The violent exploitation that drove the colonization of the Americas has never ceased. From generation to generation indigenous peoples are pushed into ever more marginal lands through terror, genocide, coercion, theft, legal manipulation, coups and wars.
The affluent and the powerful won their 36-year civil – and continue to assert their right to kill Guatemalans – though at a slower pace. The victors got to maintain the most inequitable land distribution rates in the western hemisphere1 – along with some of the highest rate of chronic child malnutrition2 –while the war on terror persists as a war of hunger.
The phrase ‘Guatemala nunca mas’ rings hollow when the murders of mining activists, women, indigenous leaders, land reformers, unionists, campesinos and human rights workers continue with impunity. 3
Rest assured, the rights of landowners to make agricultural workers impotent with toxic pesticides will continue unabated – as will their god-granted right to hoard land for luxury exports while local farmers’ families starve.4
Transnational mining companies’ right to leach cyanide into communities’ drinking water is upheld, while the birth defects, cancers and miscarriages plaguing local communities are dismissed as the acceptable externality-costs of doing business.5
The rights of ‘progress-advancing’ hydroelectric dams are defended at the cost of eco-systems flooded out of existence, and indigenous people made refugees once again in their own lands.
US Aid will continue to spend millions on destabilizing every Latin American government that advocates land reform – while preaching charity instead of justice to the landless of Guatemala.6
Corporations will steal the plants, medicines and knowledge of indigenous people. Seeds passed with love from one generation to the next will be stolen, dissected in laboratories, genetically mutilated and coercively imposed on peasant farmers at bankrupting costs.7
Pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights to patent the medicines of the Amazon will justify the deaths of millions of people who cannot afford to purchase their own plant’s cures.
Millions in richer countries will require these same medicines to combat health epidemics instigated by meat over-consumption. Yet these same forests will be leveled to graze billions of livestock, who live and die in factory farms. The meat industry’s cult of death will inflict unprecedented suffering on these commoditized animals – whose lives and deaths are a living torture.
Traditional, sustainable, biologically diverse, organic agriculture continues to be run out by high-input, fossil-fuel dependent, toxic plantations generating climate-altering emissions – unleashing climate chaos on vulnerable communities.
While the government will aid and abet the perpetrators of these atrocities – there is cause for hope in the courage and resistance perpetually rising out of indigenous communities.
8The vibrancy of a united campesino movement in Guatemala is a sign that indigenous communities are increasingly refusing to be consigned to the losing end of history.
Grass roots movements in Bolivia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and elsewhere are reclaiming the governments of the Americas for the people. While electoral success may not yet be imminent in Guatemala – the tide of strong, defiant civil society organizations who risk their lives in fighting for justice is something the people of Guatemala – and the world should take pride in.9
In the face of death threats and assassination attempts, Guatemalan social movements never cease to awe me with their unyielding will to fight for the dignity and rights of their land and people.10
Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen is a Canadian journalist, editor and activist with ACT for the Earth –which strives for peace, ecological and social justice.