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Exchange with LA Times journalist re Guatemala


Re: U.S. gingerly expands security role in Central America
 

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-us-central-america-20121205,0,7912620.story?page=2&track=lat-email-latimesworldnews


You wrote
 
“When Jerez talks about the U.S. influence in Guatemala, it isn't to dredge up the facts of the U.S.-backed coup d'etat in 1954, or the covert CIA support for the brutally repressive right-wing military during the country's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996.”
 
After a US backed coup ousted Guatemala's democratically elected government under Jacobo Arbvenz in 1954, military dictatorship, generously funded, organized and trained by various US governments, proceeded to murder 200,000 people over 30 years. The UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission (CEH) stated in 1999 that the Guatemalan state was responsible for 93% of the human rights violations committed during the war.
 
It was one of the worst bloodbaths in the Western Hemisphere in the last century. US support for it was out in the open – far from limited to “covert” CIA assistance. You could very easily have made these facts clear to your readers. Why didn’t you? Do you assume most readers already know all that? Where would they have learned?
 
Joe Emersberger
 
Dear Mr. Emersberger:
 
Thank you for reading my story, and for your thoughtful response. You are correct that there were periods of overt US support for the Guatemalan military during the Civil War. I'm sure you also know that the story of over US military aid is a tangled one, with the the spigot for covert US aid going on and off over the course of the conflict.
 
In the passage of the story that you cite, I was thinking about the covert CIA aid that continued even after 1990, when the Bush I administration cut off military aid, largely over the DeVine killing. The idea of the sentence was to give readers a sense of the kinds of specific complaints that critics of US policy in Guatemala harbor. Elsewhere in the story, I think we make the general case that the US was involved with some unsavory characters over the course of its cold war involvement in the region.
 
With warm regards,
Richard Fausset
Mexico City
 
Mr. Fausset:
None of the questions I put to you were in my first note were rhetorical. I appreciate that you took the time to reply to me, but I wish you would answer at least this:
 
Do you think most readers of the article are aware that the Guatemalan government murdered about 200,000 people with generous US support? 
 
It is fact that can be quite concisely stated. I just did it above using 11 words. With that key fact stated many other assumptions of yours – in your note to me and in the article – become impossible to justify.
 
For example, how was the bloodbath in Guatemala a "civil war" any more than Saddam Hussein's slaugther of the Kurds during the 1980s – which also targetted some armed rebels – a "civil war"? How are US governments any less "unsavory characters" than the murderers they supported in Guatemala?
 
Joe

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