Monday, January 23, 2012



Guatemala for most of it´s history has been ruled by dictators. Most of the time, these have been military Generals. With the recent FEAR expressed in the port town of Belize City, it behooves one to take another look at the realities of GUATEMALA. The country has only been a real democracy since 1996, during which the PEACE PROCESS decided to downsize the 50,000 man ARMY to 17,000 men.

In the port of Belize, there is still generational memory of dictatorships in Guatemala, merciless killings and outright massacres of tens of thousands of Guatemalan citizens. Paid for a lot of the time, if not ALL the time, by the United States of America.

What is stoking FEAR in the port town population here in Belize, of mainly BLACK people of one shade or another, is the three MASSACRES of BLACK PEOPLE around Puerto Barrios, during the 1920´s. Most that survived fled across the Gulf of Honduras to British Honduras and took refuge in the Colony of BRITISH HONDURAS. There is probably nobody alive in Belize today, who would remember those massacres? When I arrived at the end of the 1950´s Guatemala was still much feared and could not have been more than 20 or 25 years later. Certainly I was filled with the memories and stories passed on to me by the THEN older generation of coastal black people. Indeed, I had my own run-in with the military, DEATH SQUAD in Puerto Barrios in 1960. Escaped more by LUCK than anything, and the fortituous intervention of then President Fuentes. It was certainly a CLOSE CALL. The only memory today of BLACK MASSACRES would be three generations later. Still remembered. And while the CALL in the 1970´s for invading British Honduras and wiping out all the BLACKS of Belize City the port town by the Guatemalan press of the time and the military killing machine. It never happened, though that same KILLING MACHINE did go on to kill hundreds of thousands of MAYA. Mostly in the HIGHLANDS.
In those days, GUATEMALA got most of their income from the UNITED FRUIT COMPANY, who was able to use the economic might of the USA government to dictate policy in Guatemala. There were many other American expats and they freely used the Guatemalan military to round up FORCED SLAVE LABOR from the villages of the HIGHLANDS, to bring in crops like sugar cane, on the PACIFIC COAST, very large tracts of lands.
The massacres of the BLACKS in Guatemla was more to do with the United Fruit Company and the Ladinos. There was some disagreement about labor, unionizing and so forth. The United Fruit Company imported black labor from Jamaica and they went on strike, more than once. That strike closed the port which was the dollar sign lifeblood of the government of the day and the military backers. Eventually, the government of the day and the military decided to wipe the BLACKS out. I believe that only a small enclave resides now in Livingston. Killing is cheaper than deporting back to Jamaica. This LIVINGSTON was a machine shop town for repairs at the time. To put it in perspective, there might have been some BLACK MASSACRES but for sheer size and feriocity, it could not match the USA backed massacres of the HIGHLAND MAYA in size, or quantities of lives shed.

This more or less went along in Guatemala until 1996, about 15 years ago, when the PEACE ACCORD was brokered. KILLERS of the military given immunity and civil government took over running the country after the Military were downsized. Since then, in the past 15 years, GUATEMALAN society and the nation and GDP have blossomed and for incomes and material standards, the population has gone from worse to better and even more and more better. Roads, schools, clinics have been built with the money saved from disbanding two thirds of the military machine that ruled with an IRON FIST in GUATEMALA. They still have 17,000 men in that machine though. None of which are needed, and costing the Guatemalan government a third of annual tax revenues, for no useful purpose. Guatemala is now part of a new CENTRAL AMERICAN revolution for peace and economic advancement. Things are getting much better. Even BELIZE has joined the new Central American economic union of joint seven countries and it is working very well indeed. ROADS, SERVICES and COMMUNICATIONS have made part of the difference.
It is certainly going to be interesting to see how an ELECTED ARMY GENERAL will handle the country now. Back to the bad old days, or into shining future of democratic economic activity.
GUATEMALA badly needs restructuring. Get rid of the army and replace them with specialized NATIONAL EMERGENCY UNITS, trained to help the population in time of disasters. More schools certainly. Higher education in rural parts and a complete overhaul on how POLICE systems work. Even getting rid of the existing police systems and rebuilding them in a new format. DRUG SWAT TEAMS, CRIME INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS, MOBILE SWAT TEAMS TO HANDLE OUTBREAKS of holdups and young men thinking they can make money faster through crime. It can be done and should be done. Is a President who was an ARMY GENERAL the man for the job though? That is the $64,000 question? We can only HOPE and wait and see? Or will it be more of the SAME OLD, same old, routine? GUATEMALA deserves better to build on the last 15 years of successes with their civil society and economic successes. Will they get it? Aaaah! That really is the big question?

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