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Photographs of Guatemala

In an effort to think about things other than Thomas Friedman I have been reviewing photographs of my hitchhiking travels in Latin America with Amelia Opalinska.

I’ve decided to post a few of Amelia’s photos of Guatemala, taken in 2006. The structure that appears to be a Mayan ruin covered in concrete is located near the west Guatemalan town of Huehuetenango, birthplace of José Efraín Ríos Montt, who with U.S. backing presided over the systematic killing of Mayan peasants and other undesirable sectors of society in the early 1980s.



Guatemala’s September 11

Poised to win Guatemala’s presidential elections tomorrow is right-wing former army general Otto Pérez Molina, who is accused of genocide and torture during the epoch of state terrorism in the 1980s and is unsurprisingly an alumnus of the U.S.-run School of the Americas—alma mater of various Latin American dictators, death squad leaders, and other talented persons.

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman recently managed to interview Pérez Molina about narcotrafficking in Guatemala without supplying any of these contextual details. In the interview, the former general surmised that 35-40 percent of Guatemalan territory is currently controlled by drug traffickers but failed to mention the drug ties of his own party.

The U.S. war on communism legitimated the elimination of over 200,000 Guatemalans via “internal conflict”. The full extent to which the new narco menace and increasing militarization of Central America will facilitate the eradication of large swaths of the area’s unnecessary human population remains to be seen, as does whether Guatemala will join the list of countries with memorable 9/11s.

All That Glitters Isn't Gold

For the poor of Central America, perks of residing in the backyard of northern neighbors have over the past century included eligibility to serve as collateral damage in U.S. wars on drugs and communism and as guinea pigs in U.S. government syphilis experiments.

Steven Schnoor’s documentary “All That Glitters Isn’t Gold: A Story of Exploitation and Resistance”, viewable below in 6 parts, addresses other perks, such as eligibility to host open-pit cyanide leach mining projects by Canadian corporations and suffer corresponding arsenic contamination and agricultural destruction.

The documentary focuses on the Siria Valley in Honduras, site of Goldcorp’s San Martin mine—opened in 2000 following the passage of a pro-mining law hurriedly passed by the Honduran Congress in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the country in 1998.

Former Honduran President Mel Zelaya, prior to being ousted in the June 2009 coup, had supported legislation to ban open-pit mining. The post-coup ascension to power of an illegitimate regime obsequious to elite and corporate interests thus underscores the continuing relevance of the documentary, which was made several years ago.


Battling State Department amnesia

Pinochet was also known to wear hats.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of former Honduran president Mel Zelaya’s sudden reappearance in Tegucigalpa following his June 28 expatriation at the hands of the Honduran military. After extensively debating whether or not said military expatriation qualified as a military coup, the U.S. State Department finally arrived at the conclusion this year that whatever it was it had resulted in a government committed to democracy and constitutional order. The U.S. would presumably not welcome similar thought processes by foreign opponents, or a situation in which Iran spent the better part of a year hemming and hawing over whether it had in fact executed political prisoners before determining that the term execution was inconsequential and not an obstacle to the maintenance of human rights.

As for regimes slightly less adept at the manipulation of truth, Honduran coup president Roberto Micheletti was eventually forced to amend his claim last Sept. 21 that Zelaya was in a hotel in Managua, Nicaragua, after being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as the legitimate president’s appearance on the balcony of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Aside from hiring U.S. lobbying firms to promote the coup on Capitol Hill, other coup government attempts at truth manipulation consisted of crafting pro-coup commercials for Honduran television starring Zelaya’s cowboy hat alongside the red beret of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—although it was never clear why these two forms of Latin American headgear were any more ominous than those used by right-wing dictators.