procesos como el que estamos viendo desarrollarse. El eslogan del “99%” puede no ser un “análisis de clase” muy preciso, pero constituye una aproximación muy cercana para empezar, un meme excelente para romper con un montón de jerga sociológica tradicional y plantear la cuestión de que la gran mayoría de la población está subordinada a un sistema que marcha por y para una minúsculo élite dominante, y enfoca correctamente a las instituciones económicas más que a las políticas, que son simplemente sus lacayos. Las incontables reivindicaciones no constituyen un programa coherente, pero tomadas como un todo suponen ya una transformación fundamental del sistema. La naturaleza de esta transformación se irá clarificando a medida que se desarrolle la lucha. Si el movimiento logra forzar al sistema a asumir algún tipo de reforma significativa del tipo New Deal tanto mejor, ya que temporalmente facilitará que podamos ir más allá. Si se manifiesta incapaz de implementar ninguna reforma significativa, ello obligará a la gente a buscar alternativas más radicales. En cuanto a la cooptación, habrá por supuesto muchos intentos de apoderarse o de manipular
el movimiento, pero no creo que lo tengan fácil. El movimiento de ocupación ha sido desde el principio resueltamente antijerárquico y participativo. Las decisiones de Asamblea general son escrupulosamente democráticas y la mayoría de las veces por consenso—un proceso que puede resultar pesado a veces, pero que tiene el mérito de hacer prácticamente imposible cualquier manipulación. De hecho, la verdadera amenaza es el camino contrario: el ejemplo de la democracia participativa finalmente amenaza a toda jerarquía y división social, incluyendo a la existente entre empleados y burocracias sindicales, y entre partidos y afiliados. Esta es la razón por la que muchos políticos y burócratas sindicalistas están tratando de subirse al carro. Ello es un reflejo de nuestra fuerza, no de nuestra debilidad. (La cooptación existe cuando consiguen que subamos a su carro). Por supuesto, las asambleas pueden estar de acuerdo en colaborar con algún grupo político para una manifestación determinada o con algún sindicato para una huelga, pero en su mayor parte tienen cuidado de que las distinciones permanezcan claras, y prácticamente todas se han distanciado rotundamente de los dos principales partidos políticos. Aunque el movimiento es ecléctico y abierto a cualquiera, se puede afirmar que el espíritu que subyace es profundamente antiautoritario, inspirándose no solo en movimientos populares recientes como los de Argentina, Túnez, Egipto, Grecia, España y otros países, sino también en teorías y tácticas de los anarquistas y de los situacionistas. Como señala el editor de Adbusters (uno de los grupos que ha contribuido a iniciar el movimiento): “No solo nos inspiramos en lo sucedido recientemente en la Primavera Árabe, somos estudiosos del movimiento situacionista, que originó lo que mucha gente piensa que fue la primera revolución global en 1968, cuando algunas revueltas en París inspiraron de pronto revueltas en todo el mundo. Universidades y ciudades explotaron inesperadamente. Esto lo logró un pequeño grupo de personas, los situacionistas, que eran como la columna filosófica del movimiento. Uno de los hombres clave fue Guy Debord, que escribió La Sociedad del Espectáculo. La idea es que basta un poderoso meme—una idea poderosa— aplicado en el momento adecuado para prender una revolución. Este es el contexto del que partimos.” La revuelta de mayo del 68 en Francia también fue en realidad un “movimiento de ocupación”—uno de sus rasgos distintivos fue la ocupación de la Sorbona y otros edificios públicos, que inspiró la ocupación de fábricas en todo el país por más de 10 millones de trabajadores. (Estamos muy lejos ahora de algo así, que solo podría ocurrir si los trabajadores americanos se liberasen de sus burocracias sindicales y tomasen la acción colectiva por su propia cuenta, como hicieron en Francia.) Dado que el movimiento se extiende a centenares de ciudades, es importante señalar que cada una de las nuevas ocupaciones y asambleas sigue siendo totalmente autónoma. Aunque inspiradas por la ocupación original de Wall Street, todas ellas han sido creadas por la gente en sus propias comunidades. Ninguna persona ni grupo externo tiene el más leve control sobre ninguna de estas asambleas. Como debe ser. Cuando las asambleas locales se enfrenten a una necesidad práctica de coordinación, se coordinarán; mientras tanto, la proliferación de grupos y acciones autónomas es más segura y fructífera que la “unidad” de arriba a abajo a la que están siempre apelando los burócratas. Más segura, porque contrarresta la represión: si la ocupación de una ciudad es aplastada (o cooptada), el movimiento seguirá vivo y activo en otras cien. Más fructífera, porque esta diversidad hará posible que la gente comparta y compare un abanico mayor de tácticas e ideas. Cada asamblea parte de sus propios procedimientos. Algunas operan mediante consenso estricto, otras por voto mayoritario, otras mediante combinaciones de ambos (p. e. una política de “consenso modificado” que requiera solo un acuerdo del 90%). Algunas permanecen estrictamente dentro de la ley, otras se involucran en diversas formas de desobediencia civil. Han formado varios tipos de comisiones o “grupos de trabajo” para tratar asuntos concretos, y diversos métodos para asegurar el mandato de los delegados y portavoces. Están tomando diversas decisiones sobre cómo tratar con los medios, con la policía y con los provocadores, y adoptando modos diversos de colaboración con otros grupos o causas. Son posibles muchos tipos de organización; lo esencial es que las cosas sigan siendo transparentes, democráticas y participativas, que toda tendencia hacia la jerarquía o la manipulación sea inmediatamente expuesta y rechazada. Otro rasgo nuevo de este movimiento es que, en contraste con movimientos radicales previos que tendían a concentrarse
en torno a un asunto concreto en un día específico y luego se dispersaban, las ocupaciones actuales se instalan en sus emplazamientos indefinidamente. Están allí para una carrera de fondo, con tiempo para echar raíces y experimentar con todo tipo de posibilidades nuevas. Hay que participar para entender lo que pasa realmente. No todos estarán allí para unirse toda la noche a las ocupaciones, pero prácticamente todos pueden tomar parte en las asambleas generales. En Occupy Together hay información sobre ocupaciones (efectivas o planificadas) en más de mil ciudades de los Estados Unidos, así como sobre varios cientos alrededor del mundo. Las ocupaciones están reuniendo a todo tipo de personas procedentes de todo tipo de situaciones. Esto puede suponer una experiencia nueva y quizás inquietante para muchos, pero es alucinante la rapidez con que caen las barreras cuando se trabaja en común por un proyecto motivador. El método del consenso puede parecer tedioso al principio, especialmente si una asamblea utiliza el sistema de “micro popular” (en el que la asamblea repite cada frase del orador para que todos puedan escucharla). Pero tiene la ventaja de animar a la gente a ir al grano, y después de cierto rato entras en el ritmo y empiezas a apreciar el hecho de estar todos juntos concentrados en cada frase y de que todos tengan la oportunidad de responder y de que se consideren sus asuntos con la misma respetuosa escucha. En este proceso ya habremos teniendo una muestra de un nuevo tipo de vida, una vida posible si no estuviésemos atascados en un sistema social tan absurdo y anacrónico. Suceden tantas cosas y tan deprisa que apenas sabemos cómo expresarlas. Sentimientos como: “¡No puedo creerlo! ¡Al fin está aquí! O al menos podría estar lo que hemos esperado tanto tiempo, el tipo de despertar humano que siempre hemos soñado, pero no sabíamos si sucedería realmente a lo largo de nuestra vida.” Ahora ha llegado y yo sé que no soy el único que llora de alegría. Una mujer que habló en la primera asamblea general de Ocupa Oakland dijo: “Vine aquí no solo para cambiar el mundo, sino para cambiarme a mí misma”. Creo que todos sabían allí lo que quería decir. Somos principiantes en este nuevo mundo feliz. Todos vamos a cometer muchos errores. Es de esperar y no pasa nada. Somos nuevos en esto. Pero en estas condiciones, aprendemos más rápido. En la misma asamblea alguien tenía una pancarta que decía: “Hay más razones para estar ilusionado que para estar asustado.” BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS 15 de octubre, 2011
2011 Versión española de The Awakening in America. Traducción de Luis Navarro revisada por Ken Knabb.
Forced Disappearances are Terrorism against Latin Americans A forced disappearance consists of a kidnapping, carried out by agents of the State or organized groups of private individuals who act with State support or tolerance, in which the victim “disappears.” Authorities neither accept responsibility for the deed, nor account for the whereabouts of the victim. Petitions of habeas corpus or “amparo”—-legal mechanisms designated to safeguard the liberty and integrity of citizens—-are ineffective, and the kidnappers remain anonymous. The objective of forced disappearance is not simply the victim’s capture and subsequent maltreatment, which often occurs in the absence of legal guarantees. Because of the anonymity of the captors, and subsequent impunity, it also creates a state of uncertainty and terror both in the family of the victim and in society as a whole. Uncertainty exists because people do not know what to do or where to turn. From the first moment, relatives have doubts about the victim’s actual fate and the benefits of searching for their loved one. Terror is caused by the unknown yet undoubtedly terrible fate of the victim, and the realization that anyone can be subjected to a forced disappearance and any motive may be used to justify the disappearance. A forced disappearance violates a series of fundamental human rights, including: the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law, the right to legal defense, and the right not to be subjected to torture. In addition, forced disappearance constitutes a grave threat to the right to life. Forced disappearance paralyzes opposition activities by individuals as well as by society. The victim of forced disappearance is neither a simple political prisoner nor—as the abductors would like him/her to be considered—a dead person, although many times their corpses are later found.
Text from FEDEFAM http://www.desaparecidos.org/fedefam/eng.html
Troubling Patterns Altemeyer’s analysis of RWAs finds that they are ready to panic because they “see the world as a more dangerous place than most others do, with civilization on the verge of collapse and the world of Mad Max looming just beyond.” Their fear explains much of their negative characteristics. If they hold fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs, as most seem to, they seem to both fear and welcome the “Coming of Days.” This fits with their pattern of contradictory beliefs and aggression. They have the same attitude that G.W. Bush did in his flight suit with bulging genital codpiece, “Bring it on,” sneered Bush like a drunk in a bar. Fundamentalist RWAs sound like they favor Israel and the U.S. going to war with Iran to hasten Armageddon and the rapture (which one wag commented on saying it would be quite a sight to see 144,000 naked white asses floating up skyward). Just to make sure there is hell on earth for those left behind, RWAs are happy to disbelieve science and work diligently for the destruction of the earth through anti-ecological beliefs and practices. They are passionate about their beliefs in bogus “Creation Science,” they criticize the science of global warming, they are happy to ignore endangered species and eco-catastrophes of all kinds. In case you are wondering about the left, do not worry, the left is not authoritarian. There is no such thing as LWA—Left Wing Authoritarianism. The left does not participate in a prime tendency and tactic of conservative identity politics—creating and living by a good “us” vs a demonized “them” state of affairs. It is possible to have right wing authoritarianism even in a country nominally leftist, such as the former USSR. Yet authoritarian behavior in a Communist state is not Left Wing Authoritarianism. This is because there is essentially no Left Wing Authoritarian psychological type. “LWA” is a null category since the characteristics of authoritarianism define the right. If you wonder how to explain Stalin, it’s easy. Stalin was an RWA. Bad and then Worse News, but with a Reprieve Even though this kind of behavior from people is not news, to see that it is so regular and predictable can only mean even one more depressing thing when you wonder where these kinds of attitudes and behaviors come from—it’s genetic! RWAs attract one another,
breed, and make more little RWAs! Yes, it’s true. There is a genetic heritability factor in behavior and attitudes of political ideology. Research is showing that gene–culture interaction is the dynamic which explains the human condition. Genes, culture, and the full environment all operate in complex ways since human behavior is manifestly not simple. A single gene does not explain the messiness of an individual’s palimpsest of attitudes and behaviors. Scientists have discovered that even a set of inherited gene sequences and combinations may not even explain Right Wing Authoritarianism. Apparently it’s the way the genes are configured on the strands of DNA that make a difference. Such bad luck for humans that random mutations have produced a type of human behavioral phenotype of such otherness (I’m fishing for a word) that other, non-authoritarian humans wonder what is wrong with them. Alford, Funk and Hibbing in a paper from 2008 show that although it is undeniable that people can act contrary to genetic predispositions, “social and political attitudes among people with greater and lesser shared genotypes suggest that behaviors are often shaped by forces of which the actors themselves are not consciously aware....” They add: It is not biological determinism to posit the existence of complex collections of genes that increase the probability that certain people will display heightened or deadened response patterns to given environmental cues. And it is not antibehavioralism to suggest that true explanations of the source of political attitudes and behaviors will be found when we combine our currently detailed understanding of environmental forces with a recognition that genetic variables subtly but importantly condition human responses to environmental stimuli. The implications of these findings are highly significant since they directly challenge the commonplace belief that political attitudes and behavioral tendencies are part of the nature side of the “nature/nurture” dyad, and are therefore engendered by family and social environment factors. Other researchers have found that the genetic component of behavior emerges into the personality and behavior set more quickly than something learned from the familial environment and is therefore more entrenched, more resistant to change, and more likely to lead to an attraction toward others with similar attitudes.
Sometimes there are genetic mismatches and mutations and kids do not turn out to be ideological carbon copies of their parents. These would be the ideologically rebellious kids: the hippies born to straight-laced evangelical Protestants and the baby Republican stockbroker-types born to pot-smoking countercultural parents. These genetic errors are only occasional, however. In terms of social evolution, RWAs have evolved spiteful behavior, which is self destructive both for the actor and the recipient. Whereas other humans have evolved toward mutually beneficial behavior that helps all parties, or altruistic behavior which helps the recipient directly, but maybe not the actor, and even the libertarian-like selfish behavior which hurts the receiver, but at least helps the actor, RWAs are fine with spite: screw it all, throw it all off the cliff, then jump off right behind it. So the saving grace is that economic game theory shows that spiteful behavior wipes itself out. Spiteful Right Wing Authoritarianism is in line for the Darwin Award for its poor survival prospects. We have had RWAs with us for a long time, as demonstrated in the sorry history of our species. So how long do we have to wait for natural selection to run its course? Around the world, the tally of oppressive regimes and regimes which are nominally democratic yet who nonetheless reveal their essentially authoritarian nature hiding just millimeters below the surface, is sobering. There are no lack of RWAs in the contemporary United States. Until the Occupy Wall St. movement began in September 2011, there seemed to be more and more RWAs, especially with the apparent rise and spread of “Tea Party” groups. The growing Occupy Wall St. crowds which are spreading as this writing in October 2011 is showing that the RWA in the U.S. are counterbalanced by an exuberant and resurgent left. RWA is likewise counteracted by democratic, anti-authoritarian uprisings in various Arab countries in 2011, by anti-capitalist demonstrations and riots all over the world in response to various national economic crises all tied to the general crisis of capitalism. The problem is that the behaviors and attitudes of the RWAs would be quite content with the elimination of other human behavior phenotypes. They have tried it over and over in history. It was their excesses in World War II which caused the scientific research that began to expose them in their troglodytic hiding
places. Would they do it again? In fact, they have never stopped. In Latin America the RWAs have a shameful record in the direct murder of millions. A scientist might say, “Simple reconfigurations of peptide sequences in DNA coils can influence brain development in RWAs such that the empathy and ambiguity-tolerance aspects of their neurophysiology have been de-activated and their cruelty and aggressiveness centers are in overdrive.” The grieving mothers of Latin America who refuse to let the world forget what happened to their husbands and sons only know the cruelty and heartlessness of what RWA did to their families. The problem now is that the adaptive value of the RWA genotype has given them a strategic advantage: they project their hostility and act out their aggression on out groups. Peaceful co-existence of the two human types seems less and less possible. Alford, Funk and Hibbing note, “As loathe as contextualists [nonabsolutists] and absolutists are to admit it, the presence of the other orientation may make a society stronger.” But this seems to be a rather weak functionalist explanation that has run out of rope in light of the common threat to all humans, no matter what their psychological orientation, and for all non-human species too for that matter. The perfect storm of unbridled capitalism and Right Wing Authoritarianism has brought the entire planet to the brink of eco-catastrophe. RWAs seem content and even driven to give the Darwin Award for Unfitness to the entire biosphere.
Eleven Proofs of Lack of Merit and of Bad Service by the Major Perpetrators 0f a Series of Monumental Horrors Committed Against People of the Indies By Stephen Duplantier Dedicated to Ernesto Cardenal, Eduardo Galeano, & Gustavo Gutiérrez In the vast Spanish colonial apparatus recorded meticulously in the Archivo General de Indias de Sevilla, are many Probanzas de Méritos y Servicios (Proofs of merit and service). These are the personal documentary records of the conquistadores sent back to Spain in order to stake a claim for payment or valuable grant of land or title from the Spanish crown. The probanzas are generally brief autobiographical sketches, likely exaggerated but important in revealing personal reactions and the way people thought in those days. I have used this literary form to create counter-Probanzas for some of the major characters who figure in the 500 years of outrages against the people of Latin America. —SD
God I (or should I say We), God, creator of everything, and yet, weirdly, also re-created by humans in their own image in their still somewhat immature brains, submit these proofs of our lack of merit. Itâ€™s not all our fault. We were created first by humans in the image of a psychotic and jealous warlord, and then, in a major image remake by the Theological P.R. Department, we were remade into a God of Love. (No wonder people are confused.) We ask forgiveness for those who acted in our name. They planted flags and crosses on sandy beaches, And told uncomprehending natives that We were the reason why they had to be conquered or killed, as the case may be, Yet it was for their own good, they were told. These were lies. We never authorized genocide. We never told the Conquerors to spread the word of our deeds by the sword and the gun. It just doesnâ€™t make sense. Since humans are made in our image, And since We co-evolved with humans, We must be partially to blame. We accept the responsibility. We screwed up.
God forgive us!
Pope Innocent III I, Pope Innocent III, successor to St. Peter the Apostle, the First Pope, Vicar of Christ on Earth, one in a long line of men, some of illustrious character, and others with the morals and manners of common thieves, whores, and pimps, hereby declaim to all who will listen our profound sorrow for the bad decisions I made in dividing up the world and its undiscovered lands and seas on the other side of the planet. Did I own them? Certainly not. Yet I pretended I did. We tolerated genocide in the name of spreading faith, and I was encouraged by obsequious theologians and fawning prelates. Our arrogance was boundless. We all knew we were lying bastards, but we did it anyway. Although I donâ€™t deserve it, I ask forgiveness.
Queen Isabella I, Queen Isabella, the High and the Mighty, Sovereign of the great empire of the united Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, with a divine right given to me directly by God, So exalted am I that when I pass my royal gas, it is as if God is speaking directly, do, nonetheless, admit that I have erred. I longed to fill my purse and the royal treasury with all that shiny gold and silver of the Indies. That stolen booty did seduce me, I do say so now. Yes, we plundered the kingdoms and cities of that strange world, and we killed, maimed, and tortured millions of those brown skinned people with straight black hair, and confused looks on their faces. I guess you will say that all the baptisms don’t make up for it? I suppose you are right. We needed their metal to pay our debts—empires don’t come cheaply, you know! It was my job the run the empire and I did my best. My advisors told me I was doing a good job. I am sorry that I didn’t get it all right.
Christopher Columbus I, Colón, Admiral of the Ocean, Misunderstood Genius, Creative Visionary, Wizard of Geography, and, I have to admit, one Lucky Son of a Bitch for finding anything at all in that big scary ocean, even as I proclaim my own greatness, and deserving as I am of riches, honor, glory, and statues of my noble visage all over the place, do hereby admit that, maybe, just maybe, I made some small errors in judgment. I should not have wiped out the Tainos of the Caribbean. They just didn’t listen carefully enough to me, so it’s their fault too. I wanted their gold, and I got carried away a bit. They never knew what hit them. We now know that we gave the natives some bad diseases, but this is hindsight. Our men had tuberculosis, syphilis, and other diseases I can’t even pronounce. Who knew about germs? Not me, I am a sailor. You can call me a pompous, genocidal, narcissist who thought he, of all humans, stumbled upon Paradise, and then screwed it up badly. But it was hard work, and I had not practiced much. How many new worlds have you discovered?
Committee of the Conquerors, Men of Substance, Men of Property, Gentlemen and all around Macho Pricks of the Indies We, the caballeros of Sevilla, Granada, Jaen, Almería, Córdoba, Huelva, Málaga and Cádiz; from the Pueblos Blancos, and other towns and villages of Al-Andaluz and the Extremadura ––the men of Spain–– we greet you and wish you well. We went to the Indies for adventure, and for love of God, Don’t forget our sweaty labors that help the clergy convert the heathen Indians. Yes, there was always talk of riches. We stayed up late talking about the gold and silver. We dreamed about the land where we could live and finally relax while our slaves worked the fields and carried us baskets of food and gold. It was a good marketing plan, whoever sold it to us. Can you blame us for being willing to convert the Indians at the points of our fine blades from Toledo? God willed it (or so we were told); The Queen expected it, (or so we were told); The Pope decreed it, (or so we were told); The Bishops demanded it (they made it clear); What else could we do? We were men. We needed women. We worked hard at making a new race of people. We didn’t know about genetics, but we willingly gave half of our daring Spanish genes to mix with those of the short, brown, women ––our wives, and lovers–– the mothers of our children. We loved them, but we confess our misdeeds of murder, rape, torture and ethnocide, and we cry ceaselessly. We proudly look at the millions of mestizos of the Indies and we see ourselves everywhere, yet the pain is great.
William Walker (the Filibuster Man) I, William Walker, did not know Keith and Zemurray, but I got put in this group with them anyway. I had nothing to do with bananas or railroads, although now, I am sorry to say, and with this Probanza do admit my mistakes in invading Central America, in attacking people and overthrowing governments, in trying to enslave the population, in declaring myself the Emperor of my private empire of the former independent republics of Central America and in trying then to join the confederacy of slave states in North America. As I see it now and think about it, it was a bit over-ambitious, stupid, and really, I have to admit the delusions of an insane megalomaniac. In my defense I would like to point out that it was not that much different than the grand imperial schemes of church and state of the Spaniards. Nation-states can get away with it; Individuals like me who dream big are just nut-cases! Itâ€™s not fair. But I am sorry.
Minor Keith (the Railroad Man) I, Minor Keith, the little guy who built the big railroad of Central America, entrepreneur extraordinaire, father of the banana business, collector of those pretty gold baubles that my big, muscular, sweating Jamaican workers found while leveling the dripping forests to lay the iron rails that tamed the wilderness— I do here confess my misdeeds. I am sorry that my grand vision of personal glory and unlimited wealth, power, and honor caused the death of those 5,000 men. Their backs were breaking with toil and they dropped like dead flies in the fierce heat and pestilence just to help me boost my inferiority complex. I was born short, and unbelievably, my mother gave me the name “Minor.” Why didn’t she just call me “Pee-Wee,” or “Short-Stuff!” OK, so it pissed me off and I took it out on Central America. But everybody likes bananas, and I made that possible, so I am not a total failure. I married the daughter of the President of the Republic of Costa Rica (good career move). That way, no one blinked as I loaded up those empty railroad cars with the archaeological wealth of those Indian burials, especially those cute, little gold amulets and earrings my men found. I sent them to New York. (If I admit that I made some mistakes, can I keep the gold?)
Samuel Zemurray (the Banana Man) I, Samuel Zemurray (born Schmuel Zmurri, but who could pronounce it?) was born to be the God of Bananas. I understood bananas better than anyone else. I understood what it took to be a successful, rich banana entrepreneur, and I did it: I invented the Banana Republic. I figured out how to bribe the politicians, and pay off the bureaucrats. It was me who put “Overthrow government and depose the democratically-elected president into exile” into my business plans. I was the innovator of the business strategy of hiring mercenaries with machine guns to secretly board ships to invade Central American countries and terrorize the people and shoot them if they resisted. After all, business is business. If it was good enough for the United Fruit Company, I did it. That’s what being the God of Bananas (and a damn good businessman) requires. So maybe I was an arrogant immigrant with something to prove. But I was progressive. I gave (some) of my money to liberal causes. That’s what philanthropists do (after their misanthropic phases). I, too, robbed the country of archaeological treasures, and ripped off the workers, and corrupted governments (especially Honduras, and they are still really screwed up. It’s my fault.) But at least I wasn’t as bad as William Walker.
Anastasio Somoza Garcia
Chairman of the Committee of United Dictators, Strongmen, Caudillos, and Macho Sons of Bitches of Central America I, Anastasio Somoza, am currently the chairman of the above-named committee. My job is not easy (you should try presiding over a meeting of these arrogant assholes sometime!) It pains me to be part of a group such a this, composed as it is of sadistic murderers, lying thieves, genocidal maniacs, and absolutist, anti-democratic psychopaths, yet I am one of them. As a group, we apologize for any inconveniences we may have caused our fellow countrymen as we protected them from the evils of socialism. Yes, we were criminals. We stole land and robbed our treasuries to send money to our secret bank accounts in Miami and Zurich. We murdered millions without mercy, especially those easy-to-kill Indians. If we didnâ€™t kill them, we tortured them. We were good at it because we were proud graduates of the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning in Georgia.
Our victims were the sincere people of our countries who believed in justice, equality, and democracy. We killed them all. We targeted the journalists, professors and teachers, intellectuals, artists, writers, smart people, priests and nuns, and poets, especially those damn poets who think they are so smart. We didn’t give a shit. The CIA had our back. And we did it all for personal gain and power. All that pompous talk about the dangers of “Communism” was just an excuse we latched on to. We could not let our elite friends down, could we? How could we ever face them again in the country clubs and drink brandy and smoke cigars with them if we let them down and allowed the masses to run their countries? But mistakes were made. We should not have been the agents of repression and misery for the 95% of our people who were poor, who worked so hard and made no money. We should not have taken their land and stolen what little they had. We should not have “disappeared” (I love that word) all those millions of smart people, dropping them into the ocean with their hands and feet tied, burying their mutilated corpses with the bulldozers we got from the Alianza para el Progreso money. We’re sorry, and we won’t do it again (we hope.)
General Efraín Rios-Montt, President of Guatemala and architect of Mayan genocide
General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC,
representing The Armed Forces of the United States of America. There is no way in a short poem to confess all the evil we have done to the people of the Indies. Hell, it would take a book just to make a list of all the invasions of the Americas. Look, I’m just a straight-talking Marine. The best thing I could do is to say we’re sorry and to reprint a speech I made in 1933. I think this says it all:
War Is A Racket War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns six percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100
Capitalists, Corporations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. We, the Captains of Capitalism, the ruling triumphant ideology, who owe our existence to the far-sighted Spaniards, who robbed the Americas of its wealth and sent it to Europe, where it fueled the rise of modernism, imperialism, capitalism, and nationalism, and created nation-states, and industry, and enterprise, and paid armies to defend it all, we salute these 500 amazing years. Yes, there were unfortunate setbacks. It is not pleasant to reflect on the millions of corpses. Progress has a high price. For that pain, we are sorry. But look at the gains: we now can offer you E-Z terms on your development loans. We’ll lend you your own money back, for a percentage of course. You buy what you need from our store, and you can be like us—happy, and rich with material things. There is no tomorrow. God created the bounty of the earth for us, so we could make money. We will never run out of oil The environment is not in danger. Global warming is a myth. Desertification is a natural process. Are you thirsty? Don’t worry, we own the aquifers of the world, and we sell bottled water. Pollution is the price you pay for our profits. So what if a few birds and animals and insects have to die. Extinction is normal. Capitalism is forever. Underdevelopment is the price you pay for development. Don’t blame us, it’s the law of the universe.
22 Years after the Notorious El Salvador Massacre In 1989, six Jesuit priests,
their housekeeper and her daughter, were brutally murdered in El Salvador. Two decades later, the extent of U.S. complicity remains largely unspoken. by Norman Stockwell
989 1 , 6 1 r e b On Novem 16, 1989 an elite unit of the Salvadoran military entered the gates of the Jesuit-run OnNovember Central American University in San Salvador. When they left, six priests lay dead, along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. I reported on the murders that year, for the local Wisconsin community radio station, WORT. The killings took place at a time when the capital city was in the midst of the largest offensive to date in El Salvador’s decade-old civil war—and the U.S. government was “supplying over $550 million dollars per year in aid to the Salvadoran government—about one quarter of it directly to the Salvadoran military.” The city was totally militarized, with an army base not far from the Jesuit university campus itself, but in spite of this, attempts were being made to blame the killings on the FMLN rebels—a sign was even planted near the bodies claiming that the priests were executed by the guerrillas as spies. During the war years, many Church leaders who were proponents of Liberation Theology were targeted by the right-wing forces for taking a stand on the side of the poor. Most famous of these was Archbishop Oscar Romero, killed March 24, 1980 while celebrating mass in San Salvador. Members of the Jesuit order in particular were considered by the military and the ruling party to be the intellectual leaders of the guerrilla movement—which was, in fact, an army of Salvadoran peasants. Of the 26 soldiers cited in a 1993 United Nations report as having participated in these massacres, 19 were graduates of the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Since its founding, the SOA has trained more than 60,000 soldiers and police officers from a variety of Latin American countries, many of whom were later accused of torture and other human rights violations. Activists, and several members of Congress, have worked to try and defund the school, seen by many as a relic of the Cold War, but the doors remain open at an annual cost of about $7.5 million taxpayer dollars. Since 1990, protests at the SOA have taken place every year at the time of the anniversary of the
murder of the six Jesuit priests and the women who supported them. Their deaths are symbolic of the more than 75,000 Salvadorans killed during the war between 1980 and 1992. This past weekend, I stood in the rose garden of the same university campus where the Jesuits were killed. The roses, originally six red and two yellow, were planted to commemorate the murders— killings that led Maryknoll priest Father Roy Bourgeois to found the peace group School of the Americas Watch (www.soaw.org). This coming weekend, on November 22nd, more than ten thousand people are expected to march in protest outside the gates of WHINSEC, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, as the SOA has been renamed, to mark the 20th anniversary of the murders. The killings in San Salvador may ring familiar to Americans who recall that era, but documents that were released a few years later revealed a level of complicity within the U.S. that has been largely ignored in the press. When the murders of the Jesuit priests were falsely blamed on FMLN rebels, the U.S. Embassy helped perpetuate the lie through numerous “off-therecord” assertions. Here in the United States, Reed Irvine, founder of the right wing media watch group called “Accuracy in Media,” was trumpeting the message that “these guerrillas like killing priests.” In an appearance that November in Madison, WI, Irvine cited the report of two
investigators that had viewed the bodies—Dr. Robert Kirschner and forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow, both well known for their investigative work on remains from massacres. Irvine claimed that Kirschner and Snow believed the bodies had been shot, but not mutilated. I immediately contacted both men and interviewed them. It turned out that by the time they had been allowed to view the bodies, they were already scrubbed and placed in a morgue. An American Jesuit priest, Father Joe Mulligan, whom I had met a few years earlier while working in Nicaragua, had been in San Salvador for the funeral of the victims of the massacre. It was a roll of 35mm film that he brought back to the U.S. hidden in his suitcase that provided these investigators a more accurate picture of that morning. I obtained a copy of the film and made 8x10 color prints, and, with a colleague, went to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Madison, where we had an expert in military wounds help us analyze each photo. The pictures were incredibly graphic (the same images later shocked readers of the Catholic Herald newspaper as national outrage over the murders grew here in the U.S.). They showed the bodies in situ and clearly illustrated the events of that morning. The priests had been shot, some still in their bedrooms or studies, and dragged to the courtyard outside, where their brains were systematically blown out. The wounds to the
housekeeper and her daughter were more brutal and of a sexual nature. I sent copies of the photos and the military surgeon’s analysis to Drs. Kirschner and Snow, then called them back for a follow-up interview. Indeed, they agreed, this was certainly more than they had been able to seen in their initial visit. “I agree with you,” Dr. Snow told me, “shooting out a priest’s brains…is a form of mutilation.” It was this fuller view of the context of the murders that made it into the final independent investigative report produced by Drs. Snow and Kirschner for the AAAS —American Association for the Advancement of Science. Another thread in the saga of the killings was the story of another witness, a neighbor named Lucia Barrera de Cerna, who had seen men in military uniforms in the courtyard during the killing of the priests. She and her husband were taken, ostensibly for protection, to the Miami office of the FBI where they were interrogated with such intensity that she eventually recanted her original testimony out of fear. Present throughout the four days of interrogation was the political officer from the U.S. Embassy, Richard Chidester. Lucia and her husband were later taken under the care of Father Paul Tipton, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, who wrote about their ordeal in an op-ed in the New York Times. I interviewed Tipton during this period, later contacting the FBI field office in
Miami that had conducted the interrogation. The agent there told me little, except for the fact that the FBI was, and had been, operating in El Salvador. But any questions about the case led only to a referral to the State Department. When I called them, I only received a curt “no comment.” A trial was held in 1991, but even those members of the military who were convicted, on strong evidence, were given amnesty in 1993 (pushed through by Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani following the signing of the 1992 peace accords). It seemed like justice
would never be done in this case, like so many others of that period. But on November 13, 2008, nineteen years after the killings, the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the Spanish Association for Human Rights filed a criminal suit in Spain against former Cristiani, charging him with covering up crimes against humanity, and 14 former members of the army in connection with the murder of the six Jesuits (most of whom had been born in Spain). Salvadoran President Antonio “Tony” Saca, a member of the same ARENA party
Day of the Dead. The work of the ARENA party’s Death Squads. El Salvador
as Cristiani, told reporters in November 2008 that “reopening wounds of the past is not the best formula for reconciliation.” Similar words came from Salvador’s Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle who said, “Opening this case in another country’s courts won’t help the process of domestic reconciliation,” He went on to emphasize that the case had no place in the Spanish court, stating “El Salvador’s affairs should be resolved in El Salvador.” But in May of 2009, the Spanish court began the trial, although choosing not to include the U.S. organization, nor the charges against former President Cristiani at this time. Times have changed a great deal in El Salvador. In March 2009, a candidate of the FMLN party was elected overwhelmingly to the presidency. Mauricio Funes took office in June, and has begun the slow and fitful process of instituting reforms. One of these has been to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of the Jesuits with a “public act of atonement” for mistakes by past governments. Meanwhile in the U.S., two years ago Congress passed a
joint resolution, authored by Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass) honoring the Jesuits and their work in El Salvador. (McGovern himself received an honorary doctorate in Human Rights from the UCA this past weekend, honoring, in part, his work to keep this case in the memory of the people of the United States.) I remember standing in that courtyard at the UCA in San Salvador ten years ago, having just returned from a visit to a community radio station in the town of Victoria near the Honduran border. I looked down and I could see vividly where each body had been that November morning. But I could also see images of everyday Salvadorans rebuilding their country after a brutal civil war; opening new spaces and creating a new, more just, society. A new El Salvador, at peace, requires addressing the crimes of the past, and building forward into the future. Norman Stockwell is a freelance journalist and operations coordinator at WORT-FM community radio in Madison, Wisconsin
El Mozote After 20 Years: El Salvador, US Interventions, and the Illusion of Communism By Raymond Raza
I. History and Background Last summer I spent a few months teaching English at an NGO in San Salvador. I visited Perquin, a town near El Mozote, where I listened to a guide tell a group of us about the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s and the social conditions and events that led up to it. And now I will be your guide on a brief tour of the troubled and bloody history of El Salvador. Some words of warning: El Salvador’s story is painful, but it is important to know what went on there. So please brace yourselves and come with me on this journey through recent times. My students had given me the gift of a pictorial book called Historia de El Salvador by Equipo Maíz—a team of scholars. It was in simple Spanish and illustrated with humorous drawings and cartoons, but well researched. Many of these were parodies on the ruling powers and presidents as well as those that showed the injustices and exploitation suffered by the indigenous people at the hands of various rulers, including the conquistadores, politicians, and even religious orders such as the Franciscans. This source was of great help in outlining El Salvador’s history and the background of the civil war of the 1980s and the El Mozote massacre. An understanding of the history and background, although complicated because of the many forces and players involved, is necessary for an understanding of the nature of the massacre and any historical lessons that it provides. The coming of the Spanish to the New World resulted in a destruction of significant numbers of the population. It is estimated that between 1502 and 1600, 90% of the indigenous population died from diseases such as smallpox, wars of conquest, slavery, and labor exploitation. Since the Spanish did not find gold, the land became the basis of wealth and any beginning industry. There were four types of land: private property (fincas run by Spanish families,) communal land given to the
people to grow crops such as corn, cooperative land owned by a municipality and rented out, and public land owned by the king of Spain. One of the principal means of Spanish exploitation was the encomienda—the mission or land grant. Since slavery among the indigenous was forbidden by law, the only way to obtain slaves was through those captured in war. After the conquest of a territory, the captured slaves and their wives were divided among the victors and their encomiendas. Other methods of exploitation were forcing the indigenous to buy products from the Spanish at high prices, division of labor such as forcing the women to spin cotton while paying them very low prices and while the men were to attend Mass, or forcing the men to work in public works if a particular encomienda fell into disuse. In 1539, the Spanish, with their superior weapons and horses, subjugated the Pipil people of the region now known as El Salvador, destroyed their temples, violated their women, and forced the men into hard labor. These unfortunate indigenous people would be subjected to another great injustice in the infamous massacre of 1932 which would virtually wipe out their heritage, dress, and way of life. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. From the time of the conquest the people were divided into three groups. The dominant class were the Peninsulares or those who came from Spain, and the Criollos, the children of the Spanish born in El Salvador. Next were the Mestizo, the children of Spanish and indigenous. They might be also called Ladinos. They were not allowed administrative jobs nor allowed the right to private property. The dominated or lowest class were the indigenous and Negroes, although in El Salvador there was not a great Negro population. After the military conquest, the Church became the principal instrument of dominating the indigenous population. The virtues of humility, obedience and resignation became the means of exploitation as the indigenous were taught to accept their lot as “the will of God” and for the hope of a better life after death. This situation generated conflict and in 1767 the King of Spain ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits and measures to reduce the power of the Church. Independence came to El Salvador in 1821,
following the liberation movements in Europe and the United States and the protests against repression by the Spanish, similar to the protests by England’s North American colonies. At this time most of the land in El Salvador was in the hands of five large hacienda owners. El Salvador became a province in the Federal Republic of Central America. Only men had rights of citizenship established by the Constitution and had to fill certain requirements. After Independence the first real reforms were instituted by Francisco Morazan. These “reforms” included the expulsion of religious orders, taking away the rights of the Church and confiscating its property, establishing religious freedom, and passing the law of divorce. But these changes favored the dominant classes. The poor were expelled from the land, many had to pay new taxes. There were wars and widespread misery everywhere. Anastasio Aquino, king of the Nonualcos,
led a rebellion (1833) against abuse of power and corruption, but it was repressed by the government. Aquino was killed by a firing squad and decapitated. This repression would have repercussions in the future of El Salvador. La matanza (the slaughter of the peasant uprising of 1932) and all the liberation movements from the 1930s to 1980s would originate from the injustices committed by the Spanish, by Spanish Criollos, and by other foreign power interventions. In the latter part of the 19th century the nature of land ownership changed. Communal lands were abolished and private fincas were established for the growth of the coffee industry. The law established that those who were cultivating these lands were to be the owners. Many indigenous and mestizos had been cultivating land. Some were able to claim these lands but many claims were not honored and their lands were lost. The many who did not have land had to work on the coffee fincas as tenant farmers to survive. Slowly a coffee oligarchy developed as land ownership passed to a few families who became rich through the sale of coffee. Government repression prevented the organizing of tenant farmers and indigenous people in the early 20th century, one example being the repressed violently. The first union of workers was formed in 1924—the Regional Federation of Salvadoran Workers which included women and advocated strikes, protests, and laws for the benefit of working people. The Massacre-La Matanza
The Object of the General’s Wrath: A Pipil Indian of Morazan, the wretched of the earth
The defining event in Salvadoran history occurred in 1932. Poor working Indians who only wanted a little farm land and fairness from their government rose up against the official government injustices. On that infamous day in January, the heartless dictator General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez cut down between 10,000 to 40,000 of his fellow countrymen—farmers, workers, indigenous and political leaders who were protesting low wages, unfair distribution of land and hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few elite Salvadoran families. This was the worst massacre in a Latin America that was not a stranger to such horrors. The psychopathic dictator Maximiliano Hernández justified the slaughter by telling the favorite story of murderous right wing regimes in Latin America by linking indigenous people
with Communists. Records of the massacre were destroyed, and the General attempted to make the event itself disappear. The massacre was not only mass murder and a crime against humanity, it was also genocide since the victims were mostly indigenous people. After this massacre, the Indian community was greatly reduced in the country, many of them changed their habits for fear of being killed and many customs gradually waned
dictator’s clients on the right finally got fed up with Hernández Martínez who, no surprise, was sympathetic to Hitler and the fascists of wartime Europe. A military insurrection of 1944 finally deposed this monster. The 1950s brought industrialization and with it social programs more attempts at protective unionization, which were largely suppressed. The decade of the 1960s brought economic growth, a common market for Central America and tax incentives for business. But these
into oblivion, I learned from my guide. One of the principal leaders of the insurrection was Farabundo Martí (the FMLN party is named after him) who was killed by a firing squad. He had helped to establish the “Socorro Rojo Internacional” and the FRTS-“Federacíon Regional de Trabajadores de El Salvador”the workers’ union. To be fair to Hernández Martínez, although it pales in comparison to his crimes, he was instrumental in a number of economic developments including the creation of the Central Reserve Bank and the law of rural credit. Unfortunately, he was not concerned about education nor that people learned to read and write. The Catholic Church openly supported the dictator believing it was beneficial to have avoided the triumph of communism. Even the
changes again favored the rich and discriminated against the poor. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, the U.S. tried to contest popular discontent and prevent other Latin American counties from following the example of Cuba with programs such as the Alliance for Progress—Alianza para el Progreso. But these programs did little to change the balance of inequality. More repression returned in the 1960s, based as always on Red-baiting and anti-communist rhetoric. The Organización Democratica Nacionalista sowed terror among the people, spying on suspected opposition members under the guise of the supposed Communist threat, and opposing fraud, whether real or not. Despite
General Maximiliano Hernรกndez
the oppression the people fought for their rights. Progressive thinking was beginning to have an effect on the workers of El Salvador. Catholic worker groups and resurgent unions saw a few hours of sunlight. Decades of repression and violence spawned the beginning of guerrilla activity and the growth of diverse guerrilla organizations and parties in the 1970s. These parties were all left-leaning and had ideological differences, but were a sign of increasing popular organizing in the cities and rural areas. Businessoriented politicians created duty-free zones (zonas francas) to relieve the economic crisis after a border war with Honduras. At this time the world was in economic crisis as well and the multinational corporations were looking for cheap labor to boost their profits. The duty-free zones eased the entry of these multi-nationals into El Salvador since they did not want to pay taxes. At the same time these tax-evading multinationals increased the exploitation of the individual worker who
By 1977, the elites elected General Carlos Romero, a rightist president in reaction to the social unrest growing to a high level. In an omen of things to come, the army, in the early morning of February 28, fired upon people gathered in the Plaza Libertád in San Salvador, celebrating the election victory. General Romero promised good things for all but in reality this consisted of the creation of the “Ley para la defensa y garantia del orden pblico”—a law which gave freedom to security forces and the army to commit all kinds of abuses against the people, an increase in repression, assassinations, kidnappings, tortures, and disappearances, and strengthened the power of the death squads. But this only increased the popular protest movements consisting mainly of farmers and factory workers in their struggle for justice. At this time Monsignor Oscar Romero was named archbishop of San Salvador. Originally a conservative, Archbishop Romero slowly
The Killing Fields of El Mozote
was receiving starvation wages. Furthermore, the government prohibited the creation of unions in the duty-free zones. Attempts at reforming the agricultural sector but was opposed by the oligarchy and pro-labor laws were not enforced. In the latter part of the decade rightist repression intensified against popular labor organizing and against the priests and lay persons of the Church who supported these social gospel reform efforts. A wave of progressive thinking changed many priests, nuns, and religious and out of this social discontent, liberation theology emerged as a popular movement. Small Christian base communities began to discuss the socially radical New Testament teachings in the context of the great social problems they were facing.
began to support the rights of poor people and began to oppose government repression. And in neighboring Nicaragua the success of the Sandinista revolution raised the hopes of those in El Salvador fighting the tyranny of General Carlos Romero. General Romero was overthrown in a coup in October 1979, and there followed three successive juntas. There were government reforms which nationalized banking and institutions involved in foreign trade but the reforms were made in blood as they were accompanied by strong repression against popular organizations and created a crisis of refugees and displaced persons. This period was the beginning of the civil war as people began to organize guerrilla movements in response to
developed and trained by U.S. military advisors of the School of the Americas for counter-insurgency warfare. Its mission was to eliminate the rebel presence in a small region of northern Morazan where the FMLN had a camp and a training center. Upon arrival the soldiers found the town locals as well as campesinos who had sought refuge from the surrounding area. The people were ordered into the village square, searched, and questioned about the guerrillas. Then they ordered them back into their houses, warning that anyone coming out would be shot. The soldiers spent the night of the massacre in the town, then went to the village of Los Toriles, two kilometers away, where they proceeded to kill anyone there that had not already escaped. News of the massacre started to spread quickly. The guerrillas’ radio station, Radio Venceremos, began broadcasting reports of a massacre of civilians in the area. On December 31, the FMLN issued calls to the International Red Cross, the OAS Human Rights Commission, and the II. The Massacre of El Mozote international press to verify the genocide of more than 900 El Salvadorans in and around El The facts of the massacre are well documented Mozote. They even smuggled in reporters from since there was an eyewitness, and although the New York Times and Washington Post and a the estimates of those killed are not exact, most photojournalist to visit the site about a month after reports put the figure at 1,000 civilians —men, the massacre. women, and children—killed in the village of El But it was not until January 27, 1982, that Mozote, in the northern province of Morazan, news of the massacre began to appear in the world El Salvador. It happened on December 11, 1981, media. Raymond Bonner wrote in the New York when Salvadoran army’s Atalcatl Battalion Times of seeing “the charred skulls and bones of (named after the indigenous fighter who fought the Spanish in the 16th century) assembled all the dozens of bodies buried under burned out-roofs, beams, and shattered tiles.” Alma Guillermoprieto people in the village square, separated the men of the Washington Post wrote of “dozens of from the women and children, and locked them in separate groups in the church, the convent, and decomposing bodies still seen beneath the rubble and lying in nearby fields…” And both reporters various houses. The army began to interrogate, torture, and execute the men in several locations. spoke to Rufina Amaya, the traumatized sole survivor, who said that the soldiers had killed At noon they began taking the women and her husband, nine-year old son, and three young older girls in groups, separating them from their daughters. The soldiers set piles of bodies on fire, children and machine-gunning them after raping them. The group of children locked in the church then left, she said. A compounding irony of the massacre was that and convent were shot though the window. After the 1992 peace accords granted amnesty to anyone killing the entire population, the soldiers set fire to the buildings (although many of the structures convicted of human rights violations during the war, leaving those involved in the crimes of were still standing when I visited in 2010.) The El Mozote forever unpunished. This was even corpses remained unburied and were seen by extended by the President Mauricio Funes FMLN many who passed by in the following weeks. administration in 2008 in an effort to create The previous day the soldiers had arrived in the town after a clash with guerrillas. The Atalcatl national unity. Human rights activists have said that this was a “monument to impunity.” was a “Rapid Deployment Infantry Battalion” government abuse and repression. The year 1980 was a watershed period as the Frente Farabundo Martí para Liberación Nacionál (FMLN) was formed to confront the attacks by the government and the right. The FMLN was the strongest organization that grew out of the nucleus of guerrilla organizations that were slowly forming in the decade of the 1970s. On November 24, 1980, Archbishop Romero was assassinated by members of School of the Americas’ Atalcatl Battalion commanded by Emilio Ponce masterminded by SOA Honor Graduate Roberto d’Aubuisson’s ARENA political party while saying Mass at the Divine Providence Hospital. This brazen act of terror provoked great anger among the people as well as brought international isolation against the junta government. And shortly thereafter, in 1981, the unspeakable massacre in El Mozote took place, again the work of the School of the Americas evil spawn, the Atalcatl Battalion.
III. The Betrayal The strong impression of El Mozote that remained with me after visiting it in the summer of 2010, was that it was a village caught up in a tragedy not of its own making. The irony was that the people, many being evangelicals, although there was a Catholic Church in the square (one of the places where the killings took place,) were simply going about their own business. They were not especially pro-guerrilla, although the FMLN camp was nearby. The merchants might sell to any guerrillas passing though the town as they would sell to anyone. But they did not encourage them. At the same time, they were not especially progovernment either. Maybe that was their Achilles’ heel—the unfortunate price of neutrality. A second irony was that many people from the surrounding area had come to El Mozote for refuge. This was part of their betrayal by a (military) officer the day before, an officer who may have been unaware himself of the horrors that were to follow. Mark Danner, in his exceptional article in the New Yorker (“The Truth of El Mozote,” December 6, 1993) recounts how Marcos Díaz, the richest man in town, gathered the people the day before in front of his store in El Mozote, some fifty yards from the church. When about two hundred had gathered, Diáz addressed them. He told them he had just come up the mountain from a buying trip in San Miguel. At the checkpoint in Gotera, an officer had greeted him. Diáz was an important man and had friends among the officers. The officer told him that he would do well to stock up for soon the Army would launch a large operation in Morazan and no one would be permitted to enter or leave the town. But the officer told Diáz not to worry. The people of El Mozote would have no problems – provided they stayed where they were. When Díaz told the people this it set off a debate. “A lot of people wanted to leave… there was a lot of fear,” Rufina Amaya, the sole eye-witness of El Mozote, had told Danner. The war had come close to the hamlet and only a week before a plane had dropped two bombs near El Mozote, damaging its one-roomed school. And a few people did leave. But Diáz put his reputation on the line and insisted that his neighbors would be safe only if they stayed in their homes – that if they left they risked being caught up in the
operation. “That was the lie,” Rufina told Danner. “That was the betrayal. Otherwise, people would have left.” IV. The Denial The Reagan administration saw the conflict as critical for stabilizing right-wing, anti-communist regimes in Central America, and was determined to give the Salvadoran government military assistance in defeating the FMLN. Just as the Reagan administration attempted to dismiss reports of the massacre as “gross exaggerations,” so did the Salvadoran army and government leaders repeat the lie. They said that no such massacre had taken place. The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Embassy also disputed the reports, saying its own investigation had found that no more than 300 people lived in El Mozote. The conservative press-watch organization Accuracy in Media charged the reporters with withholding their stories until late January (1982) just before Ronald Reagan was required to certify that El Salvador’s military forces were making progress on human rights in order to continue the military assistance. In late July, its editor, Reed Irvine, declared in its AIM Report, that “Mr. Bonner had been worth a division to the communists in Central America.” The denials were put forth by many in the Reagan administration. Thomas Enders, then Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, attacked Bonner and Guillermopietro before a congressional committee saying that “no evidence could be found to confirm that government forces had systematically massacred civilians.” In February, Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, told a Senate committee that the reports of hundreds of deaths at El Mozote “were not credible” and that “it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” And in June, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed cutting $100 million in military aid to El Salvador, U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton traveled to Washington to try to prevent the cutback, and while there attacked Bonner, particularly his stories about El Salvador’s failed land-reform program.
The denials were conspicuous in no less respected weeklies as the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine. The WSJ in a February editorial critiqued U.S. press coverage of El Salvador, singling out Bonner as being “overly credulous.” And in Time magazine, William A. Henry wrote a month later: “An even more common crucial if common oversight is the fact that women and children, generally presumed to be civilians, can be active participants in guerrilla war. New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner underplayed that possibility, for example, in a much- protested January 27 report of a massacre by the army in and around the village of El Mozote.” During 1982 the Salvadoran authorities continued to deny categorically that a massacre had taken place. There was no judicial investigation or any investigation by the government or the armed forces. And Bonner later published a book on his experiences, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador (1984) but in the intervening years the El Mozote tragedy was slowly forgotten. V. Direct and Indirect Causes The question, Why Did El Mozote Happen?, does not lend itself to easy answers. In my opinion there are probably several direct causes and a number of indirect causes. The individual directly responsible for the army operation (Operación Rescate) in Morazan where the massacre took place was Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa Barrios, commander of the elite Atalcatl Battalion. The soldiers of this battalion were directly responsible for the El Mozote massacre. But why would professional soldiers murder a thousand civilians – men, women, and children? Would not elite army commanders remember the lessons of Viet Nam and My Lai just a decade ago, or the Nuremberg Trials, or the Geneva Conventions? Once again we have to look at the mind-set of Monterrosa, the conduct of the war with the guerrillas and the FMLN, and the culture of impunity in which many conservative army officers lived. Mark Danner, in his book The Massacre at El Mozote (1994) describes Monterrosa as a very different kind of Salvadoran officer. He had graduated fourth out of nineteen at the military
academy, where he was a magnetic, charismatic figure, in 1963. “Short, with the simple face and large nose of a Salvadoran peasant, he walked with the peasant’s long, loping stride, which made his distinctly nonmartial figure recognizable from far off.” General Adolfo Blandon, a former chief of staff, speaks of Monterrosa as “that rare thing, a pure, one-hundred-percent soldier, a natural leader, a born military man with the rare quality to instill loyalty in his men.” And Lucia Annunziata, a correspondent for La Repubblica, told Danner: “The Americans were always telling us that here he was, here was the new breed of officer they were always promising. He had embraced completely the anti-communist ideology of the Americans …” At this time, the seventies, society in El Salvador was polarized, with the visible signs of the “dirty war” being mutilated corpses littering the streets of cities. As Danner describes it: By the late seventies … after Molina had given place to General Carlos Humberto Ramos, in another dubious election, the situation became even more polarized. On the far left, several tiny guerrilla groups were kidnapping businessmen, robbing banks, and, on occasion, assassinating prominent rightist leaders. Activists on the moderate left, having been denied an electoral path to the Presidential Palace by the Army’s habitual ballot tampering, joined populist forces in organizing vast demonstrations, and managed to bring hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. The security forces generally responded to these demonstrations with unflinching violence, shooting down scores, and sometimes hundreds of Salvadorans … As the repression went on, month after month, it became less and less discriminating, William Stanley, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico told me that … “ the killing basically outran the intelligence capability of the Army and the security services, and they began killing according to very crude profiles … a big pile of corpses was discovered one morning, and almost all of them turned out to be young women
wearing jeans and tennis shoes. Apparently, one of the intelligence people had decided that this ‘profile’ – you know, young women who dressed in that way – made it easy to separate out ‘leftists,’ and so that became one of the profiles that they used to round up so called subversives.” With some exceptions, intelligence officers in the various security services and in the Army brigades organized the death squads, recruiting National Guardsmen, Treasury Police, and regular soldiers who were interested in “moonlighting” for extra money, and supplying them with lists of the names of people who were to be picked up and brought back for interrogation and torture. Some civilians were certainly involved, particularly on the funding end, but there can be no doubt that the “dirty war” was basically organized and directed by Salvadoran Army officers – and no doubt, either, that the American Embassy was well aware of it. – (Mark Danner, The Massacre of El Mozote, 1994.)
hamlet of La Tejera) should have been spared … Captain Walter Oswaldo Salazar, the company commander, reacted angrily when told of a comment from another officer that the local people should be treated with respect unless there was evidence that they were guerrillas. “No, they are all guerrillas … the soldiers could go ahead and kill any of them, or all of them.” According to Danner, this wasn’t simply paranoia. “We had tremendous infiltration in the Army at that time,” a lieutenant involved in the operation had said. “We know that certain sales of arms were going to these people, that information was being leaked – all our operations, all our movements, were being leaked.” This lead to an overwhelming suspicion among the officers and a panic about the deterioration in the government’s position, which gave the hard-liners a decisive upper hand. The officers also had Salvadoran history on their side. “They had a ‘kill the seed’ mentality…” (referring to the thousands of indigenous people and peasants killed during the dictatorship of General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez.) “To this day, when someone wants Operation Rescue was developed, according to to make a threat here, why do they invoke the the Minister of Defense, “to wrest the offensive name of Martinez?” – the mass murderer of the from the FMLN,” and in the words of his Viceinfamous matanza. “Because he is an icon, that’s Minister, the troops “must advance no matter why. The idea of going out to the zones and what the cost until we reach the command post killing everyone is not a new idea. It’s a proved and Radio Venceremos.” Radio Venceremos, idea.” And putting that idea into practice would the voice of the FMLN, which specialized in become the mission of the Atalcatl Battalion. ideological propaganda, acerbic commentary, and The nature of the training and military pointed ridicule of the government, infuriated education of both Monterrosa and his Atalcatl most officers, for its every broadcast reminded Battalion, therefore, show glaring deficiencies. the world of the Army’s impotence in much of Quite obviously this training and education Morazan. Monterrosa agreed wholeheartedly with lacked any attention to moral values, respect for the reasoning behind Operation Rescue. “ … so life, respect for individual rights, and knowledge long as we don’t finish off this Radio Venceremos, of the rules of modern warfare. The mission we’ll always have a scorpion up our ass.” And so of Monterrosa in opposing the “infection” of a major objective in taking the Army’s fight to the supposed communist leaning guerrillas the Morazan region was undoubtedly to eliminate was based on a mind-set of killing, one at Radio Venceremos, which became almost a complete odds with a mind-set of respect for personal vendetta for Monterrosa. individual rights upon which many of the ideas As we have seen, the Army killed according of the Enlightenment, including the French and to very crude profiles. As Danner wrote, “This American revolutions were based. argument over identity, over who was a guerrilla A major indirect cause of the massacre at El and who wasn’t and what constituted evidence one Mozote is undoubtedly American complicity way or another, would recur during the next two in funding the right-wing government of El days (December 10 and 11, 1981.) “Already in La Salvador through the billions of dollars in Tejera, about whether the men (three civilians in military aid given to the Salvadoran Army. In the
decade of the 1980s direct U.S. military aid to El Salvador amounted to $3,358,200,000 Although the Atalcatl Battalion was known to be elite and American-trained, an image doctored by the press, this was not totally correct. It was trained by Monterrosa and U.S. special forces instructors in El Salvador. According to Danner, Monterrosa worked to give his new force una mistica – a mystique. As a lieutenant told Danner, “They shot animals and smeared the blood over their faces, they split open the animals’ bellies and drank the blood … They were hell of a raunchy unit. They had no discipline of fire, none at all. I mean, they saw something moving out there, they shot it – deer, pigs, whatever …” Confirmation of American complicity in the El Mozote massacre was found by the Argentine Team of Forsensic Anthropologists. According to their 1992 report to the Members of the United Nations Truth Commission, “ … Two hundred forty five cartridge cases recovered from the El Mozote site were studied. Of these, 184 had discernible headstamps, identifying the ammunition as having been manufactured for the United States Government at Lake City, Missouri. Thirty four cartridges were sufficiently well preserved to analyze for individual as well as class characteristics. All of the projectiles except one appear to have been fired from United States manufactured M-16 rifles; 24 separate weapons were identified, consistent with at least 24 individual shooters …” (Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote.)
already taken place. The civil war in El Salvador came to an end–because of increasing FMLN power and diminishing international support of the El Salvador government due to atrocities such El Mozote and the murders of Archbishop Romero and the American churchwomen. But we might ask this pointed question: Did Communism fail to take root because of American economic and military aid? Although some of those of the political right might think so, I am not one of their number. In my opinion the threat of an imminent Communist takeover in El Salvador was an illusion. There are many reasons for stating this—some social, some economic, and some political. The massacre during the matanza of 1932 showed that there existed a strong anticommunist mentality among the ruling class. And the goals of the FMLN and most of the left-wing organizations, although viewed with suspicion from Washington, were not to create a Communist society but to address long-standing grievances related to social injustices. We have seen that economically El Salvador was ruled over many years in large measure by a few families and the coffee oligarchy. These families were certainly driven by the profit motive rather than any ideals of an egalitarian or Marxist society. Although it is true that the repression of the 1970s was in response to leftist popular organizing, there was large anti-communist influence among the conservative army corps and ruling families to indicate that the possibility of a Cuban-styled Communist revolution in El Salvador was remote at best. As I witnessed during my extended VI. A Legacy of the Cold War and the Lessons of 2010 visit to El Salvador, the people are largely History Roman Catholic and many are very devout. And communism and Roman Catholicism have never The rationale for American economic and military been compatible bedfellows. aid to El Salvador, according to Danner, was U.S. foreign interventions such as in El the “fear of a Communist El Salvador taking its Salvador have been largely due to ideological place alongside Sandinista Nicaragua … Reagan reasons, one of the foremost being in opposition had vowed through Secretary of State Alexander to Communism. The rationale behind many of Haig, to “draw the line” in El Salvador against these foreign interventions and wars have been Communist subversion in the hemisphere ….” as unsound as that in El Salvador. Connecting This large scale economic and military assistance the historical dots, we can see that the fear of to El Salvador was blamed on the fear of communism has been behind U.S. military a communist takeover, but this needs to be interventions in Korea in the early 1950s, in questioned objectively. How credible was this Guatemala over the land reforms of Arbenz threat of a communist takeover? How accurate (1954,) the McCarthy witch-hunts (1950s,) the was Reagan’s assessment? It is true that today CIA-instigated intervention against Allende we have the benefit of historical events that have in Chile (1972,) and the Viet Nam War (1966-
1972.) And there have been other interventions motivated by ideology rather than clear issues that could be defended by “just war” principles such as self-defense. The Iraq War comes to mind. The reasoning for the intervention articulated by the George W. Bush administration was clearly the weapons of mass-destruction that Iraq was thought to possess. In the end these weapons, just like communism in El Salvador, proved to be an illusion. There are other wars and interventions of the United States that are based on principles of ideology rather than principles of security or self-defense. The war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, while defended by Obama as necessary for U.S. security, has drifted into a war largely against Islamic extremists and a war of civilizations in general, and is viewed now as a war without an ending. And the war against drugs begun by President Nixon over 40 years ago, is now seen as a failure, as the drug cartels have strengthened
their positions in the Central American corridor. This war too seems like one without an ending. To solve this war the players in the region need to address the deeper the drug crusade rather that demonizing the suppliers. Certainly legalization needs to be put back on the table. The lessons of history and the legacy of the Cold War have demonstrated that the problems and failures of many of the U.S. interventions are based on ideology rather than a clear vision of right and wrong. In reality there are no good wars, such as is claimed for World War II with its 70 million dead. The time is long past not to to scrutinize more carefully U.S. interventions in Latin America and the rest of the world that have been guided by ideology, economic interests, ethnocentrism, or faulty premises such those on which the current “war on drugs” are based. Let us remember the lessons of deadly ideology taught by the massacre of El Mozote!
The Mills of Justice Grind Slowly By Raymond Raza
News reports in mid 2011 have brought some encouragement and hope to those who have lived through or are familiar with some of the atrocities by the military in Guatemala and El Salvador in the civil wars of the 1980s. In Guatemala, a court sentenced four former military officers to 6,060 years in prison for the slaughter of more than 200 civilians in 1982. The sentence was arrived at because the court unanimously declared the officers as perpetrators of murder. The punishment for the crime was 30 years in prison for each victim, coming to a total of 6,030 years. Another 30 years for each murder was added as a “crime against humanity by state security forces.” The killings took place over three days in December, 1982. Witnesses said the victims included pregnant women, children and the elderly. A few children survived. The court said the killings were “perverse” because they “erased from the map” the village of Dos Erres in the province of Peten. The convicted men, Antonio Carlos Carias, Manuel Pop, Reyes Collin and Daniel Martinez, were part of the elite Kaibil army force when they took part in the massacre. Pedro Pimentel has also been detained in connection with the case and has been deported from the U.S. Another three men have been arrested in connection with the massacre, two of them in Guatemala and one in Canada. The massacre occurred during the military regime of General Efrain Rios Mont, also a former president of Guatemala, who is alleged to have ordered the attack. The massacre at Dos Erres is one of the many cases documented by the Historical Clarification Commission, which reported around 200,000 casualties from Guatemala’s decades long civil war. And according to BBC Latin American news (online), the fearless Baltazar Garzon, a Spanish judge, in late May charged 20 Salvadoran soldiers with the killing of six Jesuit priests and two women during El Salvador’s civil war.
The priests, of whom five were Spanish, their housekeeper and her daughter, were shot dead by soldiers in 1989. The case went forward under Spain’s universal jurisdiction law, which holds that some crimes are so grave they can be tried anywhere. Among those charged were two defense ministers, including Col. Rene Emilio Ponce, head of the Salvadoran Armed Forces’ joint chiefs of staff at the time. According to the UN Truth Commission, General Ponce ordered the killings. Gen. Rafael Humberto Larios was the Minister of Defense and present at a meeting where Col. Ponce ordered the killing. Judge Elroy Velasco said that the motive of the shooting the priests, who worked at the University of Central America in San Salvador, was because they voiced their support for negotiations between the right-wing government and the FMLN (Faribundo Martí National Liberation Front) rebels whom the security forces suspected them of sympathizing with. Two officers were convicted of shooting the priests and two women in 1991, but both were freed as part of the amnesty law in the interests of peace and national unity. And as of August 8, nine of these soldiers have turned themselves in to face the charges. The Supreme Court of El Salvador will have to decide whether to extradite them to Spain. Around 70,000 people were killed during the 12 year civil war before a 1992 UN-brokered agreement bought peace to the country. Fair-minded people around the world who had heard of the many atrocities of the Salvadoran army during the civil war, including the El Mozote Massacre in 1981, and the murder of Archbishop Romero before that, had almost given up hope that justice would ever be done in these cases. The indictment by the Spanish court is certainly an act of courage and a morale booster for those committed to justice and to the end the culture of impunity that exists to this day in much of Central America, but especially in Guatemala and El Salvador.
Disturbing the Peace
“In the name of God, stop the repression.” - Archbishop Oscar Romero
Fort Benning, Georgia. August 9, 1983. The summer sun was finally setting. It was time to act. Time to engage the Salvadoran troops. Roy Bourgeois was ready, but he was not so sure that Larry Rosebaugh could penetrate base security. Rosebaugh, a gentle Oblate priest who had worked with street people in Brazil, reminded Bourgeois of St. Francis. Even in the battle dress uniform Bourgeois had purchased for him at the local Army surplus store, Rosebaugh did not exactly present a military bearing. It would take a small miracle for the MPs to mistake him for an Army officer. Linda Ventimiglia, an Army reserve officer, would not be a problem. She and Bourgeois, a former Navy lieutenant, had given Rosebaugh a crash course on military decorum and worked on his salute. The three had also practiced scaling trees in an Alabama pine forest,and Bourgeois finally decided they were as ready as they were going to be. He went over the details of their plan one last time and then double checked the supplies: pepper, a rope ladder, tree climbers, a highpowered Sony cassette player with four speakers. And, most important, the tape recording. As night fell the three set out, dressed as high-ranking officers with insignia also purchased at the Army surplus store. They loaded their equipment into the Land Rover of a friend who had agreed to drive them onto the base. Bourgeois braced himself as they neared the entrance. The Land Rover had a Fort Benning sticker, but an MP at the checkpoint seemed to eye them suspiciously. Then, to their amazement, he snapped a salute. Theirs were a little shaky. The driver eased onto the base, passing several warning signs that said they were entering a restricted area and unauthorized persons would be prosecuted. The vehicle stopped near a tank trail in the woods. There, the three quickly gathered their equipment and began walking down the trail that led straight to the quarters of several hundred Salvadoran soldiers. Soon the lights of the barracks became visible, and the three
Editor’s Note: Roy Bourgeois is today a defrocked and excommunicated Catholic Maryknoll priest who at age 72 still fights every day for social justice in Latin America by his crusade to close the School of Assassins, aka WHINSEC, or the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Ga.. Bourgeois is from the River Parishes of Louisiana and is a personal hero of mine. While I was in a seminary, I worked in Guatemala and saw the effects of the decades of war and strife that resulted from direct involvement of graduates of SOA. James Hodge and Linda Cooper, fellow Louisianans and the authors of Disturbing the Peace, have allowed Neotropica to publish this chapter from their book. —SD
edged closer, looking around for a suitable tree. After they agreed on a towering hundred-foot pine, Rosebaugh sprinkled pepper on the ground to prevent guard dogs from picking up their scent. Bourgeois, meanwhile,strapped the tree climbers to his boots and began scaling the pine. After he secured his footing, he dropped the rope ladder for Ventimiglia and Rosebaugh. As he did, he broke a branch. Instantly, German Shepherds started barking at a nearby MP station. Within seconds the guards rushed out, hopped into a jeep with two of the attack dogs and sped toward the intruders. The jeep stopped about thirty yards from the tree. It was around 9:30 p.m. and quite dark. The MPs, armed with assault rifles, began scanning the woods with bright lights; Bourgeois froze while Ventimiglia and Rosebaugh ducked behind a tree. In the tense minutes that followed, beams of light crisscrossed the grounds, but never found them. The MPs finally drove off. Ventimiglia and Rosebaugh slowly climbed up and then tossed the rope ladder to the ground. Bourgeois anchored the tape player high in the tree, aiming it at the barracks. Then there was a collective sigh of relief; they had gotten into the belly of the beast. Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest, silently prayed that no one would get shot and reminded himself of the reasons they were taking such risks. It was not complicated. The U.S. military was training a brutal foreign army on U.S. soil. An army that served a small Salvadoran elite who lived in splendor while the poor lived in squalor. An army that had butchered thousands of innocent people, including
women and children, priests and nuns. An army that had raped and murdered two of his friends. Bourgeois knew firsthand what the training meant. As a naval officer,he’d been taught to fire an M-16 and had later encountered hundreds of Vietnamese children maimed by U.S. weapons. As a missionary in Bolivia, he’d seen another U.S.-trained army commit abuses. For weeks Bourgeois and his friends had been protesting the training of the Salvadoran troops, to no avail. Now, if they didn’t lose their courage,they would take a message directly to the Salvadorans. It was a plan devised to meet the Gospel standard to be as cunning as serpents but as harmless as doves. The wait in the tree felt interminable. The three kept shifting their weight to get comfortable. Suddenly, the barracks lights went out. Finally,the moment had come. The three steeled themselves as Bourgeois reached up and pressed the play button on the tape player, saying, “Oscar,this is for you.” Moments later the voice of the dead Salvadoran archbishop, Oscar Romero, boomed in Spanish from the treetops, shattering the silence below: “I would like to make a special appeal to the members of the army and specifically to the ranks of the National
Guard, the police and the military. Brothers, each one of you is one of us. We are the same people. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the voice of a man commanding you to kill, remember instead the voice of God: THOU SHALL NOT KILL!” It was the archbishop’s last Sunday homily, delivered in the San Salvador cathedral on March 23, 1980. His fateful words had stung the Salvadoran military and led to his assassination the next day. Romero’s words again triggered a violent reaction as they echoed through the barracks at Fort Benning, imploring the startled Salvadorans to disobey orders to kill. It was as if someone had poked a beehive. The base was abuzz. Lights beamed. Sirens wailed. MPs with M-16s swarmed over the grounds. But in the darkness they had trouble locating the source of the disturbance, even with the aid of police dogs. “It was a sacred moment,” Bourgeois later recalled. “Those soldiers coming out of the barracks, looking into the sky, not being able to see us,hearing the words of this prophet.” Finally, one of the lights fixed on the rope ladder at the base of the pine, and then illuminated the trespassers in the tree. The MPs started cursing and threatening to shoot them down, but even with weapons trained on him Bourgeois stalled for time, hoping to play the entire homily. He shouted down that they no longer had the rope ladder, and as the MPs scurried about trying to figure out what to do, the tape played over and over. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. There is still time for you to obey your own conscience, even in the face of a sinful command to kill. The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, and of the dignity of each human being, cannot remain silent in the presence of such abominations. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people whose cries rise up to heaven, I beseech you, I beg you, I command you, stop the repression!” As the chaos on the ground grew, the dogs started to fight among themselves. A couple of MPs tried to pull them apart, while another started to climb the pine, grabbing branches of nearby trees to pull himself up. Then another went up with the rope ladder. Rosebaugh, whose perch was lowest in the tree, was taken down first, then Ventimigila. Rosebaugh was strip searched and Ventimigila was gagged.Meanwhile, the first MP had climbed nearly sixty feet up to get Bourgeois and to shut off the cassette. After Romero’s voice
Anti-SOA protestors at Ft. Benning
was silenced, Bourgeois started shouting the bishop’s words in Spanish, angering the MPs on the ground. When he finally descended the tree, a trainer was waiting for him. “He hit me from behind,” Bourgeois said later, “then threw me up against the tree and stripped me. There were five or six agitated dogs and about ten MPs with M-16s who were shining lights on us. The trainer got in this karate pose and wanted me to get up and fight, but his own men pulled him off.” As he was led away that night, Bourgeois was largely undaunted: the message had been delivered, the mission accomplished. The three activists carried no identification. When questioned at the provost marshal’s office, Bourgeois gave his name as Oscar Romero; Rosebaugh, as Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest slain by the Salvadoran military; and Ventimiglia, as Jean Donovan, one of four U.S. churchwomen raped and murdered by Salvadoran security forces. The three were eventually charged with impersonating officers and criminal trespassing and taken to the Muscogee County jail. There, Bourgeois went on a hunger strike, vowing to continue the fast until the Salvadoran troops left Fort Benning. The tree-climbing action was vintage Bourgeois—gutsy, controversial and provocative. It would also prove prophetic: it had shone a light on the military base that would soon become the new home of the U.S.Army’s infamous School of the Americas. The Pentagon was planning to move the Latin American training facility in the Panama Canal Zone to the Georgia military base the following year. Though unknown to U.S. citizens, the school was well known to Latin Americans, who called it the “School of Assassins” for having trained so many of the dictators, torturers and death squad leaders in their countries. And, as Bourgeois would learn years later, it had trained the Salvadoran officers who murdered the U.S. churchwomen and ordered the assassination of Archbishop Romero. Copyright © 2004 by James Hodge and Linda Cooper. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y. Used with permission.
What is the SOA Watch Movement? On Nov. 16, 1989, 14 year old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba Ramos, and six Jesuit priests were massacred in El Salvador. A U.S. Congressional Task Force reported that most of the killers were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, GA. Since then, mounting evidence proves soldiers who trained at the SOA are and continue to be responsible for the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. SOA Watch began in a tiny apartment outside the main gate of Ft. Benning by Fr. Roy Bourgeois in 1990. The vigils and activities quickly grew, drawing upon the knowledge and experience of many in the U.S. who had worked with people in Latin America in the 1970’s and 80’s. Today, SOA Watch is a large, grassroots movement rooted in solidarity with the people most affected by the SOA- those poor and oppressed. The main goal of SOA Watch is to close the SOA/ WHINSEC, but also to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy in Latin America by educating the public, lobbying Congress and participating in creative, nonviolent action. In response to the success of constituent pressure on Congress, the Pentagon launched a public relations campaign to give the SOA a new image. Their most brazen act was to simply rename the school to “The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)” which took effect in Jan. 2001.
You can change the name, but you can’t take away the shame!
Despite cosmetic changes that have occurred throughout the last decade clearly in direct response to grassroots exposure, people of conscience all over the world continue to call for an end to this institution that is connected to so much bloodshed and suffering. There is much work to be done and we invite you to join the SOA Watch movement: SOA Watch is rooted in non-violence and civil disobedience. Over the years… o Thousands of people have participated in other acts of civil disobedience at the SOA or at the Pentagon. Over 300 people have been tried and as a result, 319 SOA Watch human rights defenders have collectively spent over 97 years in prison, and more than 53 years on probation or in home confinement. Most defendants have also received fines ranging from $500- $3,000, totaling $223,150. 6,900 hours of community service have been sentenced. o Activists have fasted and lobbied- 10 activists in 1990 participated in a 35-day water-only fast at the main gate of Fort Benning; 11 activists held a 40-day juice-only fast on the Capitol steps in 1994; 17 held a 31-day juice-only fast at the main gate in 2001. SOA Watch includes many active, hardworking SOA Watch groups in the U.S. and beyond its borders. Many faith communities, student groups, national and local labor unions and veterans groups around the country, strengthen SOA Watch.
We are grateful to our sisters and brothers of Latin America for their inspiration and invitation to accompany them in their struggle for peace and justice. We also acknowledge the hard work and many sacrifices made by the many organizations, groups, and individuals in the SOA Watch Movement.
A Brief History of the SOA and SOA Watch Early 1800s onwards: numerous US land grabs and interventions in Latin America & Caribbean. 1946: SOA predecessor opens in Panama 1970s: Somoza’s Nicaraguan National Guard trains at the SOA 1980s: Civil War of El Salvador. Salvadoran military — including the Atlacatl Battalion — train at the SOA 1983: Fr. Roy Bourgeois, impersonating an officer, enters Ft. Benning, climbs tree next to the Salvadoran barracks, and after dark loudly plays the tape of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s last homily. Gets 18 months in prison. 1984: Booted out of Panama, the SOA “School of Coups” moves to Ft. Benning, GA. 1989: On Nov. 16 the Atlacatl Battalion perpetrates the Jesuit massacre at University of Central America in San Salvador. 1990: Roy moves into tiny apartment across the street from Ft. Benning’s main entrance and founds SOA Watch. Roy, Kathy Kelly, and eight others do a 35-day wateronly fast at Benning’s main gate 1993: Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) introduces anti-SOA bill—we lose by 87 votes. 1994: On Jan. 1, in response to NAFTA, the Zapatistas rise up in Mexico; the number of Mexican soldiers sent to the SOA increases sharply. Roy and ten others do a 40-day juice-only fast on the steps of the Capitol in DC. Joe Kennedy introduces second bill to close SOA—we lose by 42 votes. 1995: Beginning of strategy to do direct actions at Ft. Benning’s main entrance every November on or just after November 16. On November 16 some of the “SOA 13” simulate Jesuit massacre at the gate; octogenarian Judge J. Robert Elliott gives each a sentence ranging from two to six months in federal prison for “trespass.” 1996: SOA Watch office in DC opens to do legislative work. Pentagon forced to release SOA training manuals; numerous passages encourage torture, extortion, and “neutralizing” and in general are permeated with contempt for law and democracy. 1997: Six hundred briefly detained for “crossing the line.” Orbis Books publishes Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s School of Assassins (revised edition 2001) 1998: Over 2,000 cross the line—with 8,000 supporters present—one of the largest civil disobedience actions in the U.S. since the Vietnam War. There are no prosecutions. 1999: Over 4,000 cross the line—with 6,000 present. The following year 10 of these go to prison for three months each. 2000: Several thousand cross the line—with thousands of supporters present. 26 “recidivists” are prosecuted; one gets probation; 25 get prison—most for six months. In April, SOA Watchers take part in A16, the anti-World Bank mobilization; many spend five nights in the DC jail doing jail solidarity. “Gandhian Wave” civil disobedience actions begin” periodically as SOA Watchers do direct actions at the SOA or at the main gate apart from the annual November vigil action. In December the SOA “closes,” i.e. takes a holiday break. 2001: In January the SOA re-opens under a new alias: the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Within months, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduces HR 1810 calling for a close to WHINSEC. In May, 26 people received sentences ranging from two years of probation to one year in federal prison for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in November of 2000. 2002: In a historic ruling, Judge Faircloth acknowledges the right to assemble as endowed by the First Amendments, and grants SOA Watch protestors the right to continue gathering at the gates of Fort Benning each November. Forty-three people faced trial in July 2002 for civil resistance
at the gates of Fort Benning. Rebecca Johnson is arrested for her direct action at the gates of Ft. Benning protesting this trial – she is later tried and sentenced to six months in prison. 2003: Representative Jim McGovern and 49 other Representatives introduce HR 1258. In January and February, 86 people arrested in November of 2002 face trial in front of Magistrate Faircloth. In November, 10,000 gather at the gates of Fort Benning. 2004: In January, 27 SOA Watch activists went on trial for arrests the previous November; twentythree of the defendants were sentenced to time in prison. Fr. Roy Bourgeois and a delegation meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez announces that Venezuela will no longer send troops to train at the SOA/WHINSEC. In October, the 11th Circuit Court rules that the city of Columbus may not search each protestor as they enter the SOA Watch vigil site, noting that the searches performed at the 2002 and 2003 vigils violated the First and Fourth Amendments. In November 16,000 gather. 2005: In January, 14 people face trial before Judge Faircloth. Eleven are sentenced to federal prison. In March, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduces HR 1217 with more than 75 bi-partisan co-sponsors to investigate and suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC. Over 19,000 people come to the gates of Ft. Benning in November to protest the SOA/WHINSEC. 2006: In February 37 members of our movement go to trial and 35 are sentenced to federal prison. After a historic Latin America delegation of human rights activists, Uruguay and Argentina publicly denounce the SOA/WHINSEC legacy of torture and violence and stop sending troops to train at the SOA/WHINSEC. In June, Representatives James McGovern (MA) and John Lewis (GA) introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to cut funding for WHINSEC. The amendment failed by a vote of 188-218. While over 20,000 attended the annual demonstration at the gates of Fort Benning, thousands more gathered at protests and vigils throughout the Americas. Coordinated actions calling for the closure of the SOA took place over the weekend of Nov. 17-19 in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Paraguay and Peru, as well as in Ireland, Canada and at other sites in the U.S. 2007: In January 16 human rights advocates are sentenced to federal prison and probation. In March, after meeting with an SOA Watch delegation, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica announces that they will no longer send police to be trained at the SOA/WHINSEC. Later this year President Evo Morales announces that Bolivia will no longer send troops to the SOA/WHINSEC. In June, thousands of SOA Watch supporters and partner organizations mobilized to support an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to cut funding for the SOA/WHINSEC. The amendment, introduced by Representatives James McGovern (MA) and John Lewis (GA), failed by a vote of 203-214. 2008: In January 11 human rights advocates are sentenced to 1 – 3 months in federal prison and regional jail facilities. In May, Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Joe Sestak (PA) and Sanford Bishop (GA) include an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill to release the names of the students and instructors at the SOA/WHINSEC. The victory was taken away in September, when the language to force the release of the names was taken out of the final version of the bill in House-Senate Conference negotiations. More than 20,000 rallied at the gates of Fort Benning and others held protests in solidarity at other sites. 2009: SOA Watch staff held a meeting with the Obama transition team to discuss the importance of closing down the SOA/WHINSEC. Six Human rights offenders were given sentences ranging from 2 months in prison to 6 months house arrest. In May, Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), along with 42 co-sponsors introduce HR 2567, The Latin American Military Training Review Act, which would suspend operations at the SOA/WHINSEC and launch an investigation of its history. Congress passes the WHINSEC names amendment for the second year by a vote of 224-190. The struggle continues with the Senate. An SOA Watch delegation met with President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, FMLN leadership, including Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén in El Salvador, and social movement leaders throughout Central America. On June 28th, a military coup led by SOA graduates Gen. Romeo Vasquez and Gen. Luis Prince Suazo took place in Honduras, ousting democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya.
2010: The Obama administration continued to keep the SOA/WHINSEC shrouded in secrecy by refusing to release the names of soldiers trained at the school. In June, human rights leaders and activists from 19 countries met in Venezuela for the first South-North SOA Watch Encuentro to share experiences and strategies for fighting militarization and promoting a culture of peace. In November, a total of 30 activists were arrested in Georgia for crossing the line at Fort Benning as well as other demonstrations against the SOA in Columbus. 2011: On the week of April 4th, SOA Watch held the April Days of Action, a week of protests in Washington, DC to pleading for the closure of the School of Americas and the end of the militarization of the Americas. On May 28th, Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Lisa Sullivan accompanied former President Manuel Zelaya on his return to Honduras for the first time in over a year.
Eag Sc e bar r Geno hool k o Lati ing on cide M f the nA a t mer heir fi jors fr Ame nal o r ica sch m SO icas ool Ap Alu o pro ject se for mni a enti S tled group crap bo Elim pict inat ure b ok ing e Dem fore em ocra cy i n
BY ERNESTO CARDENAL TRANSLATED BY DONALD D. WALSH
Tropical nights in Central America, with moonlit lagoons and volcanoes and lights from presidential palaces, barracks and sad curfew warnings. “Often while smoking a cigarette I’ve decided that a man should die,” says Ubico smoking a cigarette . . . In his pink-wedding-cake palace Ubico has a head cold. Outside, the people were dispersed with phosphorous bombs. San Salvador laden with night and espionage, with whispers in homes and boardinghouses and screams in police stations. Carías’ palace stoned by the people. A window of his office has been smashed, and the police have fired upon the people. And Managua the target of machine guns from the chocolate-cookie palace and steel helmets patrolling the streets. Watchman! What hour is it of the night? Watchman! What hour is it of the night? The campesinos of Honduras used to carry their money in their hats when the campesinos sowed their seed and the Hondurans were masters of their land. When there was money and there were no foreign loans or taxes for J.P. Morgan & Co., and the fruit company wasn’t competing with the little dirt farmer. But the United Fruit Company arrived with its subsidiaries the Tela Railroad Company and the Trujillo Railroad Company allied with the Cuyamel Fruit Company
and Vaccaro Brothers & Company later Standard Fruit & Steamship Company of the Standard Fruit & Steamship Corporation: the United Fruit Company with its revolutions for the acquisition of concessions and exemptions of millions in import duties and export duties, revisions of old concessions and grants for new exploitations, violations of contracts, violations of the Constitution . . . And all the conditions are dictated by the Company with liabilities in case of confiscation (liabilities of the nation, not of the Company) and the conditions composed by the latter (the Company) for the return of the plantations to the nation (given free by the nation to the Company) at the end of 99 years . . . “and all the other plantations belonging to any other persons or companies or enterprises which may be dependents of the contractors and in which this latter has or may have in the future any interest of any kind will be as a consequence included in the previous terms and conditions . . .” (Because the Company also corrupted prose.) The condition was that the Company build the Railroad, but the Company wasn’t building it, because in Honduras mules were cheaper than the Railroad, and “a Gongressman was chipper than a mule,” as Zemurray used to say, even though he continued to enjoy tax exemptions and a grant of 175,000 acres of the Company, with the obligation to pay the nation for each mile that he didn’t build, but he didn’t pay anything to the nation even though he didn’t build a single mile (Carías is the dictator who didn’t build the greatest number of miles of railroad) and after all, that shitty railroad was of no use to the nation because it was a railroad between two plantations and not between the cities of Trujillo and Tegucigalpa. They corrupt the prose and they corrupt the Congress. The banana is left to rot on the plantations, or to rot in the cars along the railroad tracks
or it’s cut overripe so it can be rejected when it reaches the wharf or be thrown into the sea; the bunches of bananas declared bruised, or too skinny, or withered, or green, or overripe, or diseased: so there’ll be no cheap bananas, or so as to buy bananas cheap. Until there’s hunger along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. And the farmers are put in jail for not selling at 30 cents and their bananas are slashed with bayonets and the Mexican Trader Steamship sinks with their barges on them and the strikers are cowed with bullets. (And the Nicaraguan congressmen are invited to a garden party.) But the black worker has seven children. And what can you do? You’ve got to eat, And you’ve got to accept what they offer to pay. 24 cents a bunch. While the Tropical Radio Subsidiary was cabling Boston: “We assume that Boston will give its approval to the payment made to the Nicaraguan congressmen of the majority party because of the incalculable benefits that it represents for the Company.” And from Boston to Galveston by telegraph and from Galveston by cable and telegraph to Mexico and from Mexico by cable to San Juan del Sur and from San Juan del Sur by telegraph to Puerto Limón and from Puerto Limón by canoe way into the mountains arrives the order of the United Fruit Company: “United is buying no more bananas.” And workers are laid off in Puerto Limón. And the little workshops close. Nobody can pay his debts. And the bananas rotting in the railroad cars. So there’ll be no cheap bananas And so that there’ll be bananas cheap, 19 cents a bunch. The workers get IOUs instead of wages. Instead of payment, debts, And the plantations are abandoned, for they’re useless now, and given to colonies of unemployed. And the United Fruit Company in Costa Rica with its subsidiaries the Costa Rica Banana Company
and the Northern Railway Company and the International Radio Telegraph Company and the Costa Rica Supply Company are fighting in court against an orphan. The cost of derailment is $25 in damages (but it would have cost more to repair the track). And congressmen, cheaper than mules, Zemurray used to say. Sam Zemurray, the Turkish banana peddler in Mobile, Alabama, who one day took a trip to New Orleans and on the wharves saw United throwing bananas into the sea and he offered to buy all the fruit to make vinegar, he bought it, and he sold it right there in New Orleans and United had to give him land in Honduras to get him to break his contract in New Orleans, and that’s how Sam Zemurray abbointed bresidents in Jonduras. He provoked border disputes between Guatemala and Honduras (which meant between the United Fruit Company and his company) proclaiming that Honduras (his company) must not lose “one inch of land not only in the disputed strip but also in any other zone of Honduras (of his company) not in dispute . . .” (while United was defeating the rights of Honduras in its lawsuit with Nicaragua Lumber Company) until the suit ended because he merged with United and afterward he sold all his shares to United and with the proceed of the sale he bought shares in United and with the shares he captured the presidency of Boston (together with its employees the various presidents of Honduras) and he was now the owner of both Honduras and Guatemala and that was the end of the lawsuit over the exhausted lands that were now of no use either to Guatemala or Honduras. “Zero Hour” (excerpt) by Ernesto Cardenal, translated by Donald D. Walsh, from Pluriverse: New and Selected Poems (New York: New Directions, 2009). Used by implicit poetic permission of poets who want their work to be read and heard and smash imperialism.
Hillary’s Bones – A Coup Tutorial by Stan Goff
elected government in Honduras is the story of other recent coups and how the same people in the United States who are associated with the coup in 2009 seem to be a constant over time. The story within that story is that this is a decidedly Republican Party coup apparatus, directed by a Democratic Secretary of State, who wrong-footed her own boss, former campaign adversary, and spoiler of her dream, and sharer of her furious ambition, President Barack Obama.
Editor’s Note: This is an abridgement of a book-length article written by former Neotropica investigative reporter, Stan Goff. Stan, sadly for expatriates in Costa Rica, no longer lives nearby. He gave me permission to use portions of it for this issue. Any choppiness, or sense of something missing is due to the edit, and is not a fault of Stan’s meticulous documentation, and his extraordinary talent for getting the whole story, context, hidden connections and all.
Q: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?” A: “There’s no U.S. Embassy there.” —Latin American joke On June 28th 2009, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was dragged out of bed in his pajamas by Honduran soldiers, bound and beaten, flown out of Honduras using the U.S. military’s Soto Cano airfield, and sent into exile. There was immediate and universal condemnation of the coup, including from the United States. President Barack Obama condemned the coup. So did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The story faded from the news. The Hondurans had some kind of election. Everything is okay now. That is the general impression, among people in the US, of what happened, at least for those US-ians who even know where Honduras is. This article tells a different story. What really happened is that a powerful public/private alliance, which included the government of the United States of America, not only had prior knowledge of the coup, but was deeply involved in the planning and execution of it. The head of the principal government agency involved in this coup d’état was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In Mafia-speak, they say a real thug “makes his bones” with his first murder. Hillary made hers in the Honduras coup (we’re not speaking in metaphors here) and that included a lot of murders. The story has a repeating cast of characters who have revolved through a series of institutions. It has a weirdlynamed theme called neoliberalism, and a plot embedded in a Latin American setting. As with all good stories, there are stories within stories. Behind this story of a coup d’état against an
Martin Buber, writing in his book Good and Evil, makes the point that with the knowledge of the good comes the capacity for evil. And he centers his assertion on the unique capacity of humans to lie. The lie is the servant of power; and power is what breaks the proper covenant between human beings. This is a story about that big topic. It is about lies and power. The names and circumstances change, but this story has been retold over and over for a long time.
BACKDROP: THE NEOLIBERAL SETTING Question: What is neoliberalism and why should we care? We’re talking about a coup, right? Answer: The coup in Honduras is the visible tip of an iceberg. Neoliberalism is the much larger mass holding the visible part out of the water. The L-Word Neoliberalism is not the central thesis of this article. Describing it is, however, necessary to discern the motives of the U.S. government and of the international business class that has the greatest influence on it. Unraveling a coup d’état is kind of a detective story. The first thing the detective has to figure out in a detective story is “Where am I? How do things generally work around here?” Like detective stories, coups happen in settings, and not just physical settings, but places that operate by their own logic. In a good P. D. James novel (a redundant phrase in my opinion), her main character has to first figure out that social hieroglyphic that operates under the surface and really moves the plot along. Our setting is neoliberalism. The term “neoliberalism” is not commonly-used among Americans, but it is well known and wellunderstood outside the U.S. It confuses people from the U.S. because the popular understanding
of the word “liberal” is one half of the way we are taught to think about politics. Our political world is embodied in the “liberal vs. conservative” dipole. The “liberal” in neoliberal, however, actually includes both conservatives and liberals as we commonly understand them. This word began with a different inflection than we give it in popular culture, and the term neoliberal is based on that old definition, not the popular one we have today. Just bear in mind as you read, “liberal” here is very close to what you think of popularly as “conservative,” and it makes more sense. The “neo,” or “new” affixed to the word refers to a political and economic practice that took root with the Reagan administration and has continued through both Republican and Democratic administrations ever since. Neoliberalism, for all its triumphal rhetoric about “the end of history” and “there is no alternative,” has actually been the reigning ideology during a protracted period of capitalist crisis management. What the United States has managed to do, again and again, is to use its existing power to export its own crises abroad. It has done this by increasing the extraction from peripheral societies—benefiting from extremely unequal exchange—and by exporting everything from price inflation, to toxic waste, to war back to that same periphery. There is more than mere individual greed at work. The very survival of U.S. business class depends on maintaining stability in the imperial cores. The harsh truth for the American business class, however, is that the serial cures for their structural crisis have simply delayed the inevitable and exacerbated the disease. In Honduras, the attempt to impose stability (after intentionally destabilizing the country) has met with greater social instability than Honduras has experienced in decades, even though we rarely see images of the liberationist movement that has risen in response to the 2009 coup, particularly in the United States. News pictures of what is really going on are not widely seen because they are disruptive to the cover story for the coup; and concealment of motives is as essential to a successful coup as guns and money. The dominant ideology of neoliberalism is hegemonic, meaning that most people have so internalized the basic assumptions of the ideology
that the ideology is seen as “common sense,” placing those assumptions beyond our critical attention. Hegemonic ideas and practices are embedded in culture. Successful ideology is hegemonic ideology. The actual rules no longer require external persuasion or force; they have been extensively internalized by most people as “the way things are.” Neoliberal arguments, because they are hegemonic, sound very familiar. They are about the hidden hand of the market, and how it shakes society out into a meritocracy. “Free market” is a kind of benevolent god that we ought to thank for its abundance. And neoliberalism discursively constructs itself as inevitable and thus rings out Maggie Thatcher’s favored claim, “There is no alternative.” This is the TINA-fallacy. Ideological givens are then available to support propaganda—and propaganda is a weapon during military-political operations such as a coup d’état. Propaganda is a weapon in a coordinated attack, and not as representative of any species of truth. Truth is incidental to public pronouncements by governments and institutions. The purpose of public pronouncement is not representative, but persuasive. See What They Say – Hear What They Want President Bush’s claims that Iraq was behind the World Trade Center attacks of 2001 was not designed to convey a reality, but to gain either approval or acquiescence from the public for a war. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the coup in Honduras, she did so without calling it a coup. This was to ensure that the ultimate outcome—President Manuel Zelaya’s removal—would not be seen as consolidation of the coup (and calling it a coup would trigger the law to cut off U.S. aid to Honduras). Clinton publicly promised Zelaya that he would be returned to office. This bought time until the coupmakers could finesse the idea of a post-coup election (without Zelaya) as tantamount to “reconciliation and recommitment to democratic values.” The public pronouncement was designed to have an effect different from representation of truth. That is why it is a mistake to give public officials, business people and institutional spokespersons the presumption of credibility. Yet this is precisely what the so-called main stream media do with those pronouncements. In
order to understand what these pronouncements mean, one has to get at the motives. When you read or hear public pronouncements by public figures, look at what the words are intended to accomplish. Do not presume they are telling the truth. These pronouncements are crafted in order to gain support for or acquiescence to an agenda. What’s the Motive? Practically, neoliberalism has been the construction of a transnational capitalist alliance—with the U.S. first among equals. Politically and economically, it is a world system now, under the direction of the United States, and based on a combination of the size of the U.S. economy, U.S. military power and disposition, and the dominant position of the U.S. currency in world markets. In terms of practical emphasis, neoliberal policies have been developed to facilitate interpenetration of national markets. This seems superficially fair until one compares the size of many local enterprises abroad and the size of their capital markets, then compares them with the size of the transnational corporations that are seeking entry into those markets. Honduras’ entire GDP for 2009 was $13.34 billion. AT&T’s revenues from 2005 were $69.4 billion. Hondurans won’t be buying out AT&T. So the abstract equality between actors in this rules-based regime recalls Anatole France’s acerbic observation, “The law in its majestic equality forbids rich as well as poor from begging in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread.” Who is motivated to do what? When I was in the U.S Army, there was one part of an operations order that superseded all others, because it conveyed—apart from the planning minutiae—the commander’s intent. That sub-subparagraph is called “desired end state.” It meant, regardless of how wrong the rest of our plans are, and no matter how many contingencies change everything about how we are to get this done, this is what we want to make into a fact on the ground. We will occupy this coordinate, these people will be dead, we will collect this specific information, or that bridge will no longer be passable. It is that goal, that desired end state, which serves
as the magnetic-north to which all compasses then point. This is the constant, and therefore the key category: motive. The rest of the categories revolve around that constant. The motive behind neoliberalism is perpetuation of ruling class power and American international power, and the mechanics are fourfold: capture competitor nations in an American-dominated system, exploit the markets of weaker nations, ensure net flows of wealth from peripheral nations to sustain U.S. consumption, and lock peripheral nations into debt and dependency as leverage to control how they do business. If this is the what, then history can help us to infer the why as well. Every ten years or so, the U.S. needs to pick some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business. -Michael Ledeen, holder of the “Freedom Chair” at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2009, Hillary Clinton managed the third U.S.supported coup in the last eight years. Between April 2002 and June 2009, there were three U.S.-supported coups d’état. That’s a coup every 28.6 months. This suggests that the coup d’état is still an essential feature of U.S. foreign policy. The Honduran coup is not the last act in Latin America, however. The outcome of the crisis of neoliberalism is not yet known, and the U.S. has become a weaker (and some would argue, more dangerous) actor. Resistance to neoliberalism has pushed Latin America further into the hands of more and more “anti-neoliberals.” Iraq and Afghanistan blunted the ability of the U.S. to intervene successfully in the region. The economic crisis that is driving the nail into neoliberalism’s coffin has come home to roost with a terrible and still growing force; and it will be an even greater diversion of energy than the wars, which are still going on, and going badly. ANATOMY AND SEQUENCE OF THE MODERN COUP The Pivotal Lie In the modern U.S. coup, there is a Pivotal Lie (PL) to justify it, mostly for consumption in the U.S. For the
2009 Honduras coup, the PL had two parts. The first part was that Zelaya was seeking a second term. The second part of the lie was that Zelaya violated the Constitution in order to advance that goal. Both parts of the this Pivotal Lie were designed to create an impression—a Latin American caricature of “the strongman.” Here is a typical U.S. media account, this one from William Ratliff of the Los Angeles Times: As Honduran lawyer Octavio Sanchez pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, when Zelaya issued a decree ordering a referendum on changing presidential terms, he “triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.” (Google the Honduran Constitution and read it for yourself—Article 239.) Zelaya had ousted himself, so impeachment was unnecessary. In fact, the Honduran Congressional decree citing Article 239 was not signed until three days after the coup. What 239 says is that any President who advocates changing the one-term limit will cease to be President. That is not what Zelaya did. What he did was call a non-binding referendum on whether to have a constitutional convention to alter the U.S.authored Constitution of 1982. This was a demand of the popular movements in Honduras.The “Article 239 decree” is not Article 239, but a decree ostensibly using Article 239 as an excuse to go forward with the coup, written by the coup-makers, and signed after the coup, even though Article 239 itself was cited as “prior justification.” If this is confusing, it is because the whole thing was crafted specifically to muddy the waters. At the very point where the average reader, in this case in the U.S., no longer has the time or inclination to study the puzzle, is where that same reader is prepared to accept the Reader’s Digest version; and this is where a host of false premises get smuggled into the public mind. Nothing mysterious about that. These are Psychological Operations (Psyops) techniques, studied for decades by the military, political operators, public relations hacks, and advertising agencies. The pivotal lie in any disinformation campaign as part of pre-coup destabilization requires mass dissemination. The U.S. press —part of the neoliberal establishment—has proven willing and able to perform this task.
The Perceptioneers American news is often criticized as info-tainment, but this trivializes its crucial role in support of the neoliberal establishment. What the corporate media does is perception management, and they do this with a coterie of “perceptioneers,” the so-called experts and talking heads. Lannie Davis is a perceptioneer. Otto Reich is a perceptioneer. Wolf Blitzer is a perceptioneer. Chris Matthews is a perceptioneer. A smorgasbord of foundations and think-tanks are perceptioneers. Perceptioneers are hegemonic in the United States of America, because we are effectively bombarded by manufactured perceptions in every single aspect of our lives. They have completely monopolized the editorial content of all major “news” outlets. What’s left are features, and only those that do not go outside the editorial boundaries. The pivotal lie of Honduras was the 239 fiction, and it merged nicely with the “caudillo” (Latin American strongman) theme, by associating Zelaya with the previously-tainted Chávez. It’s little wonder that U.S. Anglos have such skewed ideas about Latin America. Here is Roger Noriega writing for the American Enterprise Institute (a neoliberal “think-tank”) more than three months ahead of the coup. To the extent power is concentrated in the hands of a caudillo (strongman), arbitrariness will drift inevitably to injustice and abuse…From Fidel Castro in Cuba to Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua to Juan Perón in Argentina to Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru, Latin America has a long history of caudillos who usurp power and hold on to it by strumming populist chords. In that sense, Chávez and his acolytes Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua are following a well-worn path… [interesting he includes Somoza here, who he himself aggressively supported]. Of course, the United States must do its part: its diplomacy must never be reticent when it comes to defending democracy and the rule of the law. Solidarity is not intervention, and neo-caudillos should not be able to hide behind phony protests about “nationalism” so they can act with impunity to
undermine institutions and destabilize the American neighborhood. The Obama administration also must consider the importance of the regional economy to the U.S. recovery as it makes decisions about mutually beneficial trade agreements pending with Colombia and Panama. Moreover, it can provide adequate funding of unconventional aid programs that sow the seeds of sustainable, equitable growth by strengthening political institutions and incentivizing economic modernization. In one of his footnotes, Noriega associates Zelaya and other potential anti-neolibeals with the pre-demonized “caudillos.” Also note the neoliberal newspeak in the foregoing paragraph. Pre-demonization, then guilt-by-association. Inuendo. Hijacking language (“caudillos”). These are standard withdrawals from the coup-makers’ bag of tricks. When I was working in Latin America with U.S. Special Operations in the 1980s and 90s, the military doctrine we followed in “host nations” was called IDAD—Internal Defense and Development. This is actually very descriptive of the twofold grip of the U.S. on Latin America: structural and military power operating in concert. I’ll leave the reader to reflect on what “internal defense” actually means. In 2009, in Honduras, it meant a coup d’état. The main American operatives in that coup were alumni of the Reagan administration. Zelaya is a ‘clone’ of the region’s leftist leaders. A person may be elected president democratically. But once he is in power, he might rule the country in an authoritarian way. What ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was trying to do was to establish a government à la Fidel Castro, just like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. -Sergio Munoz, Miami Herald, September 29, 2009 Aside from the actual coercive force that is employed to make a coup d’état, more than anything else a coup is a story. A story is told before, during, and after the coup that is cumulative, built on itself toward the resolution of a calculated plot. The end of the story is that a bad man has been removed from office, and justice has been served. The middle of the story, while the coup actually happens, is where we are given the “we had no choice” part of the story, upon which the
end of the story—bad man gone, justice served —is based. At the beginning of the story, we have many, many anecdotes to establish the “fact” that this is a bad man.
Part 1: This is a bad man. Part 2: We had no choice. Part 3: The bad man is gone, justice is served.
“This is a bad man.” – Corruption-mongering In the first of a series of anti-corruption campaigns, Arcadia Foundation took up the task of investigating the dubious dealings of Honduran government officials and questionable government practices. In a series of events spurred on by the investigative efforts of Arcadia Foundation, the murky dealings of the Honduran enterprise of Hondutel were exposed. Using national (Honduras) as well as international press, Arcadia Foundation was able to shine a spotlight on ‘sweetheart‘ deals and abuses of power within the higher echelons of the Honduran government. As a direct result of the Hondutel scandal, top Honduran government officials were both investigated and charged with bribery and embezzlement. The United States sanctioned those connected to the scandal revoking the privilege, Marcelo Chimirri, ex-head of Hondutel, to come to the United States for being connected to a “series of cases of corruption”; sending a strong message of no tolerance toward corruption. -Arcadia Foundation Okay, so who is the Arcadia Foundation? Who is telling us that “this is a bad man.” The Arcadia Foundation is a specialist in scandal-mongering. On their website’s mission statement, the language is more anodyne. The Arcadia Foundation promotes democracy and curbs corruption in governments all over the world. We fight on-the-ground for those with little control over their lives, who yearn for understanding and support from their governments. We provide the platform, the tools and the training for political activism and encourage dialogue and transparency between government and their citizenry. Arcadia’s “report” on Hondutel corruption actually targeted one small affiliate out of dozens, enough to supply its authors with easily repeated innuendo. The author was a Venezuelan lawyer named Roberto
Carmona-Borjas. Living in Washington D.C. now, and working at George Washington University, CarmonaBorjas is a fugitive from justice in Venezuela for his high-level participation in the 2002 coup against Venezuela’s constitutional government. By high-level, we mean he swore in the de facto President Pedro Carmonas, as the coup junta’s General Counsel. With that in mind, what about this so-called report?
names that suggest something far different than what they are, or something absolutely neutral (see inset).
The report evidently contained allegations about corruption in the Honduran phone company, peppered with innuendo, a Reich trademark. It claimed that income to Honduras’s phone company, Hondutel, had declined by nearly 50% between 2005 and 2006. Out of the dozens, if not hundreds of companies involved in Honduran telecom, Arcadia exclusively targeted one: Cable Color, a company owned by the wealthy and influential Honduran family, the Rosenthals, for diverting calls away from Hondutel, thereby depriving the phone company of revenue. -Machetera
The first question one might ask is, what is Robert Carmona-Borjas – a Venezuelan fugitive and lawyer – even doing in the United States? Why has the United States government permitted not only a violent lawbreaker, but one whose crimes were actually televised while he committed them, to live unmolested in the United States, teaching at George Washington University, and collaborate with the U.S. Department of State in legitimizing a coup in Honduras?
Arcadia Foundation might well be named Scandal & Provocation, Inc. Except no one seems to be able to get hold of its non-profit corporate charter; and no one seems to know exactly when it came into existence. The most interesting thing about the Arcadia Foundation is who is associated with it. There’s Carmona-Borjas, of course, who teaches at Georgetown with two other Arcadia-linked personalities, Otto Reich and Elliot Abrams. Arcadia is a front,like many so-called think-tanks and foundations, for constructing ideological narratives. The construction of those narratives is a means to accomplish destabilization. Arcadia is really just this handful of people, whose names include veterans of various covert operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2007, Arcadia’s webpage “lost” its links, and Otto Reich’s picture was removed (and they now deny that Reich has anything to do with Arcadia). What front organizations accomplish is the systematic development of citable sources. So when you read about “the Hondutel investigation,” which was a hit piece by Robert Carmona-Borjas, a Venezuelan fugitive with asylum in the US, you will see a citation. The information came from the Arcadia Foundation. It legitimizes the claims by citing sources, knowing that few people actually check the sources. There is a long list of right-wing think-tanks that are involved in this kind of chicanery, many with cleverly crafted
First of all, he is an ideologue. His writings, which are abundantly available on the web, demonstrate as much. And he is a prodigious columnist, which is an ideal craft for disseminating agitational propaganda. He is also a lawyer, and he employed that background to put legal lipstick on the pigs that were his two coups – Venezuela and Honduras. Conn Hallinan, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, noted Carmona-Borjas’ activity in the coup sequence.
When we understand that the Arcadia Foundation, like other ostensible offices in this story, serves to conceal the actual actors, then we realize that this concealment can be undone by simply bypassing the legalistic fronts and looking at the people themselves.
The first hint that something was afoot was a suit brought by Venezuelan lawyer Robert CarmonaBorjas claiming that Zelaya was part of a bribery scheme involving the state-run telecommunication company Hondutel. Carmona-Borjas has a rap-sheet that dates back to the April 2002 coup against Chávez. He drew up the notorious “Carmona decrees,” a series of draconian laws aimed at suspending the Venezuelan constitution and suppressing any resistance to the coup. As Chávez supporters poured into the streets and the plot unraveled, Carmona-Borjas fled to Washington, D.C. He took a post at George Washington University and brought Iran-Contra plotters Otto Reich and Elliott Abrams to teach his class on “Political Management in Latin America.” He also became vice-president of the right-wing Arcadia Foundation, which lobbies
for free-market policies. Weeks before the June 28 Honduran coup, Carmona-Borjas barnstormed the country accusing Zelaya of collaborating with narcotraffickers. Carmona-Borjas’ colleague, Otto Reich, a CubanAmerican with ties to right-wing factions all over Latin America and former assistant secretary of State for hemispheric affairs under George W. Bush, has been accused by the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization of “undeniable involvement” in the coup. The Hidden Hand of Otto Reich Carmona-Borjas has to be discerned to some degree through his mentor – Otto Reich. For that, we’ll roll back the calendar to 2008, the year before the coup in Honduras. Bear with us, because from Reich we will beat two separate paths back to the United States Department of State. Nikolas Kozloff writes: In the campaign of 2008, Reich served as a foreign policy adviser to Republican John McCain. In an interview with Honduras’ La Prensa, Reich blasted Honduran President Zelaya for cultivating ties with Hugo Chávez. Reich had particular scorn for the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, known by its Spanish acronym ALBA, an anti-free trade pact including Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, and Bolivia. “Honduras,” Reich remarked, “should be very careful because the petroleum and Chávez problem is very similar to those who sell drugs. At first they give out drugs so that victims become addicts and then they have to buy that drug at the price which the seller demands.” Reich went on to say that he was very “disappointed” in Zelaya because the Honduran President was “enormously corrupted from a financial and moral standpoint.” In another interview with the Honduran media, Reich went further, remarking brazenly that “if president Zelaya wants to be an ally of our enemies, let him think about what might be the consequences of his actions and words.” Where I grew up, that sounds like a threat. Reich then took the encyclopedic collection of Arcadia Fund articles on Hondutel and suggested a “Zelaya connection.” In a Miami newspaper, Reich said Zelaya “has permitted or encouraged these types of
practices and we will see soon that he is also behind this.” No follow through, but that’s the point. Details need not be provided. The seed of doubt is sown. Reich’s target was Zelaya’s nephew, an official at Hondutel named Marcelo Chimirri. The first indication of Reich’s collusion with the State Department on Honduras is that Chimirri was denied a travel visa to the US after Reich and Arcadia leveled their “charges.” Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador Charles Ford was also turning the screws on Zelaya. Speaking with the Honduran newspaper La Tribuna, Ford said that the U.S. government was investigating American telecom carriers for allegedly paying bribes to Honduran officials to engage in so-called “gray traffic” or illicit bypassing of legal telecommunications channels. The best way to combat gray traffic, Ford said, was through greater competition that in turn would drive down long distance calling rates. There is the synergy. There is corruption, and the solution is privatization. That’s a good story. Perhaps the U.S. government was using the corruption charges as ammunition against Hondutel, a state company that Reich probably would have preferred to see privatized. The Honduran elite had long wanted to break up the company. In the late 1990s, none other than Roberto Micheletti, the current coup president of Honduras, was Hondutel’s CEO. At the time, Micheletti favored privatizing the firm. Micheletti later went on to become President of Honduras’ National Congress. In that capacity, he was at odds with the Zelaya regime that opposed so-called “telecom reform” that could open the door to outright privatization. Cuban exile Otto Reich’s hand is both ubiquitous and invisible in coup-making, suggesting he is – along with colleagues Elliot Abrams and John Negroponte – is an éminence grise in the coup-making business. The veterans of the U.S.-financed and directed Contra war against Nicaragua will turn up again and again in this narrative. They constitute the core of the US coup-cadre for Latin America and the Caribbean. From 1986-1989, Otto Reich was U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela. He became infamous when he sprung the release of convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch. On
October 6, 1976, fellow Cuban exile, Orlando Bosch was part of a plot by right-wing Cuban exiles to blow up a Cuban passenger liner, Cubana de Aviacion, Flight 455, originating in Caracas, Venezuela. The bomb was successful, killing 73 people including a youth fencing team. Venezuelan authorities had captured, tried, and convicted Bosch. When Otto Reich was appointed to the Embassy in 1986, his first order of business was to negotiate the release of his fellow Cuban-American with another Teutonic name, just like Bosch himself. Bosch sleeps peacefully in his bed today in the United States. Otto Reich was Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, a connection that recurs in the three recent hemispheric coups orchestrated by the U.S., beginning with the coup against the Chávez government in Venezuela. On the day Pedro Carmona was installed as president, Otto Reich summoned ambassadors from Latin America and the Caribbean to his office to express their support and that of the U.S. administration for the new government. We’ll see this again, as one of the tactical phase-lines in a coup. Immediately after the execution phase, the coup-makers need to shore up their international legitimacy as quickly as possible. No nation’s influence on that process is greater than the United States. What exposed this phase in Venezuela was the failure of the coup to consolidate. A combination of Chávez-supporting citizens in the street and the loyalty of most of the young officers in the military led to the fall of the Carmona de facto government in two days. When the returned constitutional government gave proof to the international media of the nature of the coup, the question was naturally raised: Why did the United States move so quickly to legitimate the coup? Either it was rash, or it was involved. The State Department doesn’t make announcements that are rash. And how ready Reich seemed to go into action within hours to contact Latin American ambassadors to count heads and twist arms. He also went into action with the press. Remember, propaganda is one of his specialties of this former Civil Affairs Officer. He went to the press and to Congress. Reich warned Congressional aides there was more at stake in Venezuela than simply the success or failure
of Hugo Chávez. He accused Chávez of meddling with the historically independent state oil company, providing haven to Colombian guerrillas and bailing out Cuba with preferential rates on oil. He also said the administration had received reports that “foreign paramilitary forces”— which they suspected to be Cubans -— were involved in the bloody suppression of anti-Chávez demonstrators, in which at least fourteen people were killed. Mr. Reich, who declined to be interviewed, offered no evidence for his assertions, chronicles Wikipedia. It is now 2010, and Reich, the Arcadia Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State are still propagating the lie about the demonstrations and about Colombian guerillas and Venezuela’s oil sales to Cuba which were already stipulated by the Venezuelan government. Big John John Negroponte had been on hand in Honduras several times since leaving Condoleeza Rice’s team and joining Hillary Clinton’s. Negroponte’s hand was apparent through both the Bush and Obama administrations, apparently without an alteration of the foreign policy direction. As we review the list of Ambassadors in Honduras and all nations bordering Honduras, we find they are all Negroponte pups: Hugo Llorens, Stephen McFarland, Robert Blau, and Robert Callahan. Negroponte—Clinton’s advisor—is there before the coup; Carmona-Borjas is there after the coup execution and during the consolidation phase. Lanny Davis, Clinton friend and attorney, becomes the coup government’s chief lobbyist, during and after the coup consolidation. Asked if he had qualms about representing business people linked to a coup government denounced and unrecognized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and many countries across the globe (including the United States), Davis responded, “There are facts about Mr. Zelaya that the world community may not be aware of. I’m proud to represent clients who support the decision of Secretary of State Clinton to back the mediation of President Arias in the conflict [between Zelaya and coup leaders]. But my biggest concern is safety and security of the Honduran people.”
The coup General, Romeo Vasquez-Velasquez is a graduate of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas), and a veteran of the murderous Battalion 3-16 from Negroponte’s days. Reich is on the Board of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (School of the Americas). CarmonaBorjas inaugurated the Hondutel scandal-campaign. After the coup, General Romeo Vasquez-Velasquez was appointed CEO of Hondutel. And so we end up back at telecoms. Aid and Democracy Fronts The International Republican Institute (IRI) was the organization most involved in the coups of Venezuela in 2002, Haiti in 2004, and Honduras in 2009. The chair of IRI is Senator John McCain. The three foreign policy advisors to the McCain presidential campaign were Otto Reich, Robert Carmona-Borjas, and Adolfo Franco. John McCain is known to be the Senate’s water boy for the telecom industry. So here we have the IRI, funded by the State Department. What do we know about IRI? (See sidebar). The International Republican Institute does love irony in naming. The IRI-sponsored coup committee in Venezuela was Acción Democratica. In Haiti, Convergence Démocratique. In Honduras, the IRIgroup was Union Civil Democratica. All three committees with “democracy” in Spanish or French prominently displayed for the purpose of what— overthrowing democratically-elected governments! All three coups were carried out on the American end by Republican operatives. Otto Reich was George W. Bush’s principle advisor on Latin America, and the State Department core in Central America is Republican. Not merely Republican, but Republican with strong ties to the Cuban-American right-wing. The IRI is a Republican formation. Obviously, the coup in Honduras has been on the table for some time (no, coups don’t just happen in a few weeks). Why is a Democratic Secretary of State, under a Democratic Chief Executive, choosing to continue the policies developed, coordinated, and carried out by this Republican network? This is a question we will turn to as we wind up. Lest anyone think that coups are linear processes, it
just isn’t so. A scandal aimed at a publicly-owned telecom, targeted for privatization, begins the process of delegitimizing a target government. Who will buy up telecoms when the public sector sells off these extremely lucrative assets? Perhaps AT&T, for whom Otto Reich is a Latin America advisor, to whom John McCain has sworn fealty, and with whom Adolfo Franco was a vice president? I met the journalist “Machetera” (a pseudonym) several years ago in New York. She was a valuable source of information for my research. At this writing, Honduras is considered the most dangerous country in the world for independent journalists. Machetera retains contact with people in Honduras, so we will use her pseudonym. She has been invaluable to English-first speakers for following developments since the coup. In a recent article on the Arcadia Foundation, she writes: Just as there were remarkable similarities in the kidnapping of President Aristide in 2004 in Haiti, and President Zelaya in Honduras, both being put on planes with the shades drawn and flown to unannounced destinations, there were similarities in the use of telecom as a propaganda tool to turn public opinion against them and set the groundwork for them to be prematurely removed from office, and once out, kept out. Arcadia’s scandal-mongering shows synergy here, lest anyone think that coups are linear processes. The political objective—to remove a government and replace it with one more to your liking—is married to the financial objective—breaking into one of the most consistent money-making enterprises in the target nation, and consolidating monopoly-like control over a nation’s communications media. Hondutel (and in Haiti, Teleco) fits the synergy bill nicely. Existing media monopolies, in the U.S. and the target nation, can be counted on—if history is any indicator—to be an enthusiastic echo chamber. From a neoliberal political point of view there are two advantages to a propaganda offensive centered upon telecom corruption. The first is obvious. If telecom corruption can be tied directly to a leader who is not following Washington’s agenda, it promotes public support for the leader’s removal. The second is a little less obvious, but equally as important. It promotes the
International Republican Institute IRI helps local governments better understand the needs of citizens, while strengthening their skills to develop meaningful policies, practices and services which address those needs. IRI also provides citizens with information on the role of government and strengthens their ability to meaningfully participate in policy development and government oversight. MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT Welcome to the website of the International Republican Institute. Here you will find information on how IRI continues to expand the frontiers of freedom, and how you can help. Democracy greatly lessens the likelihood of conflict between nations, and of want within nations. For more than a quarter century, therefore, IRI has helped men and women working to bring liberty to their lands. We know that they, not we, have made the majority of countries around the globe free. As many attest however, IRI has been an important part of a democratic wave that was once unthinkable. We’ve been able to help people abroad accomplish their idealistic goals because our talented staff has a pragmatic, consistent philosophy. First, IRI works in countries important to U.S. interests, where we can make a difference. Second, IRI focuses on three tasks: helping political parties broaden their appeal, ensuring that they rule justly once elected and aiding civil society in guaranteeing good governance. Third, IRI can help catalyze the efforts of democratic activists in a country — so long as they want change more than we want it for them. We cannot implant democracy. Fourth, we understand in doing our work that it is their country, not ours. America’s democratic institutions differ from those of our mother country, the United Kingdom; other nations will adopt and adapt democratic methods and forms to fit their unique historical experiences and culture. For this reason, we impart global experiences and knowledge.
Fifth, we must have patience; we are prepared if necessary to work in a country for many years to help those struggling to gain democracy. As you’ll see in our website, we’ve put a great deal of attention on the role of democratic governance, women, and marginalized groups, such as the poor, disabled and minorities, in their country’s political life. Last but not least, you’ll find that IRI is a leader in evaluating democracy work, to ensure we use the best methods to advance freedom. As you’ll see in our website, IRI works with multilateral organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations, with partners like Australia’s Liberals and the European People’s Party, and with institutions in newer democracies, such as Mexico, Lithuania, Slovakia and Indonesia, who bring recent, relevant democracy building experiences to bear. Ultimately, of course, IRI’s objective is to help make all people free, so that we’re no longer needed. In the meantime, when aspiring democrats ask for our help, IRI will stand with them, proudly, in advancing the frontiers of freedom. Lorne W. Craner President
argument that telecom companies under state control really ought not to be, especially in underdeveloped countries, and would be better off privatized. -Machetera
While the average corporate contribution to the IRI is around $15,000 on any given year, AT&T’s average is $200,000. A small investment compared to the return when a whole nation’s telecommunications infrastructure is sold off. The IRI—a U.S. Republican Party apparatus—and the telecommunications industry—led by AT&T in this case—have formed a partnership of political and economic plunder. That is one reason that Hillary Clinton’s inaction is inexplicable. Why did this whole regional project that is obviously a Republican operation from A to Z—a party which has, by the way, gained hegemony within the nation’s securityintelligence-military bureaus—continue on Clinton’s watch, up to and including an incredibly risky—some might say reckless—coup d’état, yet again almost two years into a Democrat’s watch? Once we examine the coup itself, in light of the state of U.S. domestic politics, one answer may appear more likely. The Republican Party roots of this coup cadre now need some explication. Reagan’s Raiders John Negroponte is another Cocaine-Contra figure with a great résumé for disinformation. In 1981, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Jack Binns, made the error of reporting that the Honduran military was engaged in death-squad activity. This did not sit well with the Reagan administration, who never met a rightwing Latin American reactionary it didn’t like. Binns was fired and his job went to Negroponte. Between 1981-1985, Negroponte’s diplomatic tenure, there was a direct correlation between the level of military violence—especially that of the specially U.S.-trained “intelligence” unit called Battalion 3-16—and the level of military assistance provided to Honduras by the U.S. taxpayer: an increase from $4 million to $77.4 million. This was when Honduras was being used as a launch platform for the Nicaraguan Contras. When the Senate later questioned Negroponte in the
course of the Iran-Contra investigation, Negroponte said he had no knowledge of Battalion 3-16 or its activities, indicating that he was either dead drunk for four years or not actually staying in Honduras where he was the ambassador (or, of course, that he was lying through his teeth). Through this whole sordid period of death squads, the murders of nuns and Catholic clerics, arms-andcocaine swaps, and felony-as-executive-branchpolicy, the regional boss was Elliot Abrams, described by friend and foe alike as a snarling macho prick. Convicted for his role in Iran-Contra as Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, Abrams was soon pardoned by George H. W. Bush. Later, Bush the Younger named Abrams Senior Director of the National Security Council’s “Office for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations.” In 2003, Peter Kornbluh of the National Archives told a Newsday reporter: The resurfacing of the Iran-Contra culprits has been nothing short of Orwellian in this administration. These are not 21st-century appointments. They are retrograde appointments, a throwback to an era of interventionism when the U.S. was the big bully on the block. There was some speculation that the Bush II appointments—most intimates of the Miami-based Cuban right-wing—were a form of reciprocation for Cuban assistance with the Florida-based judicial coup that put George W. Bush into the Oval Office. But the very Republican genealogy of this cadre suggests it was more substantial than that. During the Bush II years, it would be Roger Noriega coordinating the details of President Aristide’s forcible removal from office, with Otto Reich running the antiAristide disinformation campaign in the Organization of American States (OAS), himself fresh back from his failed coup against Venezuela. And so we see the same people moving back and forth over the map, and through time. We know the IRI is a Republican Party instrument. Above the IRI in the chain of command, as it were, is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
It has a Democratic subsidiary, so it appears very bipartisan. But, again, the NED itself was Reagan’s creature, and the Reagan administration itself was explicit that the NED was a refinement in covert operations. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment. Something had to be done. What was not done was to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name—The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities. It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism. The NED has four affiliates in the United States: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO. The NED counterparts to these four entities are the International Republican Institute, the Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). There is strong and growing opposition within the AFL-CIO to American Center for International Labor Solidarity, which is a throwback to the bad-old-days of Cold War business-unionism. The job of the NED is to funnel funds, training, and support to political groups in other countries in order to ensure political outcomes that are favorable to the U.S. Their most tried and true method has been to build, train, finance, and control political alliances as “oppositions” to popular governments considered too “left” for the US. If that sounds like the IRI’s doings, it’s because it is. The IRI just focuses more. The entire NED organization is committed to the Dollar-Wall Street Regime, and to neoliberalism as its lifeblood. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation
establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991:”A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” In effect, the CIA has been laundering money through NED. AND IN CONCLUSION… Understanding how coups work, and ensuring other people know how coups work, is likely to be the only thing that will stop them. I won’t belabor the difficulty of that in the immediate wake of a discussion of media monopolies. The hype about the newlyemerging democratic agency of social media afforded by the Internet is overblown, though we should continue to use it. Big media has big power. This rambling tour through Coup World is primarily meant to show that coups are not a linear process, and to capture their essence in a linear medium like text requires a good deal of jump cuts and whip pans to bring it to life in several dimensions. Neoliberalism doesn’t stand on its legs and walk around in the daylight. It’s a process, one that is now self-organized and self-reproducing. The coup dynasty of those U.S. covert operators who can trace their origins to Playa Giron in Cuba are not merely job descriptions; they are a ruling class clique, friends sharing in the deadly sins of pride, avarice, and wrath. I said at the beginning, we were going to read a story, but sometimes a story following one line of action suddenly reveals a new story. There is no proof that Hillary Clinton simultaneously undermined her boss and fomented a coup. Though there is proof enough to satisfy me that she fomented a coup. Taken as a whole, no amount of nitpicking the parts is sufficient to even raise a reasonable doubt about this. Most of the rationalizations for the coup have already passed the threshold of absurdity. But in a systematic examination of the common features of a modern coup, a structure is revealed that raises a contradiction in the Honduras coup that was not there when Republicans lock-stepped through them in 2002 and 2004. There is this peculiar contrast between a government of Obama (read Bill Clinton) appointees, and the State Department, where Hillary Clinton was juggling a group of people who immediately, and predictably, attacked Obama for his stance on the coup, which was legalistic and quite timid. These
were people with whom she was maintaining close contact before, during, and after the coup. State secrecy has the vice of all secrets; it opens the door to speculation. Whether or not Obama himself was read into the coup or not, his careless reference to the bad old days in his first pronouncements suggests he was not, or that he committed an incredible gaffe. But Clinton certainly knew what was going on. She was the Secretary Of State through the destabilization phase, the execution phase, and the consolidation phase of the coup, and her office was the exclusive intersection for Negroponte, Davis, and Llorens together: the private sector U.S. actors, the Hondurans, and the Embassy, respectively. Obama did not have to be read in for any of it to work. That doesn’t prove he wasn’t; it just rules out that he had to be. Epilogue Honduras isn’t the only Central American country whose Congress reflects U.S.-associated power, and votes with a rubber stamp certainty. In July 2010, Costa Rica’s Congress voted to permit the United States to send 46 warships, 200 helicopters, and 7,000 naval crew and Marines into Costa Rica waters, and onto Costa Rican land. The official reason was that the exercise was part of a joint U.S.-Costa Rican drug interdiction effort—a claim so preposterous it is an insult. These are not police and forensic specialists and prosecutors. Those forces have eight-inch guns that fire rounds the size of Volkswagens; and the Marines are a shock infantry force. This decision was unpopular in this pacific nation that no longer even pays for an army. The lack of militarization is one reason Costa Rica has enjoyed a higher standard of living and better social services than her neighbors. Why is the U.S. sending Marines to Costa Rica? Let me offer one answer, though there may be more. From 1909 to 1933, Nicaragua was occupied by the United States Marines. It was not a happy time for Nicaragua, and U.S. Marines to this day are an emblem in Nicaragua of legendary and fearsome malevolence. No message could be more clear to the Nicaraguans themselves than a flotilla of Marines in the waters of their immediate neighbor. The Marines in Nicaragua were opposed by the
tenacious guerrilla fighters of General Augusto César Sandino, now a national hero (and namesake of the “Sandinista” party, the FSLN). From 1927-1934 Sandino fought five hundred battles fought against U.S. Marines and their sympathizers. The U.S. lost the war, and gave up after Sandino successfully expelled U.S. armed forces from Nicaragua. The U.S., however, left behind a pro-U.S. junta and U.S.-trained military, that were inherited in 1936 by Anastasio Somoza Garcia whom the U.S. muscled in as Commander of the National Guard. With the approval of Arthur Bliss Lane, U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, Somoza murdered Augusto César Sandino who was under a safe-conduct agreement. Somoza’s National Guard began a reign of terror killing the Sandino supporters and forcing the president to resign.The Somoza family established a blood dynasty, and his heirs continued the violent repression at home, getting rich by renting out Nicaragua to the highest bidders from the north. The land was destroyed by abusive agribusiness practices, and the peasantry withdrew further and further into the margins, sinking into a quagmire of chronic poverty. Somoza has already gone down in history alongside the likes of Papa Doc Duvallier, and Fulgencio Batista; he was venal, corrupt, and utterly ruthless in his accommodations to the U.S. In 1972, a terrible earthquake shook Nicaragua, killing more than 10,000 and leaving half a million homeless. The strain on social services highlighted government corruption and incompetence, and a rebellion broke out that would grow into the Sandinista Revolution. By 1978, the country was in a state of civil war. In July 1979, the Sandinistas seated their own government. The Iran hostage crisis was the top news story in the US, and Ronald Reagan secured his party’s nomination for the Presidency. The next year, he would begin the secret war against Nicaragua, using predominantly Honduras and Costa Rica as bases of operation, including drug smuggling. When we see who he hired to get the job done, we see some of our own cast of characters for this story. We’ve gone in a circle. In November 2006, after decades of U.S. hegemony in the wake of the Contra war, the former Sandinista
President, Daniel Ortega, was elected President again in Nicaragua, as part of the leftward shift in the region. I feel sure that John Negroponte and Otto Reich each drank an extra Scotch that day. [Ortega was re-elected in November of 2011]. Using the selection criteria of who are the weakest lambs for a coup, as they did in Honduras, Nicaragua, as Central America’s poorest nation, should beware. The Costa Rica landing of the flotilla is not an invasion, but a threat; and threats shake things up. Shaking things up, inside Nicaragua, is part of any destabilization campaign in the preparatory phase of a coup. The flotilla signals to State Department allies in Nicaragua; and it emboldens them. Destabilization uses carrots and sticks. And if Venezuela is the problem, then the sense of urgency about Nicaragua is growing. Nicaragua is now sandwiched between a pro-U.S. junta in Honduras and a U.S.-obedient government in Costa Rica (where anti-Nicaraguan xenophobia remains the ugliest aspect of this otherwise peaceful and polite culture). These two neighbors served as a U.S. platform for the Contra mercenaries in the 80s. Venezuela has provided over $1 billion in loans and assistance to the Nicaraguan government, to offset the 54 austerity measures Nicaragua has been given by the IMF. The results have been remarkable. In the last four years, 48,250 rural families have been subsidized for livestock, building materials, and biofuel systems to convert cow manure to cooking gas. More than $2,000 per household was spent in a country where $2,000 exceeds many people’s annual income. Food assistance reached more than 100,000 of poorest households in the Zero Hunger Program. 79,500 women received micro-loans under the Zero Usury Program. Roads were improved. The number of Nicaraguans in “extreme poverty” was reduced from 17.2% to 9.7% of the population. The programs and the aid and the Bolivar oil refinery are already under attack by the major media in Latin America and the US. Here’s McClatchy, the news chain: MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Over the past four years, entities controlled by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega have received at least $1 billion in no-strings-attached donations through an oil deal brokered by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. The windfall has helped Ortega mount a vigorous campaign to fight rural poverty and
generate electricity —and to build political support for himself. By the account of one respected economist, who was assisted by the World Bank in gauging rural poverty, the money has had a dramatic effect. It’s put more food in the bellies of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and better roofing over their heads. It’s also created a web of Ortegacontrolled companies with no public oversight, making the president a force in Nicaragua’s economy and blurring the lines between what belongs to him, to his party and to the citizenry.
The “Ortega-controlled companies” are government projects, and he is the head of the government. This was a fairly friendly article. Here’s the Los Angeles Time blog: The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, certainly has high self-esteem [megalomania trope]. Since the former leftist guerrilla [dangerous commie trope] was elected back into the Nicaraguan presidency in 2006, Ortega “has built a national homage to himself,” writes Tracy Wilkinson in the L.A. Times, from Managua [more megalomania trope, this time quoting another reporter’s snarky remark, suggestions of madness]: “Billboards dot this sprawling, haphazard capital with a larger-than-life picture of him alongside national heroes Ruben Darío and Augusto Sandino. Nicaraguans speak less of Sandinismo and more of Danielismo.”
And there you have the preparatory phase right in front of you, now that you know how coups work. Haven’t we seen this movie before?
The Real Uncle Sam When we say as a figure of speech, “The U.S. did such and such...,” we are personifying the United States as a collective entity. What image comes to mind in such a personification? The President? Or maybe it’s that stern, hawk-nosed white guy with top hat and Colonel Sanders-like goatee we call Uncle Sam? Despite civics textbooks, nations are ultimately just imaginary, so an image is difficult to conjure up. But when there is a single person who for half a century has been at the scene of so many horrific criminal events committed in the name of the United States of America, then collective anonymity should not be allowed to be a veil obscuring this person’s identity and deeds. Shadowy anonymity is a threat to us all (because it means the perpetrator can come back and do it all over gain, which is exactly what has been happening with the man below). He has been causing mayhem and havoc for more than 50 years and is still at it; the most recent known example has been in Honduras in 2009 connected to the coup d’état against the democratically-elected president. Now this veteran “diplomat” is back at his alma mater Yale teaching idealistic young future diplomats. When you look at much of the mayhem in the world today, you are looking at the graphic resumé of John Negroponte, the ultra-rightist, anti-Communist graduate
of Yale University, who was raised on New York’s Park Avenue. He got his start in career “diplomacy”early after graduation from Yale. He was officer-in-charge for Vietnam at the National Security Council (NSC) under Henry Kissinger. These were the days of CIA’s Phoenix program, which assassinated some 40,000 Vietnamese “subversives.” Negroponte has a long and bloody criminal history, dating back to the early 1960s, of overseeing the training and arming of death squads, schooled in the techniques of torture, “forced interrogation,” assassination and, as we shall see, even genocide. When John Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, he supported and carried out a U.S.-sponsored policy of violations to human rights and international law. Among other things he supervised the creation of the El Aguacate air base, where the U.S. trained Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s. The base was used as a secret detention and torture center. In August 2001 excavations at the base discovered the first of the corpses of the 185 people, including two Americans, who are thought to have been killed and buried at this base. During his ambassadorship, human rights violations in Honduras became systematic. The infamous Battalion 316, trained by the CIA and Argentine military, kidnaped, tortured and killed hundreds of people. Negroponte knew about these human rights violations and yet continued to collaborate with them, while lying to Congress. The CIA knew contemporaneously about the abuses which were occurring, and did not report on them as it should have even though Honduras was the linchpin of U.S. Central America policy during the Reagan administration. Despite CIA knowledge of Honduran military abuses, more than $1 billion in U.S. taxpayers money flowed to the Honduran military throughout the 1980s. Mr. Negroponte’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985 when Honduras was a military dictatorship was a time when the kidnapping, rape, torture and executions of dissidents was rampant. During this time period U.S. military aid to Honduras grew from $5 million to nearly $100 million, and more than $200 million in economic aid, making Honduras the largest aid recipient in the region. Honduras was the launching pad from which the Reagan administration ran its violent “war on terror” in Central American. The U.S.-backed atrocities and terror in the region were condemned by the International World Court in the Hague.
Negroponte’s Rap Sheet by Frank Morales In 1981 President Reagan authorized paramilitary operations against the leftist government of Nicaragua. As ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, Negroponte played a key role in establishing that country as a base of operations for the CIA’s “Contra” guerilla army then attempting to destabilize Nicaragua, with a 450-square kilometer stretch along the border virtually turned over to the US-backed Nicaraguan rebels. He was also instrumental in the reign of terror then being overseen in Honduras by security chief Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, his good friend. Between 1980 and 1984, US military aid to Honduras jumped from $3.9 million to $77.4 million. Much of this went to facilitate the crushing of popular movements through a covert “low intensity” war. Although the high-level planning, money and arms for this repression flowed from Washington, much of the on-the-ground logistics was run out of the Embassy in Tegucigalpa. So crammed was the tiny country with US military troops and bases at this time, that it was dubbed the “USS Honduras.” The captain of this ship, Negroponte, was in charge of the US Embassy when— according to a 1995 four-part series in the Baltimore Sun—hundreds of Hondurans deemed “subversives” were kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed by Battalion 316, a secret Honduran army intelligence unit trained and supported by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere at this time after neighboring El Salvador. Increasing numbers of both Honduran and Salvadoran soldiers were sent to the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas to receive training. In El Salvador, the death squads were headed up by Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, a 1972 graduate of the School of the Americas. General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, one of his classmates at the US “torture academy,” was a founder and commander of Battalion 316. Through his support of Battalion 316, Negroponte is directly complicit in the murder of at least 184 Honduran civilians officially found to have been killed by the death squad by a 1994 Honduran truth commission. The unit used shock and suffocation devices in interrogations, kept prisoners naked—and, when no longer useful, killed them brutally, and buried them in unmarked clandestine graves. Women were raped, often in front of their families. Negroponte was likely involved in a number of other like paramilitary formations throughout Central America, as compliant and “stable” Honduras served BATTALION 316 as a base for U.S. operations throughout the region. In addition to internal repression in Honduras, Recently, the New York Times (March 8, 2005) reported Battalion 316 also participated in the CIA’s covert war that the Organization of American States (OAS) has against Nicaragua. Members of the Battalion were reopened an investigation, “based on new forensic conscripted by the CIA for such sensitive missions evidence,” into the massacre of “hundreds of peasants” as training the Contra terrorists and even mining at El Mozote, El Salvador in 1981—when 800 unarmed Nicaragua’s harbors. Negroponte worked closely with men, women and children were murdered by Salvadoran Gen. Alvarez in overseeing the training Honduran soldiers “from a battalion trained and equipped by the soldiers in psychological warfare, sabotage, torture and United States.” Reports of the massacre were published kidnapping. Honduras was the second largest recipient at the time in the New York Times and the Washington
Post—reports that were “dismissed” by Negroponte and other “officials of the Reagan administration.” Covert operations in Central America were paid for in part through the sale of cocaine. “CIA officials,” according to the New York Times (July 17, 1998), “involved in the Contra program gave relatively low priority to collecting information about the possible drug involvement of Contra rebels”—while of course giving high priority to covering it all up. Ambassador Negroponte acquiesced in shutting down the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in Tegucigalpa, just as Honduras was emerging as an important base for CIA-facilitated cocaine transshipments to the United States, with profits going to the Contras. According to a 1989 Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigative report, “elements of the Honduran military were involved in the protection of the drug traffickers.” In 1982, the US negotiated access to airfields in Honduras and established a regional military training centers there for Central American forces, principally directed at improving the lethal effectiveness of the Salvadoran military—at a time when the Salvadoran army was carrying out massacres such as the one at El Mozote, and army-linked death squads ratcheted up a death toll of at least 800, according to El Salvador’s UN-backed Truth Commission. Much of the training in these “anti-subversive” techniques—i.e., kidnapping, torture and murder—was done at El Aguacate air base in eastern Honduras. Established in 1984, the base was also used as a secret detention and torture center. In August 2001, excavations at the base uncovered 185 corpses, including those of two U.S. citizens—church workers involved in aiding the Honduran peasant movement—thought to have been killed and buried at the site. In 1994, when the Honduran Human Rights Commission documented the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political opponents in the previous decade, it specifically accused John Negroponte of complicity in a number of human rights violations. The Baltimore Sun reporters found that in 1982 alone, during Negroponte’s first full year as ambassador, the Honduran press carried at least 318 stories of extrajudicial attacks by the military. The US Embassy, however, certified the country’s record on human rights in such glowing terms that aides to Negroponte joked that they were writing about Norway, not Honduras. Rick Chidester, a former aide to Negroponte, revealed to the Sun that his supervisors had ordered him to
remove allegations of torture and executions from his draft of the 1982 human rights report. Jack Binns, who served under president Jimmy Carter as the ambassador to Honduras prior to Negroponte, made numerous complaints about human rights abuses by the Honduran military. Recently, he stated regarding Negroponte, “I think he was complicit in abuses, I think he tried to put a lid on reporting abuses and I think he was untruthful to Congress about those activities.” (NYT, March 29, 2005) In one early ‘1980s cable, Binns reported that Gen. Alvarez was modeling his campaign against suspected subversives, on Argentina’s “dirty war” of the 1970s, which, in turn, had been modeled on the techniques of European fascism in the 1930s and 40s—perhaps after having received some pointers from certain elements who fled there with US support after World War II. Recall that Adolf Eichmann, overseer of the apparatus of Jewish extermination during the Nazi era, was captured in Buenos Aires in 1960. In May 1982, Sister Laetitia Bordes, a nun who had worked for ten years in El Salvador, went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras to investigate the whereabouts of thirty Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after the deathsquad assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero the previous year. Negroponte claimed that the Embassy knew nothing. But in a 1996 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Jack Binns said that a group of Salvadorans—including the women Bordes had been looking for—were abducted on April 22, 1981, and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran secret police. They were later thrown out of helicopters while still alive. The Sun’s investigation found that the CIA and US embassy knew of these crimes, but continued to support Battalion 3-16 and ensure that the Embassy’s annual human rights report did not contain the full story. According to a 1996 BBC report, Negroponte “knew about the CIA-trained Honduran army unit that tortured and killed alleged subversives.” According to the Baltimore Sun report, Negroponte “was ambassador when the worst of the abuses were taking place. He knew everything that was going on.” NEGROPONTE’S REVISIONISM When Bush announced Negroponte’s nomination as ambassador to the UN shortly after coming to office, the move was met with widespread protest. Questioned at the time about whether he had turned a blind eye to human rights abuses in Honduras, Negroponte rejected
the suggestion. “I do not believe then [sic], nor do I believe now, that these abuses were part of a deliberate government policy. To this day, I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras.” Despite the protests, the Bush administration did not back down—and even went so far as to silence potential witnesses who might have shed some light on Negroponte’s criminal history. On March 25, 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported on the sudden deportation from the United States of several former Honduran death squad members who could have provided damaging testimony against Negroponte in his then upcoming Senate confirmation hearings. One of the deported Hondurans was none other than Gen. Luis Alonso Discua, the former commander of Battalion 3-16, then serving as Honduras’ deputy ambassador to the UN! Upon learning of Negroponte’s 2001 UN nomination, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch commented that “he looked the other way when serious atrocities were committed” and that “one would have to wonder what kind of message the Bush administration is sending about human rights by this appointment.” Answer: What human rights? When queried about these “serious atrocities,” Negroponte told CNN, “to the contrary, I think we bent over backwards to press for elections and for democratic reform.... Frankly, I think that some of the retrospective efforts to try and suggest that we were supportive of or condoned the actions of human rights violators is really revisionistic.” In 1987, during the administration of George H.W. Bush, Negroponte returned to the National Security Council (NSC) to work under Colin Powell as deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs. Within two years, he was back in Latin America; appointed as ambassador to Mexico, where he served from July 1989 to September 1993. There, he officiated at the block-long, fortified embassy and helped facilitate Mexico’s passage of the NAFTA treaty—as well as likely U.S. intelligence operations that anticipated a popular reaction to the treaty. Negroponte left Mexico just ahead of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas.
CIA director George Tenet, Negroponte stated that “the Resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed. One way or another...Iraq will be disarmed.” The New York Times would later report (March 29, 2005) that “Mr. Negroponte pressed on foreign colleagues American intelligence on Iraqi weapons that turned out to be profoundly flawed. If he was miffed, Mr. Negroponte never spoke out.” Negroponte also delivered a warning to other less hawkish members of the Security Council, stating that, “if the Security Council fails to act decisively in the event of a further Iraqi violation, this resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq, or to enforce relevant UN resolutions and protect world peace and security.” As Stephen Kinzer, writing in the New York Review of Books (September 2001), put it, “giving him this job is a way of telling the UN: ‘We hate you’.” When faced with contention over US intentions during the UN debate leading up to the war in Iraq, Negroponte turned to grandstanding. In March 2003, Negroponte walked out of the General Assembly after Iraq’s UN envoy, Mohammed Al-Douri, accused the U.S. of preparing a war of aggression. “Britain and the United States are about to start a real war of extermination” he said, “that will kill everything and destroy everything.” NEGROPONTE IN BAGHDAD On April 20, 2004, Bush nominated Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq, stating that, “he has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spread freedom and peace.” Calling him “a man of enormous experience and skill” was all that our courageous Senators required in order to vote him in by 95-3 on May 6. He was sworn in on June 23.
Negroponte’s US Embassy in Baghdad, housed in a palace that once belonged to Saddam Hussein, was and remains the largest embassy in the world, with a APPOINTMENT TO THE UNITED NATIONS “diplomatic staff” of over 3,000. Opting for the kind of diplomacy he’s most familiar with, he immediately Negroponte was sworn in as U.S. Representative to “shifted more than a $1 billion to build up the Iraqi the United Nations on Sept. 18, 2001. By November Army,” diverting the funds “from reconstruction 2002, he was strong-arming a resolution through the projects” to military and intelligence projects associated UN Security Council which called for the “disarming” with “what intelligence officials describe as the largest of Iraq. Standing in front of the Security Council with C.I.A. station in the world.” (NYT , March 29, 2005)
On Jan. 2, 2004, the Washington Post stated that a “major challenge” facing the diplomatic mission “will be sorting out the terms of the US military presence, which is expected to exceed 100,000 troops even after the occupation ends...” An unnamed U.S. “official” stated that “we have to determine what command American troops will be under: Will it be part of some kind of multinational force, under the United Nations, under NATO? Or will they be relatively independent in an agreement with the Iraqi government? These are huge questions to be answered in a very short amount of time.” We can rest assured that John Negroponte, the enforcer, made the Iraqi government an offer they couldn’t refuse in favor of the “relatively independent” option. Shortly after taking up the position, Negroponte was asked about eyewitness statements that in late June 2004, Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi had, in a gesture of steadfast loyalty, personally executed up to six suspected insurgents in front of his US military bodyguards. While Allawi denies the accusation, Negroponte did not. In an e-mail to the Sydney Morning Herald, July 2004, he stated that “if we attempted to refute each [rumor], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy’s press office is concerned, this case is closed.” Sydney Morning Herald columnist Alan Ramsey wrote of Negroponte’s arrogant side-stepping. “Of course. One only has to consider Negroponte’s record as US ambassador in Honduras to know he is a loyal servant of Republican Washington who sees and knows nothing... This same man, with an embassy regime of more than 1,000 American foreign service officers, plus American advisers salted throughout Iraqi ministries, as well as 140,000 US military personnel, now has absolute covert power in Iraq. Of course, ‘the case is closed’.” By the first weeks of January 2005, Negroponte was said to be overseeing the formation of death squads in Iraq, prompting media reports about a “Salvador option.” MSNBC reported on Jan. 8, 2005 that the Pentagon was “intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the US government funded or supported ‘nationalist’ forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually, the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives
consider the policy to have been a success, despite the deaths of innocent civilians...” One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi death squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers—even across the border into Syria, carrying out assassinations or so-called “snatch” operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. Major General Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq’s National Intelligence Service, was quoted in a Jan. 8, 2005 Newsweek story on the “Salvador Option,” warning that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, “are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them.” He said most Iraqis do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won’t turn them in. One military source suggested that “new offensive operations” are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” Threatening everyone in a village with torture and death, if the village is deemed a potential base insurgent operations can be a very effective technique, whether the perpetrators are the Nazi SS in occupied Czechoslovakia, the death squads in El Salvador, or whatever new force is invented in Iraq. This strategy of tactical terror aims to sever an insurgency from its potential base of support. At least one pro-occupation death squad is already in operation. On Jan. 11, 2004, just days after the Pentagon plans regarding possible “new offensive operations” were revealed, a new militant group, “Saraya Iraqna,” began offering big wads of American cash for insurgent scalps—up to $50,000, the Iraqi paper Al Ittihad reported. “Our activity will not be selective,” the group promised. CIA COUNTERINSURGENCY: PROJECT X During Negroponte’s Honduran ambassadorship, he worked closely with Duane R. Clarridge, aka “Mr. Marone”, a high-ranking CIA officer based in Honduras, who was, according to a recent New York Times report (March 29, 2005), “running the covert war
against communism in Central America.” According to Clarridge, “Negroponte was a big supporter of the agency’s covert action mission” there. At the time, the CIA utilized its “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual” to teach young Honduran soldiers and others the methodology of torture. Dated 1983, the manual, one in a series of recently “declassified” documents, addresses, among other subjects, “coercive interrogation” techniques utilized in “the torture situation,” which is, according to the manual, “a contest between the subject and his tormentor.” The manual discusses inflicting pain or threatening pain, depriving prisoners of food and sleep, making them maintain rigid positions for long periods, stripping them naked, and keeping them blindfolded or in prolonged solitary confinement. Disseminated throughout Latin America during the early 1980s, the manual appears to have been compiled from training
courses given to members of the Honduran military. The manual can be assumed to have been sanctioned by higher-ups, including Negroponte, given, for example, its statement that, “illegal detention always requires prior [headquarters] approval.” This secret manual was compiled from sections of an earlier 1963 training manual entitled, “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation.” This was a U.S. Military Intelligence field manual written as part of the Army’s Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program. According to the manual, “all coercive techniques of interrogation are designed to induce regression” to a state of abject submission. The tormentor’s “principal coercive techniques” are “arrest, detention, deprivation of sensory stimuli through solitary confinement or similar methods, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility, hypnosis, narcosis, and induced regression.” In a March 1992 internal “report of investigation,”
which was sent to then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, seven such interrogation manuals used for years by the Pentagon’s Southern Command throughout Latin America were said to contain “objectionable” and “prohibited material.” Army investigators traced the origins of the instructions on use of beatings, false imprisonment, executions and truth serums back to a top-secret program run by the Army Foreign Intelligence unit in the 1960s code-named “Project X.” Written by US Army counterinsurgency experts starting in 1965, the Joint Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program used Project X to train U.S. allies in Vietnam, Iran, Latin America, and elsewhere around the world. The report to Cheney noted that the “offensive and objectionable material” in the Project X manuals “undermines US credibility, and could result in significant embarrassment.” Cheney of course, immediately embarked on a course of “corrective action,” namely, to “recall” and destroy as many of the manuals as possible, shredding the “embarrassing” history—though some copies have survived, or perhaps were meant to. Meanwhile, a July 1991 U.S. Southern Command “confidential” document records a phone conversation with a Captain Victor Tise, who served in 1982 as a counterinsurgency instructor at the School of the Americas (SOA). In it, Tise relates the history of the “objectionable material” in the manuals and the training courses that he assembled for use at the School. According to Tise, in 1976, following a decade of SOA tutoring, use of the Project X material was suspended by Congress and the Carter administration “for fear the training would contribute to Human Rights violations in other countries.” But the program was restored by the Reagan administration in 1982, shortly after Negroponte arrived in Honduras. Tise described Project X as a “training package to provide counterinsurgency techniques learned in Vietnam to Latin American countries.” These “techniques” were undoubtedly derived from the Phoenix Program, the CIA’s assassination campaign which liquidated 40,000 Vietnamese “subversives.” The course materials Tise put together, including the manuals that became the subject of the investigations, were sent to Defense Department headquarters “for clearance” in 1982. They “came back approved” and “UNCHANGED,” despite the fact that Tise sought to remove—or so he said—the “objectionable” parts. Subsequently, hundreds of the unaltered manuals, “objectionable material” and all, were disseminated
for use throughout US-militarized Latin America over the next nine years. Negroponte’s role in this particular bit of “objectionable” history remains shrouded, and shredded. It appears that by 1965, the US intelligence community had seen fit to formalize the hard-learned lessons of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam by commissioning the topsecret Project X. Based at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center & School at Fort Holabird, Maryland, the project drew from “field experience” to “provide intelligence training to friendly foreign countries,” according to a Pentagon history prepared in 1991 and released in 1997. According to the Washington Post (March 6, 1997), the Project X materials even suggested that “militaries infiltrate and suppress even democratic political dissident movements and hunt down opponents in every segment of society in the name of fighting Communism...” In the early 1970s, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center moved to Fort Huachuca in Arizona and began exporting Project X material to foreign U.S. “military assistance groups.” By the mid-1970s, the Project X material was going to armies all over the world, in effect, a textbook for global counterinsurgency and terror warfare. In its 1992 review, the Pentagon also acknowledged that Project X was the source for some of the “objectionable” lessons taught at the School of the Americas where Latin American officers were trained in blackmail, kidnapping, murder and spying on nonviolent political opponents. But disclosure of the full story was blocked when Defense Secretary Cheney ordered the destruction of most Project X records. Nearly simultaneously, President George H.W. Bush pardoned six Reagan-Bush administration figures of any wrongdoing in the Nicaragua operations. These included former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, and Duane Clarridge, by then named as intellectual author of another sinister murder manual, “Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare.” Produced by the CIA, this booklet openly instructed in the assassination of public officials, and was distributed to the Nicaraguan Contras. Used as a public service from http://ww4report.com/ negropontedeathsquad
The General and the Mermaid
Editor’s Note: General Augusto C. Sandino of Nicaragua began his rebellion against the invading U.S. Marines in 1927 with rifles retrieved from the ocean by most unusual allies. Only the briefest mentions exist of his successful recovery of the old Russian rifles dumped by U.S. Marines into the sea off Puerto Cabezas. The account says “With his six assistants and some prostitutes of Puerto Cabezas, he (Sandino) was able to recover 30 rifles and 7,000 rounds of ammunition.” This is too tantalizing a story to be left untold. The gaps demand probing by imaginative fiction and no better genre exists than the magical realist style of Latin America. This short story completes the history in the style of Gabriel García Márquez. The General and the Mermaid by Stephen Duplantier
eneral Augusto César Sandino dismounted from his mule after the long ride down from the mountains of the Segovias in northern Nicaragua toward the Miskitu territory and Puerto Cabezas on the Caribbean seacoast. He and his six companions smelled like mule sweat and dust and their legs ached. Skinny yellow dogs barked at the men and mules, but the travelers paid them no attention. Sandino’s gait was stiff as he dismounted and loosened up after the long ride. His natural gracefulness re-emerged as he knocked lightly on the tree-trunk column of the small thatched house, calling into the dark, smoky interior. A shy Miskitu woman half emerged, drying her hands on her worn flour-sack apron. Other faces in half darkness peered at the stranger. The General doffed his dusty wide-brimmed hat and bowed slightly but elegantly at the women. “I am General Augusto César Sandino, Señora. These men are members
of the Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua. My men and I are tired and hungry. Do you have anything that we may eat? Of course we will pay you.” Children ran up to Sandino and touched him. He patted their heads, and then stretched his arms out with a big sigh, sending the children scampering. A giggling teen-age girl emerged from the smoky darkness of the house with a dented enamel pot of black coffee. The General found a seat on a log, stretched out his legs and sipped his steaming coffee. A fly buzzed in and landed on the General’s nose. He twitched and it flew away as the general stood up to greet some of the men of the settlement returning from the forests, others arrived by dugout. They wore heavy, church-going dress pants obtained from the Moravian missionaries to help them better sing mysterious hymns in the chapels they built everywhere. Now the heavy wide trousers were stained and ripped by aggressive rainforest vegetation. Odd cloth caps and stained bandanas covered their heads. Their machetes rested on their shoulders, blade facing out and butt-end in hand ready for a life-saving stroke against the aggressive and deadly Barba Amarilla—the killer snake of the wet lowlands with a back marked with Xs—that could strike at them around any turn of the forest trail. They carried small sacks of plátanos and root crops. After a meal of beans, boiled cassava, and fried fish, Sandino conferred with a few men of the settlement and his own staff of Saturnino, his aide-de-camp and his Segovian followers. This group of soldiers needed to get to the ocean on a mission of the highest importance. The U.S. Marines had decamped from Puerto Cabezas after leaving behind a prize—a cache of Russian rifles which they had dumped into the sea to keep them out of the rebels’ hands. These
rifles were the storied Mosin Nagant arms originally made for the Tsar of Russia by U.S. firms Remington and Westinghouse and, through labyrinthine twists, were ultimately sent to México and finally to Nicaragua. General Augusto César Sandino wanted those rifles in order to become a player in the equally labyrinthine Nicaraguan politics of the 1920s. A Liberal revolt by José María Moncada against the U.S. puppet regime of the Conservative Adolfo Díaz had broken out in Puerto Cabezas. Moncada supported the ousted Liberal Vice-President Juan Bautista Sacasa. México, in fine revolutionary fettle, supported Sacasa and sent the old Russian rifles to Puerto Cabezas to help the cause. But the U.S. Marines, who love tropical beaches so much they cannot seem to stay away, invaded Puerto Cabezas, routed the Liberal forces of Moncada, captured their rifles and ammunition, and dumped them into the sea. The Miskitu lobster divers of the coast who know the bottom of the sea like their mistresses’s backs would not go near the site. They had befriended the rowdy Marines, but still feared their lawlessness and cruelty. The Marines were helpful to the local economy because they were such good customers for the prostitutes of Puerto Cabezas. These Miskitu working women were adepts at praidi saikha, or sexual magic potions made from certain plants. Miskitu women do not easily share their secrets of preparing love potions from the abundant plant life of the warm, humid coastal forests, but the prostitutes, as good businesswomen, are likely to have used ai likhan, the love potion that attracts men in order to guarantee a steady flow of Marine customers. When the Marines wanted a
cup of coffee, how easy for a Miskitu shaman to add some love potion and make the tall soldiers helpless to resist their charms. General Augusto César Sandino asked for the use of a boat which would be returned with proper payment when he was finished with it. Not minutes later, a man ran back to the General’s temporary headquarters and reported that Don Macedonio’s long Ceiba wood dugout canoe was being prepared for the small, but imposing commander. The Miskito knew that Sandino was a mestizo from the Pacific side of Nicaragua, and usually the Miskitu hated the mestizos. His mother, Margarita Calderón, was a Chorotega Indian and his father a European-looking, Hispanized Nicaraguan. Margarita’s genes had won the genetic race because Sandino looked very Chorotegan with his wide nose and thick black hair. Margarita Calderón is said to have had relatives who were forest-dwelling Sumo, and possibly even Miskitu. The Miskitu coast of the Caribbean was peppered with small, isolated settlements of clans and budding tribes with local idioms of the Misumalpan language branch. In antiquity, these people had drifted up the coast slowly from original Chibchan focal areas in upper Amazonia and into the Costa Rican Talamancan highlands. The overlaid palimpsest masks of 10,000 ancestral years were on the General’s face as he entered the house and thanked his hostess, holding her hands and looking at her eyes. She smiled at him but quickly averted his complex gaze. The next morning, General Augusto César Sandino and his little entourage walked to the river, got into the long wooden boat that had been carved by hand from a huge Ceiba tree, and were poled out into the Rio Wawa. He
took off his big hat and waved it to the small crowd of wellwishers from the village. How many of the villagers knew that General Augusto César Sandino was about to take on the United States of America with Marines, ships, rifles, machine guns, airplanes, and bombs, and, standing in the shadows, the driven, drunken businessmen who had preceded the Marine invasion like so many hungry white termites that ate the wooden forest and left nothing behind? General Augusto César Sandino had some assets: a growing number of followers, some mules and horses—gifts that the people of the aldeas of the Segovian highlands had given him—a few weapons, and most memorably, a look on his face of utter confidence, shaded under an always rakishly-tilted Stetson hat. For his photographs, General Augusto César Sandino carried a swagger stick, a fresh unlit puro, high boots, and even wore an ascot. The General knew the importance of a leader projecting style, confidence, and power. The big Ceiba dugout canoe floated silently down the river past banks tangled with a green wall of vegetation. Around every bend of the river were stranded waterlogged trunks of the fallen mahogany giants abandoned by the American timber companies who clearcut the primal forests of the Miskito Coast. High stumps dotted the soggy wetlands as jagged tallies of how many trees had been cut during high water and floated on barges up to where the Yanquis lived in fine houses with furniture made from the trees of the Miskitu. Up and down the coast were banana plantations and almost as numerous as the green Gros Michel banana stalks packed on mules, were tall white men overseeing the work with pistols strapped to their sides. General Augusto César Sandino briefly thought of the days he had worked for United. Now he was working for the people of Nicaragua to help rid them
of the soldiers who always seem to invade when some boss of the banana companies, or the mining companies, or the mahogany companies complained to the United States about something they didn’t like in a country that was not even theirs. Some hours later as Don Macedonio steered his wooden boat down the Rio Wawa past a small Moravian missionary’s chapel, his passengers’ attention was attracted to a group of Miskitu women near the shoreline washing their clothes and bathing. Some of the women were topless as they performed their ablutions, others were wearing the big white Bustenhalters that the Moravian missionaries tried to persuade the women to wear because their God did not like breasts that much. All of the women had kept their skirts on and as they needed to, reached underneath to wash modestly. Other women washed their clothes, beating them on soapstained rocks on the shoreline. Naked children splashed in the shallows and played as children do. None ventured far out into the wide shallow river for fear of the liwa mairin, or mermaids—the mischievous and sexy water spirits of the Miskitu. Liwa mairin can charm, kidnap, rape and even kill her captives so the mothers’ robust warnings to the noisy children were serious. Almost unseen near the side of the boat, something large and brown roiled the water, its making tiny whirlpools. Perhaps a large aguja—a garfish—thought Sandino, unaware that he was in the lair of liwa mairin. Now alert from the dreamy reverie that a slow boat ride on an indolent Neotropical river induces, the General became the situationally-aware soldier again. General Augusto César Sandino scanned the water and right in front of his eyes, another flash of brown skin and long hair tangled with wispy
seaweed appeared alongside the dugout. The creature was not a fish at all, but a young girl swimming with the skill and abandon of a porpoise, and teasing the boat as porpoises do. In full view of the men, the girl performed a backward-toside roll clearly showing her young body with legs and fish tail to the transfixed men in the boat proving that she was indeed not a fish or porpoise. Then as smoothly as a river otter, the girl disappeared, but for the flap of a clearly-visible fish tail. “It’s La Sirena,” announced an astonished General Augusto César Sandino. The General was unaware of local beliefs about water spirits, but a mermaid’s legendary charms and power was well understood by all. His eyes widened as an idea emerged in his mind first as a tiny, shining nugget, and then quickly swelled to fill his mind with instantly-specific details. General Augusto César Sandino had a plan. “Stop the boat,” he commanded. The floating Ceiba log with seven human bumps slowed and veered slightly with the current. “There she is again,” said General Augusto César Sandino, gesturing toward some ripples in the water. The women near the shoreline had taken notice of the longboat’s change of direction and were on alert. “To the shore,” said the General-turned-Admiral. The barebreasted women covered themselves. They recognized Don Macedonio’s dugout, but not the stranger with the big hat. As the dugout drifted toward the women, Sandino carefully put his booted foot on the gunwale and sent the dugout pitching and yawing, but the Admiral had his sea legs. Addressing the women, Sandino introduced himself to the women, who put their hands to their mouths in unconscious self-defense. “Who is that wonderful swimmer in the river,” the General wanted to know. The women looked at each other, and soon one spoke, “She
is Magadelena, the daughter of Doña Beata, herself the daughter of a King. Her mother is a sukia of Bilwi. Magdalena swims well, but Beata herself is half fish.” The women were unable to tell the General the whole truth about the liwa mairin. “I need the services of Doña Beata,” intoned General Augusto César Sandino. The women tittered, with their hands in front of their mouths again. General Augusto César Sandino did not know that Doña Beata was a prostitute who had been busy on the coast with all the U.S. Marines. Did the general need a woman? Beata’s love potions might not even be necessary, they considered. “Take me to her,” he commanded. “The Yanquis have dumped some rifles into the sea. I need these weapons to continue our struggle. Your friend Beata can help me get the rifles.” Silently as a caiman surfacing in a river with only eyes protruding, Magdalena had surfaced and observed and listened to the man with the big hat talking to her cousins. An unconcerned heron fishing nearby took off with long wing strokes and almost grazed the head of the man with the big hat and gaitered boots. Quietly as she surfaced, Magdalena disappeared again. She became a barracuda in the water, swimming like a bullet toward the sea to find her mother. As the brown river water began clearing and turning brackish approaching the Caribbean, fish started schooling with her. Magdalena’s swimming school was openly ecumenical as all manners of finny companions joined the chase. When she crossed into the sea, the colorful reef fish recruited themselves to the shimmering carnivalesque school: barracudas and red drums, eels, angels, and butterflies, parrot and jackfish. Bottom species too swam in the martial parade: rays, skates, and octopi skittered on the
hard sea floor making sandy cloud swirls. When she was finally out some short distance in the foamy sea, Magdalena reconnoitered the beach topside. The palm-thatched roofs of houses appeared to bob on the waves as noisy gulls and elegant skimmers flew overhead. Magdalena saw the man with the big hat on the beach and the lithe figure of her mother talking to him. General Augusto César Sandino explained to Beata what had happened, although Beata’s customers had already told her everything the General was now relating to her. The polite and formal General Augusto César Sandino told her rifles had been thrown into the sea to prevent anyone from getting them and using them in the fight of the Liberals against the Conservatives and the U.S. Marine invaders. General Augusto César Sandino explained that he was forming an Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua and wanted to know if Beata and her co-workers would help. He asked if she would swim into the ocean and find the weapons just as the men of the coast dove deep and found the lobsters they sold for cash. Doña Beata listened and was cautious as any shaman must be. As a Miskitu sukia, she had every right to be suspicious of this foppishly overdressed man with grand plans. Yet something about him disarmed her. When she looked in his eyes, Beata saw not a corrupt Hispanic Mestizo, but herself— a Central American Indian, who, of whatever tribe or language at whatever century it was, had to worry about invaders, no matter if the invaders were naked, wore Spanish armor, or tan uniforms and white puttees. Beata was more than glad to help. Beata was a working sukia by day, and in her dreamtime was a liwa mairin who
Mermaid Sickness Miskitu men and women contend that Mermaid or liwa mairin sickness is a broader category of illness that is associated with spirit molestation or spirit possession. Liwa sickness is usually diagnosed in individuals who have a nightly dream that an attractive person is making love to them—during the water spirit’s nightly visits, the liwa “bothers,” “molests,” or “rapes” his or her victims. When the stricken person awakens, he or she commonly reports still being sweaty and aroused. The liwa sometimes leaves physical proof of love-making, such as bruises or red marks on their bodies. Dennis contends that having liwa siknis (Mermaid sickness) indicates that the Mermaid is attracted to you and is a reflection of a person’s sexual power. Men with liwa siknis may have pain in the groin area when urinating or have irregular secretions from the penis. This one type of liwa sickness may be related to sexually transmitted disease. The Miskitu themselves also link this type of liwa sickness with the sexual domain. They believe that the liwa causes sickness in humans by entering the groin area from underneath the water when bathing or swimming in the rivers and lagoons. Miskitu ethnographer Laura H. Herlihy
never needed encouragement to strip off her clothes and dive into the primal womb of the sea. She had already bathed in fresh water to wash off the stink of the sweaty, drunk Marines and to clear her mind. Now the sharp seawater would welcome Beata and her Miskitu co-workers and sister crypto-mermaids. General Augusto CĂŠsar Sandino beamed. He had mustered crucial allies in these assorted sizes and shapes of brown bodies and long black hair now marching through the hot afternoon sand toward the soft Caribbean breakers. These real, indigenous mairins were on the beach heading toward Magdalena and her fish army who were waiting offshore for this expeditionary force of naked warrior mermaids resolutely plunging into the sea to join them. General Augusto CĂŠsar Sandino requisitioned a lobster boat from a willing lobster diver and together he, the diver, and Saturnino, his aide-de-camp, wrangled the bouncing dinghy past a firmly protesting surf and broke into the softer swells beyond. The flotilla of swimming mermaids, a wet General, and his two-man crew headed to sea, though no one knew exactly where the rifles had been dumped. Magdalena and her fish conscripts were at work darting every which way under the sea. No part of the reef and sandy bottom was left unpatrolled. Finally it was the persistent stingrays who were successful in finding the hoard of rifles. The rays flapped the sand first off one rifle, and then uncovered a helter-skelter pile of glinting Russian rifles, and drab cartridge boxes. When Magdalena saw the booty, she darted down and grabbed a rifle. In the sea, the heavy weapon was lighter and easy for a young girl to carry. She shot up toward the surface, scanning the bubbly silver undersurface of the sea for the dark oval bottom of
the dinghy. When she spotted it, she excitedly wiggled her best mermaid serpentine gyrations as she burst through the silver into the world of gases and light, popping up like a dripping cork. General Augusto César Sandino saw bubbles on the surface announcing the arrival of the mermaid and he recoiled a bit as the spray of the jubilant Magdalena breaching the surface splashed his face. “So there you are my little Sirena,” chided General Augusto César Sandino. She handed the wet rifle to the General with a proud smile. “Now we can fight the filibusteros,” he laughed. Underneath the water, a patrol of mermaid warriors each holding a rifle rose in a broken file to the surface as eerie music resonated in the deep, played by unseen musicians. With silver bubbles trailing off their long black tresses and full breasts, the seven mermaids of Puerto Cabezas were surely the most striking partisans in General Augusto César Sandino’s little Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua.
This story has benefitted from suggestions made by anthropologist and Miskitu expert Laura Hobson Herlihy of Kansas University. Any ethnographic or historical mistakes are my own. SD
“With silver bubbles trailing off their long black tresses and full breasts, the seven mermaids of Puerto Cabezas were surely the most striking partisans in General Augusto César Sandino’s little Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua.”
1984 Bluefields Volando Honda raíz, alto tronco, florida ramazón: clavado en el centro del mundo se alza un árbol sin espinas, un árbol de esos que saben darse a los pájaros. En torno al árbol giran las parejas bailanderas, ombligo contra ombligo, ondulando al ritmode una música que despierta a las piedras y enciende el hielo. Mientras bailan, los danzantes van vistiendo y desvistiendo el árbol con largas cintas de todos los colores. En la atormentada costa de Nicaragua, sometida a invasión continua, a continuos bombardeos y tiroteos, se celebra como siempre esta fiesta del Palo de Mayo. El árbol de la vida sabe que jamás cesará, pase lo que pase, la música caliente que gira a su alrededor. Por mucha muerte que venga, por mucha sangre que corra, los hombres y las mujeres serán por la música bailados mientras sean por el aire respirados y por la tierra arados y amados.
Flight of Fancy Growing in the center of the earth is a tree of an inviting sort that knows to open its arms to birds, a tree with deep roots and no spines, with a towering trunk, and branches full of flowers. Around the tree spins dancing couples, belly to belly, swaying to the rhythm of music that can awaken stones and melt hard ice. While they are dancing, the dancers drape and decorate the tree with long multicolored ribbons. On the tormented shores of Nicaragua, assaulted with never-ending invasions and neverending bombardment and gunfire, the May Day holiday is still celebrated as always. This tree of life knows that no matter what happens, the vibrant music playing around it will never stop. For all the deaths that happen, for all the blood that spills, these men and women will be danced by the music, while they are breathed by the air, and planted and loved by the earth. Eduardo Galeano. Memorias del Fuego III, Siglo del Viento Translated by Stephen Duplantier
Alaíde Foppa 1914—1980
Une très courte biographie Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano fut une femme extraordinaire, dont la vie fut raccourcie de manière lâche. Ses meurtriers impunis ont même tenté d’effacer toutes traces d’elle, mais sa mémoire vit toujours, au delà de la mort. Alaíde Foppa naquit en 1914 à Barcelone, Espagne, d’une mère guatémaltèque et d’un père argentin. Elle vécut en Argentine, ensuite en Italie où elle assista à l’école secondaire. Elle obtint un baccalauréat en Belgique et retourna ensuite à Rome pour étudier la littérature et l’histoire de l’art. Elle s’installa à Guatemala peu de temps avant la révolution démocratique de 1944 et travaillait comme volontaire dans un hôpital quand la révolution fut déclenchée le 20 octobre. Elle passa la nuit sous les lits avec les patients pendant que l’hôpital était bombardé. En 1944, elle épousa Alfonso Solórzano, un propriétaire foncier guatémaltèque qui avait étudié les droits humains en Allemagne. Il fit partie de deux gouvernements du pays (1945 à 1954). En 1954, Alaíde, Alfonso et leurs cinq enfants, Julio, Mario, Silvia, Laura et Juan Pablo, durent se réfugier au Mexique pour échapper à la dictature militaire. À la Faculté des Sciences Politiques, Alaíde offrit le tout premier cours jamais offert dans une université de l’Amérique Latine, sur la sociologie des femmes. Elle fut la co-fondatrice de fem, la première revue féministe en Amérique Latine. En 1972, elle produit et diffusa “foro de la mujer” (Forum de la Femme) et présenta plus de 400 programmes. Elle devint professeur à l’Université national du Mexique (UNAM), où elle enseigna l’italien à la Faculté de philosophie et des lettres. Elle oeuvra aussi en tant que traductrice. Son implication continue dans les droits humains la mena à devenir membre d’Amnesty International et elle établit, avec d’autres femmes, l’Association internationale des femmes contre la répression au Guatamala (AIMUR). Son époux fit la remarque qu’elle trouvait toujours le temps de combiner une énorme quantité d’activités différentes: intellectuelles, académiques, poétiques, critique de l’art, féminisme, côte à côte avec ses responsabilités familiales. Julio, l’ainé (fils d’un autre père et adopté par Alfonso), dit qu’elle était une mère aimante mais toujours très occupée, et que la famille déménageait souvent. Il fit la remarque que la position politique fortement militaire d’Alfonso, combinée à l’humanisme d’Alaíde favorisèrent chez leurs enfants un engagement aux causes sociales et un amour pour les arts. Il n’est donc pas surprenant que trois de ses enfants, Juan Pablo, Mario et Silvia, se joignèrent aux guérillas guatémaltèques. Les deux premiers furent tués. Le premier à mourir fut Juan Pablo, le cadet. Il s’était joint à l’organisation guérilla du Guatamala et en 1979, fut capturé par les militaires et tué. Quelques semaines plus tard, Alfonso Solórzano fut happé en traversant la rue devant la circulation à Mexico. Le 19 décembre 1980, pendant qu’elle visitait le Guatemala sur une mission de courrier pour les guérillas, Alaíde, ainsi que son chauffeur Leocadio Actún Shiroy disparurent. D’après des renseignements obtenus de sa parenté, elle fut gardée en vie et torturée pendant des mois. Son corps n’a jamais été retrouvé. Mario, qui retourna au Guatemala vers la fin des années 70 afin de fonder un journal d’opposition, s’était joint lui aussi aux guérillas dans la ville de Guatemala. Après avoir appris la disparition de sa mère, il fut trahi, pris en embuscade et tué. Alaíde Foppa n’est qu’une parmi des millers de gens qui ont disparu sous le régime du dictateur guatémaltèque, Romeo Lucas García. D’après une Commision d’enquête pour la clarification historique et le recouvrement de la mémoire historique de l’Église catholique, quelques 45,000 personnes disparurent durant cette période. Son nom n’est qu’un parmis le nombre incalculable de personnes qui disparurent sans trace durant les régimes dictatoriaux du Guatemala, mais elle continue de vivre à travers ses poèmes, dont certainement l’un des plus reconnus, Elogio de mi cuerpo, que nous vous présentons ici. -GY
Alaíde Foppa 1914—1980
A very brief biography Alaíde Foppa de Solórzano was an extraordinary woman whose life was cut short in a cowardly way. Her faceless murderers then tried to erase her very memory, but she has vanquished them from the other side of death. Alaíde Foppa was born in 1914 in Barcelona, Spain, of a Guatemalan mother and an Argentinian father. She lived in Argentina, then in Italy where she went to High School. She did a Bachelor’s Degree in Belgium and then returned to Rome to study literature and art history. She moved to Guatemala shortly before the democratic revolution of 1944 and was a volunteer in a hospital when the revolution broke on October 20th, where she spent the night under beds with patients while the hospital was being bombarded. The revolution was to have a profound impact on her life. In 1944, she married Alfonso Solórzano, a Guatemalan landowner who had studied human rights in Germany. He became part of two of the country’s governments (1945 to 1954). In 1954, Alaíde, Alfonso, and their five children, Julio, Mario, Silvia, Laura and Juan Pablo, took refuge in Mexico to escape Guatemala’s military dictatorship. At the School of Political Science, Alaíde offered the first course on the sociology of women ever to be offered at a Latin American university. She was co-founder of fem, the first feminist journal in Latin America. In 1972, she began producing and broadcasting on radio “foro de la mujer” (Woman’s Forum) and presented over four hundred programs. She became a professor in Mexico’s national university (UNAM), where she taught Italian at the School of Philosophy and Letters. She also worked as a translator. Her continuing involvement in human rights led her to become a member of Amnesty International and she established, with other women, the International Association of Women Against Repression in Guatemala (AIMUR). Her husband remarked that she always found the time to combine an enormous quantity of different activities: intellectual, academic, poetic, art criticism, feminism, along with her family responsibilities. Julio, the eldest (son by another father and adopted by Alfonso), remembers that she was a loving but very busy mother, and that the family moved frequently. He remarked that Alfonso’s strongly military political position, combined with Alaíde’s humanism fostered in their children a commitment to social causes and a love of the arts. It is therefore no surprise that three of her children, Juan Pablo, Mario and Silvia, joined the Guatemalan guerillas. The first two were killed. First to go was Juan Pablo, the youngest. He had joined a Guatamalan guerilla organization and in 1979, was captured by the military and killed. A few weeks later, Alfonso Solórzano died when he walked into incoming traffic in Mexico City. On December 19, 1980, while visiting Guatemala on a courier mission for the guerillas, Alaíde disappeared with her driver Leocadio Actún Shiroy. According to information gleaned by her relatives, she was kept alive and tortured for months. Her corpse has never been found. Mario, who returned to Guatemala in the late 70s to found an opposition newspaper, had gone underground and joined the guerillas in Guatemala City. After learning of his mother’s disappearance, he was betrayed, ambushed and killed. “Looking for History: Dispatches from Latin America” by Alma Guillermoprieto, Vintage Books, March 2002, pages 83-84. Alaíde Foppa is just one of the thousands of people who were made to disappear under the regime of the Guatemalan dictator, Romeo Lucas García. “According to the commission for historical clarification and the recovery of historical memory ( Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico y la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica ) of the Roman Catholic church, some 45,000 people disappeared” during that time. Her name is but one among the countless people who disappeared during Guatemala’s brutal dictatorships, but she continues to live through her many poems, probably the most famous of which is her Elogio de mi cuerpo, which we are presenting here. -GY
Elogio de Mi Cuerpo éloge à mon corps In Praise of my Body Alaíde Foppa French and English versions by Ghislaine Yergeau
1. Los ojos
1. Les yeux
1. The eyes
Mínimos lagos tranquilos donde tiembla la chispa de mis pupilas y cabe todo el esplendor del día. Límpidos espejos que enciende la alegría de los colores. Ventanas abiertas ante el lento paisaje del tiempo. Lagos de lágrimas nutridos y de remotos naufragios. Nocturnos lagos dormidos habitados por los sueños, aún fulgurantes bajo los párpados cerrados.
Minimes lacs tranquilles d’où tremble l’étincelle de mes pupilles et captent toute la splendeur du jour. Clairs miroirs qui incendient l’allégresse des couleurs. Fenêtres ouvertes au lent paysage du temps. Lacs de larmes nutritives et de lointains naufrages. Nocturnes lacs endormis habités par des rêves, clignotants encore sous les paupières closes.
Tiny tranquil lakes where trembles the spark in my pupils and captures all the splendor of the day. Clear mirrors that enflame the gleefulness of colours. Windows open to the slow landscape of time. Lakes of nutritious tears and of distant jetsam. Sleeping nocturnal lakes inhabited by dreams, still blinking under closed eyelids.
2. Las cejas
2. Les sourcils
2. The eyebrows
Las breves alas tendidas sobre mis párpados sólo abrigan el espacio escaso en el que flota una interrogación latente, al que asoma un permanente asombro.
Les brèves ailes tendues sur mes paupières abritent seulement l’espace limité dans lequel flotte une interrogation latente qui surplombe un étonnement permanent.
Brief wings outstretched over my eyelids harbor only the limited space in which floats a latent question where looms a permanent astonishment.
3. La nariz
3. Le nez
3. The nose
Casi un apéndice en la serena geometría de mi rostro, única recta en la gama de curvas suaves, el sutil instrumento que me une al aire. Cándidos olores acres aromas densas fragancias de flores y de especias -desde el anís hasta el jazmínaspira trepidante mi nariz.
Presqu’un appendice dans la géométrie sereine de mon visage, unique droite dans la gamme des douces courbes, instrument subtil qui me lie à l’air. Naïves odeurs aromes acres denses parfums des fleurs et d’épices - depuis l’anis jusqu’au jasmin aspire trépidant mon nez.
Almost an appendage in the serene geometry of my face, unique angle in the range of soft curves, subtle instrument which links me to the air. Naive odors pungent aromas dense fragrances of flowers and spices - from anise to jasmine my trembling nose inhales.
4. La boca
4. La bouche
4. The mouth
Entre labio y labio cuánta dulzura guarda mi boca abierta al beso, estuche en que los dientes muerden vívidos frutos, cuenca que se llena de jugos intensos de ágiles vinos de agua fresca, donde la lengua leve serpiente de delicias blandamente ondula, y se anida el milagro de la palabra.
Entre lèvre et lèvre qu’il est doux de garder ma bouche ouverte au baiser, pochette dans laquelle les dents mordent des fruits vifs bassin qui se remplit de jus intenses, de vins souples, d’eau fraîche où la langue léger serpent de délices ondule doucement et se niche le miracle de la parole.
Between lip and lip how sweet to keep my mouth open for the kiss, pouch in which the teeth bite vivid fruit, basin which is filled with intense juices, supple wines, fresh water, from whence the tongue light serpent of delights gently undulates and nestles the miracle of the word.
5. Las orejas
5. Les oreilles
5. The ears
Como dos hojas de un árbol ajeno nacen a los lados de mi cabeza. Por el tallo escondido se desliza la opulencia de los sonidos, me alcanzan las vivas voces que me llaman.
Comme deux feuilles d’un arbre exotique nées sur les côtés de ma tête. Par la tige cachée se glisse l’opulence des sons, m’apportant les voix vives qui m’appellent.
Like two leaves of an alien tree born on the sides of my head. By the hidden stem slips opulence of sounds, bringing me the lively voices that call me.
6. El pelo
6. Les cheveux
6. The hair
Dulce enredadera serpentina, única vegetación en la tierra tierna de mi cuerpo, hierba fina que sigue creciendo sensible a la primavera, ala de sombra contra mi sien, leve abrigo sobre la nuca. Para mi nostalgia de ave mi penacho de plumas.
Douce vigne serpentine, unique végétation dans la tendre terre de mon corps, herbe fine qui continue de croître sensible au printemps, ailes d’ombre contre ma tempe, légère mante sur la nuque. Pour ma nostalgie des oiseaux ma couronne de plumes.
Soft serpentine vine, unique vegetation in the tender earth of my body, fine herb always growing sensitive to springtime, shadowy wings against my temple, light mantle on my neck. To my nostalgia for birds my crown of feathers.
7. Las manos
7. Les mains
7. The hands
Las manos débiles, inciertas, parecen vanos objetos para el brillo de los anillos, sólo las llena lo perdido, se tienden al árbol que no alcanzan, pero me dan el agua de la mañana, y hasta el rosado retoño de mis uñas llega el latido.
Les mains faibles, incertaines, semblent être vains objets pour le brillant des bagues, seul ne les remplit que la perte, se tendent vers l’arbre sans l’atteindre, mais me donnent l’eau du matin, et jusqu’à la pousse rose de mes ongles le rythme surgit.
The hands feeble, uncertain seem like vain objects for bright rings, only loss fills them, tending toward the tree without reaching it but give me water in the morning, and to the pink growth of my fingernails the beat arises.
8. Los pies
8. Les pieds
8. The feet
Ya que no tengo alas, me bastan mis pies que danzan y que no acaban de recorrer el mundo. Por praderas en flor corrió mi pie ligero, dejó su huella en la húmeda arena, buscó perdidos senderos, holló las duras aceras de las ciudades y sube por escaleras que no sabe a donde llegan.
Puisque je n’ai pas d’ailes, me suffisent mes pieds qui dansent et non seulement pour parcourir le monde. Par les prés en fleur courut mon pied léger, laissa sa marque sur le sable humide, chercha sentiers perdus, foula les durs trottoirs des villes et monta les escaliers qui ne savent où aller.
Since I have no wings, I need only my feet for dancing and not just for roaming the world. Through meadows in bloom ran my foot lightly leaving its mark on the humid sand, searching lost paths, treading the hard sidewalks of the cities and climbing up stairs that know not where they go.
9. Los senos
9. Les seins
9. The breasts
Son dos plácidas colinas que apenas mece mi aliento, son dos frutos delicados de pálidas venaduras, fueron dos copas llenas próvidas y nutricias en la plena estación y siguen alimentando dos flores en botón.
Sont deux collines placides que mon souffle berce à peine, deux fruits délicats de pâles veines, étaient deux coupes pleines nutritives et nourricières en pleine saison et continuent d’alimenter deux bourgeons de fleurs.
Are two placid hills which my breath barely rocks, two delicate fruits of pale veins, were two full bowls provident and nurturing in full season and continue to nourish two flower buds.
10. La cintura
10. La taille
10. The waist
Es el puente cimbreante que reune dos mitades diferentes, es el tallo flexible que mantiene el torso erguido, inclina mi pecho rendido y gobierna el muelle oscilar de la cadera. Agradecida adorno mi cintura con un lazo de seda.
C’est le pont branlant qui réunit deux moitiés différentes, c’est la tige flexible qui maintient le torse droit, incline ma poitrine qui cède et régit le swing de la hanche. Reconnaissante garniture de ma taille avec une cravate de soie.
It’s the wobbly bridge which joins two different halves, it’s the flexible stem which maintains the torso straight, inclines my chest surrendering and governing the swing of the hip. Grateful trim for my hips with a silk tie.
11. El sexo
11. Le sexe
11. The sex
Oculta rosa palpitante en el oscuro surco, pozo de estremecida alegría que incendia en un instante el turbio curso de mi vida, secreto siempre inviolado, fecunda herida.
Rose palpitante cachée dans le sillon obscur, puits de joie tremblant qui enflamme en un instant le cours tumultueux de ma vie, secret toujours inviolable, féconde blessure.
Throbbing rose hidden in the dark furrow, trembling well of joy which ignites in an instant the turbulent course of my life, secret always inviolable, fertile wound.
12. La piel
12. La peau
12. The skin
Es tan frágil la trama que la rasga una espina, tan vulnerable que la quema el sol, tan susceptible que la eriza el frío. Pero también percibe mi piel delgada la dulce gama de las caricias, y mi cuerpo sin ella sería una llaga desnuda.
La parcelle est si fragile qu’une épine peut la déchirer, si vulnérable que le soleil peut la brûler, si susceptible que le froid l’hérisse. Mais ma peau mince perçoit aussi la douce gamme des caresses, et mon corps sans elle serait une plaie nue.
The plot is so fragile that a thorn can rip it, so vulnerable that the sun can burn it, so susceptible that the cold makes it bristle. But my thin skin also perceives the soft range of caresses, and my body without it, would be a naked sore.
13. Los huesos
13. Les os
13. The bones
Alabo el tibio ropaje la apariencia el fugitivo semblante. Y casi olvido la obediente armazón que me sostiene, el maniquí ingenioso, el ágil esqueleto que me lleva.
Je loue les vêtements chauds l’apparence la semblance fugitive. J’oublie presque l’obéissante armature qui me soutient, le mannequin ingénieux, l’agile squelette qui me porte.
I praise warm clothing countenance the fleeting semblance. I almost forget the obedient armature which sustains me, the ingenious manikin, the agile skeleton which carries me.
14. El corazón
14. Le cœur
14. The heart
Dicen que es del tamaño de mi puño cerrado. Pequeño, entonces, pero basta para poner en marcha todo esto. Es un obrero que trabaja bien, aunque anhele el descanso, y es un prisionero que espera vagamente escaparse.
On dit qu’il est de la taille de mon poing fermé. Petit, alors, mais assez pour garder en marche tout ceci. C’est un ouvrier qui travaille bien malgré qu’il a soif de repos, et est un prisonnier qui espère vaguement s’échapper. .
They say it is the size of my closed fist. Small, then, but enough to keep all this working. It is a labourer who works well although it longs for rest and is a prisoner who vaguely hopes to escape.
15. Las venas
15. Les veines
15. The veins
La floración azulada de las venas dibuja laberintos misteriosos bajo la cera de mi piel. Tenue hidrografía apenas aparente, ágiles cauces que conducen deseos y venenos y entrañable alimento.
La fleuraison bleutée des veines labyrinthes dessinées mystérieuses sous la cire de ma peau. Ténue hydrographie à peine apparente agiles canaux qui conduisent désirs et poisons et aliments bien-aimés.
The azure flowering of veins drawn labyrinths mysterious under the wax of my skin. Tenuous hydrography barely apparent agile canals which conduct desires and poisons and beloved sustenance.
16. La sangre
16. Le sang
16. The blood
Secreto corre el torrente de mi sangre rápida. Inmenso es el río que en subterráneos meandros madura y nutre el ámbito de mi vida profunda. La cálida corriente que me inunda en la flor de la herida se derrama.
En secret coule le torrent de mon sang rapide. Immense est la rivière qui en souterrains méandres mature et nourrit le champ de ma vie profonde. Le courant chaud qui m’inonde se déverse dans la fleur de la plaie.
In secret flows the torrent of my swift blood. Immense is the river which meanders underground matures and nourishes the field of my deep life. The warm current which floods me flows into the flower of the wound.
17. El sueño
17. Le rêve
17. The dream
En tan blando nido mi corazón descansa, ni lo asombran los perdidos fantasmas que se asoman. Pasa por mi sueño la ola calma de mi respiro. En tanto olvido el tiempo de mañana se prepara, mientras estoy viviendo efímera muerte.
Dans le nid si doux mon cœur se repose, sans s’étonner des fantômes perdus qui se montrent. La calme vague de mon souffle s’attarde à mon rêve. Tandis que j’oublie, le temps de demain se prépare, alors que je vis, mort éphémère.
In the nest so soft my heart is resting, without astonishment at the lost ghosts which show themselves. The calm wave of my breath lingers by my dream. While I forget, tomorrow’s time is preparing, whereas I am living ephemeral death.
18. El aliento
18. The breath
No se de donde viene el viento que me lleva, el suspiro que me consuela, el aire que acompasadamente mueve mi pecho y alienta mi invisible vuelo. Yo soy apenas la planta que se estremece por la brisa, el sumiso instrumento, la grácil flauta que resuena por un soplo de viento.
Je ne sais d’où vient le vent qui me mène, le soupir qui me réconforte, l’air qui rythmiquement déplace ma poitrine et encourage mon vol invisible. Je suis à peine la plante qui frémit dans la brise, l’instrument soumis, la gracieuse flute qui résonne par un souffle de vent.
I know not from whence comes the wind that carries me, the sigh that comforts me, the air that rhythmically moves my chest and encourages my invisible flight. I am barely the plant that trembles in the breeze, the submissive instrument, the gracious flute that resonates through a puff of wind.
Images borrowed gratefully from random sources
The names and ages of the family members, the locations, and the events in the snapshots are unimportant. These fragile shards of AlaĂdes ravaged life show the happy times of one family with no foreshadowing of the cruel fortune to come. The sweet smiles cannot be erased despite the horrific disappearance and murder of AlaĂde Foppa by the Guatemalan death squads.
From The Shark and the Sardines. Juan José Arévalo translated from the Spanish by June Cobb and Dr. Raul Osegueda. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1961
TO THE AMERICAN READER In your hands you hold a controversial book-a book that speaks out against your State Department’s dealings with the peoples of Latin America during the Twentieth Century. In it there is intended no insult to, nor offense to, the United States as a nation. The future of your country is identified with the future of contemporary democracy. Neither does this book seek to cast blame on the North American people--who, like us, are victims of an imperialist policy of promoting business, multiplying markets and hoarding money. Very different was the ideology of the men who first governed your country. It was as thirteen widely varying former colonies inspired by ideals of individual freedom, collective well-being, and national sovereignty that the United States came into existence in the world. Protestants, Catholics and Masons alike, those men of the Eighteenth Century were moved by an ardent sense of dignity that won for them and for their cause the sympathy and the admiration of the entire world. They recognized worth in all kinds of work, they welcomed to their shores foreigners of every origin, and when their crops and their homes were threatened, they defended their crops and their homes just as they defended the privacy of the individual conscience. They went to church with their heads held high and they founded colleges so that their children might advance along the road to self-improvement. Moral values served as a motivating force in the days of the Independence. Those same values, confirmed by the civilian populace of the young republic, figured among the norms of government. The nation was characterized by its grandeur of spirit and indeed great were the military accomplishments and the thesis of the new law. Amazed, the world applauded. But as the Twentieth Century was dawning, the White House adopted a different policy. To North America as a nation were transferred
the know-how, sentiments and appetites of a financial genius named Rockefeller. Grandeur of spirit was replaced by greed. The government descended to become simple entrepreneur for business and protector of illicit commercial profits. From then on, Accounting was the Science of Sciences. The logic, the Novum Organon, The new instrument of persuasion was the cannon. Now the United States had become different. It was neither a religious state nor a juridic state but, rather, a mercantile state--a gigantic mercantile society with all the apparatus of a great world power. The European juridic tradition was abandoned and North American morality was forgotten. The United States thenceforth was to be a Phoenician enterprise, a Carthaginian republic. Washington and Lincoln must have wept in shame in their graves. The immediate victim was Latin America. To the North American millionaires converted into government, Latin America appeared an easy prey, a “big business.” The inhabitants of this part of the world came to be looked upon as international braceros. The multiple-faceted exploitation was carried out with intelligence, with shrewdness, with the precision of clockwork, with “scientific” coldness, with harshness and with great arrogance. From the South the river of millions began to flow Northward and every year it increased. The United States became great while progress in Latin America was brought to a halt. And when anything or anyone tried to interfere with the bankers or the companies, use was made of the Marines. Panama, 1903. Nicaragua, 1909. Mexico and Haiti, 1914. Santo Domingo, 1916. Along with the military apparatus, a new system of local “revolutions” was manipulated-financed by the White House or by Wall Street-which were now the same. This procedure continued right up to the international scandal of the assault on Guatemala in 1954, an assault directed by Mr. Foster Dulles, with the O.K. of Mr. Eisenhower who was your President at that
time.North American friends, this is history, true history, the briefest possible sketch of history. We Latin-Americans, who, more than anybody else, suffered from this change in political philosophy and its consequences, could no longer be friends of the government of the United States. The friendship certainly could be re-established. But to do so, it would be necessary for the White House to alter its opinion of us and it would be necessary for conduct to change. We expect a new political treatment. We do not want to continue down this decline that takes us straight to colonial status, however it be disguised. Neither do we want to be republics of traders. Nor do we want to be African factories.We Latin-Americans are struggling to prevent the businessman mentality from being confused with or merged into statesmanship. The North American example has been disastrous to us and has horrified us. We know that a government intimately linked to business and receiving favors from business loses its capacity to strive for the greatest possible happiness for the greatest number of its people. When businessmen are converted into governors, it is no longer possible to speak of social “justice” and even the minimum and superficial “justice” of the common courts is corrupted. In our resistance to the businessman mentality, we are still Spanish, stubbornly Spanish. Also, we have not left off being Catholic nor have we left off being romantic and we cannot conceive of private life without love nor of public life without chivalry nor of our children’s education without enlightening ideals. If you want to be our friends, you will have to accept us as we are. Do not attempt to remodel
us after your image. Mechanical civilization, material progress, industrial techniques, fiduciary wealth, comfort, hobbies--all these figure in our programs of work and enjoyment of life. But, for us, the essence of human life does not lie in such things. These lines, my North American friends, are meant to explain why I wrote the Fable of the Shark and the Sardines. This book was written with indignation --indignation wrapped from time to time in the silk of irony. It declares that international treaties are a farce when they are pacted between a Shark and a sardine. It denounces the Pan-American system of diplomacy--valuable instrument at the service of the Shark. It denounces the Pan-American idea of “allegiance to the hemisphere”-juridic device that will inevitably lead to the establishing of an empire from Pole to Pole. It denounces the relentless and immense siphoning-off of wealth from South to North. It denounces the existence of the terrible syndicate of millionaires, whose interests lie even outside the United States. It denounces the subordination of the White House to this syndicate. It denounces the conversion of your military into vulgar policemen for the big syndicates. And for the purpose of analysis, it takes up the case of Nicaragua, compelled by the United States to sign (in 1914-1916) a treaty that goes against all written and all moral laws. This book, friends of the North, has been read all over Latin America. Read it now, yourselves, and accept it as a voice of alarm addressed to the great North American people who are still unaware of how many crimes have been committed in their name. Juan José Arévalo Caracas, Venezuela, 1961
Juan José Arévalo Bermejo (1904 –1990) was the first president of Guatemala elected in a fair election. He served a six-year term from 1945-51.
Arévalo was an intellectual, a writer and philosopher whose administration was a brief momemt of relative lucudity and political freedom in a country and region of brutal dictators and oppression. He developed a political philosophy of “spiritual socialism” which was less an economic system than a movement of the liberation of the imagination--a necessary first step toward deep reform. But his enemies in the region, notably Anastasio Somoza Garcia, the cruel dictator of Nicaragua, plus the U.S. State Department regarded Arévalo as a Communist. Arévalo was unable to achieve the agrarian reform of redictribution of land to disenrfanchised Mayan Indian peasants and mestizos. But even attempts at land reform stirred the Evil Octopus (El Pulpo), the United Fruit Company into action. When Areevalo’s term expire, an unprecedented second fair democtaric election took place and Jacobo Arbenz was elected to continue the reforms of Arévalo. But “agrarian reform met with the second officially orchestrated clandestine CIA-instigated coup d’etat chartered as Operation PBFORTUNE and Operation PBSUCCESS, championed by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, whose brother Allen, the Director of Central Intelligence, was a primary stakeholder in the United Fruit Company, which owned significant portions of the rural land subject to agrarian reforms.”
A rare, but proud political moment in Guatemala. Arévalo (L), passes democratic leadership to Jacobo Arbenz (R), the second democratically-elected president in Guatemala in 1954. Shortly thereafter, the CIA, at the instigation of the United Fruit Company overthrew Arbenz in a coup d’etat. A civil war ensued. 200,000 people died and another 50,000 “disappeared.” This is a glimpse of what Central America could have been but was prevented from being by the U.S. and private corporations that exploited it for control and profit.