Native people all over the world are vanishing — displaced by an industrial culture that is much more expensive than their own. Some international business interests are deliberately trying to eradicate ancient civilizations. They don’t admit to it; they say they are trying to be cost-effective … trying to make the system more profitable for everyone. But the end result is a human tragedy, characterized by poverty, war, and suffering. Foremost among the victims are the helpless innocents: the children, the elderly, the poorest of the poor.
It is a modern-day miracle that the twenty-two Mayan nations have preserved much of their tribal identity despite over four centuries of slavery and subjugation. Today they remain one of the last strongholds of the Native American culture. In part it is a tribute to the qualities of gentleness, humility, and adaptability, and to their abiding faith, that they should yet remain.
Through six years of living and working with them, volunteers from Plenty got to know the Mayans. Plenty is a non-governmental relief and development organization supported by grassroots donations.
Following the Guatemalan earthquake of 1976, Plenty sent volunteers from North America to aid the distressed native population in a time of emergency. In one way, this report is the story of a love, which grew out of that period, and of a sense of obligation that now compels us to tell anyone who will listen just what is going on in Guatemala today.
Plenty to Guatemala
From its inception, Plenty has been committed to helping Indians who are trying to keep alive a lifestyle and tradition that has withstood the test of centuries. The first Plenty volunteers who went to Guatemala saw not only the earthquake damage (100,000 dead or injured and a million homeless), but also the obvious signs of poverty, malnutrition, and starvation. This sad spectacle compelled us to begin longer-term projects aimed at eradicating their root causes.
First we took carpenters and rebuilt after the earthquake: 1200 houses, 12 schools, 4 clinics, and an Indian municipal center. Then we took medical personnel and opened a free clinic. We didn’t receive a lot of cooperation from the Guatemalan government for our medical effort, and we learned that we could provide agriculture and nutrition programs with their blessing, so we began soybean variety trials, sponsored a village soy-dairy, and provided free, high-protein seed to farmers. In 1980 two hundred farmers were participating, and over 1000 people took part in soy demonstrations. Agriculture and nutrition projects proved to be more successful than free medical care and dealt directly with the root causes of the disease and hunger we had encountered through the clinic.
Seventy-five percent of rural Guatemalans are malnourished; half the kids die before the age of five. To successfully deal with disease we needed to provide food, potable water, and training in hygiene and sanitation. We organized the construction of five village water projects and an integrated soy program with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
We designed our projects with the direct cooperation of the Indians with whom we lived and worked. And we worked it out together, hassling it through the changes, hanging in, getting a measure of each other, forgiving one another and as a result, coming to know each other well. We learned each other’s languages and cultural ways, without trying to convert one another. A great love and respect developed between us.
The interrelationship between First World affluence and Third World poverty is seldom more apparent than in Guatemala today. This tropical paradise, sometimes referred to as “The Land of Eternal Spring,” is fully capable of providing food for its inhabitants. But while export crops for US consumption are grown on prime lands, the Indians and rural poor suffer malnutrition and disease resulting in a life expectancy ten years shorter than the city dwellers. Social and economic differences are striking. Guatemala City, with its modern skyscrapers and bustling middle-class contrast with the ancient culture among the Indians in the highlands. It is a matter of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, or as Mahatma Gandhi said, “There’s enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
After the Spanish Conquest, those who governed the nation regarded the native people of Guatemala as inferior beings. Racial prejudices were used to justify the seizure of Indian lands, which were then used to grow export crops for the Spanish Crown. Between 1519 and 1610, two thirds of the Indian people were exterminated.
The Spanish found almost none of the gold they had been seeking in Guatemala, but hardwoods, sugar cane, cattle, and cochineal (a red dye) were harvested to provide a steady income to Spain until the late Nineteenth Century, when development of coffee and bananas outstripped all other sources of revenue.
The cultivation and export of the banana and the coffee bean in the mid-1800s created an oligarchy of wealthy families, who passed their riches and power to their heirs. These families were not typically native Guatemalans or even Guatemalans of Spanish descent, but rather citizens of the nations of Europe and North America who lived in Guatemala and controlled its government. The entire foreign trade of Guatemala, based upon financing, growing, processing, and marketing of coffee and bananas, has historically remained in the hands of foreign interests.
By the 1930s, the United Fruit Company had become the largest landowner, employer, and exporter in Guatemala, having been granted total exemption from internal taxation, duty-free importation of all necessary goods, and a guarantee of inexpensive, virtually slave labor.
Reflecting on the company’s history and its significance in Guatemala, Thomas McCann, a former official of United Fruit, wrote the following:
“Guatemala was chosen as the site for the company’s earliest development activities at the turn of the century because a good portion of the country contained prime banana land and because at the time we entered Central America, Guatemala’s government was the region’s weakest, most corrupt, and most pliable. In short, the country offered an ‘ideal investment climate,’ and United Fruit’s profits there flourished for fifty years.” 
The conditions of slavery, which the Indians bore for most of a century, were greatly alleviated in 1936 by Jorge Ubico, who abolished labor indebtedness. During the Second World War, Guatemala sided with the allies and nationalized all private German holdings, including some of the largest coffee plantations. The doubling of both the national income and the total control of immense land areas changed Guatemala from a feudal economy. Juan José Arévalo became president and began a series of labor and agrarian reforms which were later expanded by Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán, who succeeded him in 1951.
The Arévalo-Árbenz program was straightforward. As Árbenz himself explained, “First [we have] to convert our country from a dependent nation with a semi-colonial economy into an economically independent country; second, to transform our nation from a backward past with a predominantly feudal economy into a modern capitalist country; and third, to see that this transformation is carried out in such a way that it brings with it the highest possible elevation of the standard of living of the great masses of people.” 
One prime target of agrarian reform was the United Fruit Company, which kept 85 percent of its 500,000 acres idle. The new reform laws took idle land at tax assessment value and redistributed it to agrarian committees, which provided each Guatemalan farmer with 42 acres. In this fashion, 100,000 small farmers received a subsistence homestead but at the expense of some very powerful foreign interests.
In expropriating 387,000 of United Fruit’s idle acres, the reform government offered to compensate the company $1,185,115 based on the company’s own tax declaration. United Fruit did not accept the offer. Instead it put pressure on Harry Truman to launch Operation Fortune, the covert overthrow of the Árbenz government, which Truman refused to do.
United Fruit then mounted an extensive press campaign to discredit Árbenz, with claims that “an iron curtain is falling over Guatemala.” This campaign invoked the hostility of the Eisenhower government, which used the charge of communist influence to justify covert measures.
The Eisenhower Administration approved a CIA plan called “Operation Success,” which overthrew Árbenz in favor of a military dictatorship. Thomas McCann of United Fruit wrote that “United Fruit was involved at every level” in the ClA’s successful Guatemalan coup.
General Walter Bedell Smith, a trusted advisor of Eisenhower and former CIA Director, oversaw the destabilization of the Árbenz Administration and then joined the Board of United Fruit. The key movers of the plan were John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State) and his brother Alien Dulles (Director of the CIA) who were both partners of Sullivan and Cromwell, United Fruit Company’s New York law firm.
Since the CIA sponsored coup in 1954, there has been a succession of military governments, who in their pursuit of real or imagined “communists,” have conducted systematic repressive operations against the poor and rural population. This dashed any hopes of dealing with the real problems of:
a. Inequitable land distribution and reliance on export crop
b. Transnational control of the economy
d. Military rule
Millions of U.S. dollars were poured in to maintain the rule of the generals, who in turn provided a “good investment climate” and bolstered the tourist trade. The skewed distribution of land, and the export-oriented economy, are still at the root of the malnutrition and disease afflicting the rural population. With only two percent of the farm families holding 80 percent of the land, 83 percent of the farm population lives on marginal land insufficient to provide for their families. As a result, 500,000 Indians sell their labor for a dollar or two a day on the sprawling Pacific coast plantations.
The Guatemalan Indian has few options in hard times. He is rooted in the ancient traditions of family, tribe, and community cooperation, but caught between the excessive ideologies of the superpowers; forced, at gunpoint, to take sides in a politically polarized situation that leaves no middle ground.
On the right, the rich oligarchy and multinationals continue to fleece the resources of the land and people, as they have for centuries, taking out three dollars for every one they invest. On the left, guerrilla forces attempt to rally the Indian “masses” in support of armed revolution against the landowners. At the same time, the new Christian evangelists exhort the Indian to endure his lot and wait for a better life in the Hereafter. Neither the right, nor the left, nor the evangelists understand the Indian who stands where he has always stood, in the middle, caring little for old world philosophies and economic dichotomies, but rather concerned about his family, his village, his land and his rights as a human being.
Nearly 200 Plenty volunteers have served in Guatemala. Through six years, we observed that the rural Indians want neither repression nor revolution. Certainly they’d like some things to change, but they have a deep and abiding commitment to peace. They are a people who are known for their humble ways, their firmly rooted spirituality, their frugal but joyful lifestyle, their amazing strength and perseverance. That they are systematically being destroyed is one of the great unspoken tragedies of our time.
In late 1980, escalating civil violence compelled Plenty to pull its volunteers home. Sadly, we embraced those friends we left behind. We hated to leave. But we had to because our presence could be used in that intensely polarized atmosphere to draw government gunfire to the Indian villages. Our commitment to the Mayans continued through training programs in the States, and through continuing financial support of the village technology and nutrition projects, which even three years later, continue to function in the hands of the people we trained to carry on.
In 1982 we were alarmed by reports of the worsening massacres of Indians in the highlands. We learned of thousands of Indians surrounded near San Martin Jilotepeque where Plenty volunteers had worked establishing agriculture projects among the campesinos. In October the army surrounded 5000 Indians who had been hiding in the mountains since their own villages had been destroyed. These Kaqchikel Indians were malnourished, worn out, and terrified. A previous group of 3000 had given themselves up to the army for protection and 300 of them had been killed. Fast action among concerned citizens and groups generated international attention. This played a role in averting further killings among the 5000. The army chose instead to set up a model village for them and try to “make friends” and win them over instead of eliminating some and terrorizing the others.
As we gathered more information during the following weeks our hearts were saddened, and then outraged, by what we found — a human rights disaster. Other groups were doing research of their own. The National Council of Churches (NCC) heard about the Kaqchikels in San Martin Jilotepeque and wrote General Ríos Montt challenging him as a fellow Christian to let them evaluate Guatemala’s human rights situation. They were granted permission and after an intensive tour NCC concluded that, “…there are gross and consistent violations of human rights carried out by the armed forced of Guatemala…”
The Plenty Board decided it needed its own independent look at the situation. In late December with Stephen Gaskin, Chairman of Plenty, I flew to southern Mexico to get a firsthand look at the situation among the refugee camps. His report follows.
Summertown, Tennessee 38483
March 15, 1983
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 NOTES FROM MEXICO ………………………………. 1
Chapter 2 CAMP PUERTO RICO ……………………………….. 5
2.1 December 19th. ……………………………………. 5
2.2 Refugees, Helicopters, and Government Lies… ………… 6
2.3 Fear… ………………………………………….. 7
2.4 Refugees or Guerillas… …………………………… 8
2.5 Mexican Commission on Refugees… …………………… 8
2.6 Massacre at Cuarto Pueblo… ……………………….. 8
2.7 Postscript about Mayalan, in the land of Ixcán… …….. 10
Chapter 3 MEXICAN TREATMENT OF REFUGEES ……………………. 11
Chapter 4 RÍOS MONTT: “A BUM RAP” …………………………. 14
Chapter 5 U.S. INVOLVEMENT ……………………………….. 20
Chapter 6 DISINFORMATION …………………………………. 21
Chapter 7 REVOLUTION OR SUBVERSION ………………………… 24
Chapter 8 HOLY WARS ……………………………………… 27
Appendix A SUAREZ LETTER FROM CAMP CHAJUL, FEBRUARY 1983 …….. 32
Appendix B NOTES AND REFERENCES …………………………… 34
NOTES FROM MEXICO
Friday, December 17, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico:
The action in San Cristobal is reminiscent of the kind of overheated atmosphere prevailing in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and other ports in Asia just before World War II. Every person you saw could be a government agent, of what government you knew not.
Tourists from Europe, tourists from America were walking through apparently oblivious to what was going on in the camps.
It seems that everyone who lives in Chiapas knew something about the refugee business, either from the viewpoint of helping out the poor starving people, or feeling wary of them. “Be careful on the road,” some warned. “You may find bandidos, Guatemaltecos, pobrecitos que son desperados.” There may be people hungry enough or desperate enough to stop a rich tourist and take him for what he has, they said.
During the afternoon, we drove to Comitan to make an appointment for a flight the next day. In the small, rural airport, there were six airplanes visible, three of them with propellers, three of them without. All the pilots were familiar with the refugees and had seen the camps from the air. Forty tons of food are waiting to be flown in by small airplane loads, with alternate flights bringing out coffee from plantations far back in the mountains.
Saturday, December 18:
Today Captain Tovar observed Guatemalan troops in a refugee camp on the Mexican side of the border, interrogating. He was afraid to land on the strip in the village while the soldiers were there.
On the street we met a young man from California, down here to put his boat in the water and do a little fishing and boating. He was shocked so profoundly that he hadn’t slept all night.
“You should come and see this exhibit,” he told us.
He steered us to La Galeria Coffee House, which turned out to be the place where workers in the refugee camps meet in San Cristobal to relax, listen to music, and be together. Here we found the real Mexican, heartfelt response to the problem. There is an exhibition by third graders — drawings of a village massacre going on, people in colorful native trajé, troops in camouflage uniforms and short haircuts firing on unarmed Indians, helicopters firing from the air into villages, helicopters firing into pine forests, villages burning, beheaded bodies lying as seen through the eyes of third graders. A devastating exhibition.
After we had seen the pictures at La Galeria, we asked the proprietor, “Where are the camps of the children who drew the pictures?”
“Campamento la Sombra and Campamento la Hamaca,” he answered. “The majority of the children there are from the San Francisco are which was destroyed. The children were given paper and I personally told them: ‘Draw what you remember of your country, Guatemala.’”
“Is that all?” I asked.
“That was all.”
Many of the refugee children who made the drawings we originally from the area of Nenton in Huehuetenango. The Diocese San Cristobal de las Casa reports on the fate of one of the villages in that area:
“The community of the village of San Francisco, used to live in tranquility. They had their corn and they attended to their chickens. The children grew. They prayed. They learned catecismo and learned how to love one another and work together. The army visited the community a few times and gave medicine.
“Not only that, it promised to help in the solution of the problems they had as to the land. The people were in peace, … they trusted. The seventeenth of July the army came again. It took the members of the civil patrols, which are instituted by the government itself, and killed them. It surrounded the town, and devastated it. They killed children, elderly, women, and men — all died. Of the 350 inhabitants, only 12 were able to survive, miraculously. They had no fault except that they had trusted.”
“In San Francisco they took out the ladies, about twenty per group, and outside they left the little children. They first took out our ladies, they put them in our houses, which were already empty, and from there they shot bullets at them. They threw bombs to kill the ladies. After killing them then they set them on fire. Anyone that moved inside the house they lit on fire and the whole house burned to ashes. That was the end of the ladies, and later the children. The children of 12, 10, 15, 7, 8, one of 10 months. They took them to a house and there they stabbed them. They cut up their insides of the poor children. The poor little children are still screaming. They do it like this. Even though they are still alive, and pile them up inside the house.
“That was all of that. Having finished killing our children they began with the elderly…” 
The massacre at San Francisco was well documented by eyewitnesses.
In spite of this documentation Americas Watch reports that, “As of mid-October, six weeks after receiving the first reports on San Francisco, the U.S. Embassy’s political staff had not yet gone to the site or interviewed anyone in nearby villages who might have witnessed the incident. One reason given was that it took time to locate the correct village on a map, as there is more than one San Francisco.” 
These children’s experience did not end with their escape to Mexico. The refugee camp “La Hamaca” which received most of the survivors of the San Francisco/Nenton area was attacked by Guatemalan troops. The San Cristobal Diocese reports, “Gonzalo Martinez said that on Monday, August 30, Guatemalan refugees entered into Mexico, escaping the army of that country. The Guatemalan military did not respect the dividing line and penetrated some 200 meters. There, in a place called Portero Morro the Mexican peasant Hernandez Figueroa was working in his corn. They shot him, breaking a leg. He fell. Right there, they tortured him. First, by cutting the left ear. They hit his face. They took out his eyes. They castrated him. Finally, they opened up his guts.
“In the same incursion they reached a Guatemalan peasant who they also tortured and assassinated. After they tied the body of the Mexican and the Guatemalan and they dragged them 600 meters farther out from the border into Guatemalan territory. They threw them tied, into the river.” 
This was in front of the community of 500 people who, soon after the killings, abandoned the camp and moved further into Mexico, where they renamed their new camp “La Colmena.”
Again, in January 1983, the 500 refugees of Camp La Hamaca (La Colmena) fled before Guatemalan troops who executed three men. An attack was also reported from La Sombra near Santiago el Vértice. These were the two camps from which the children’s drawings originated. The Guatemala Army’s incursions maintain the terror and intimidation from which the refugees have fled. During February of 1983, when scandal rocked Israel for its part in the massacre of over three hundred refugees in Beirut, it was curious to find scare coverage of the Guatemala massacres, which virtually unreported by the world press, have continued unabated into 1983.
CAMP PUERTO RICO
2.1 December 19th.
Up in the morning at 5:30 to drive fast and hard 120 kilometers an hour, down to Comitan to meet Captain Tovar and his Skyhawk 180.
The Captain immediately asked Edward to sit with him, saying, “Spanish speakers in the front.”
We flew to Puerto Rico, a refugee camp that can only be reached by air and water. It is the most rugged territory we have ever seen with trees on it: volcanic, mixed with limestone, sinkhole wells, cenotes, as they say in Yucatan, with winding rivers, incredibly steep peaks and valleys, overhanging cliffs, caves — truly rugged jungle territory that is spoken of in Spanish as pura selva. The only territory I have seen that is more rugged is the absolute, above timberline, high Rockies.
The camps become thicker and thicker until we reach an area where there seems to be a small encampment every hundred yards along the river — groups of thatched huts looking like careless handfuls of litter thrown down on the green jungle. We come to an area of many camps, and one large one — Puerto Rico. At this camp of four thousand people, one kilometer from the border, the jungle giants still lay where they have been cut. The airstrip is a flat stretch from which the giant stumps have been removed.
Puerto Rico is a large encampment. In April 1982 there were about 400 people there, now there’s over 4,000. But there are many small camps in the immediate vicinity, where 25,000 Guatemalans are seeking refuge from war. The camps are obviously brand new. There are half-finished pole frame buildings with insufficient amount of thatch to cover the roofs. The thatch is freshly cut; the trees are freshly felled. These people have been driven into some of the deepest jungle on the North American continent, running along the jungle floor to escape the helicopters.
As soon as our plane landed, a dignified man in ragged clothes and a yellow ski hat came up and begged the pilot to take two sick babies into town for medical care. We arranged for our plane to fly the babies and their families out, and to return for us later.
Beautiful Indian women with thin faces, their cheekbones showing and the bones around their eyes in sharp relief, held tiny babies with huge eyes and the preternatural intelligence that comes with hunger.
It soon became obvious that even the small necessities of my personal pack — my athlete’s foot medicine, the bottle of peroxide for rinsing my teeth — are relevant and must be given away immediately to people who have serious uses for even these small stores.
When the people saw that we were not from any government, but truly came as citizens to try to help, they opened up to us and gave us their stories.
One man we talked to was from Todos Santos, and had been in the camp thirteen days. He followed the sounds of the airfield until found a camp, after being lost in the jungle for six months before reaching the border.
Then a strong, handsome man in his fifties, with white hair in an inch-long brush cut and an evident air of authority, arrived. We explained to him that we wanted to find out the real situation with the refugees. He spoke at length.
Direct Testimony from Camp Puerto Rico December 19, 1982
2.2 Refugees, Helicopters, and Government Lies…
“For a long time we have been suffering heavy exploitation, more than one can stand. We can’t take it. We are refugees right now because we can’t live in our country; they are chasing us out, towards the border with the helicopters, which we are getting to know quite well. Helicopters from the United States.
“They hate us, supposing that we are part of the guerillas. How is it that we who are known as hard working men, men whose hands are well calloused by working with axes in the mountains, that we should be accused?
“The government lies, to make the other countries believe that there is nothing going on. Only those that have come here for actual testimony get the full story. It is said that in Guatemala there is peace, that nothing is the matter, but all along the Mexican border you will find Guatemalan refugees. Many are struggling against disease and hunger. We have a little bit of help, but it is not enough. They (The Mexican High Commission on Refugees) give us a little bit of help every week or so. It is enough for five days, and a then we go hungry for two.”
“There is not enough medicine, so the sicknesses continue. The body faints; it can’t stand it, and we die. All of this because of a lack of food. Here we don’t have any of the diet we ate at home where as hard-working farmers we had fruit, sugar cane, bananas, corn, oranges, limes. We could take a break from working and cut a fruit to refresh ourselves. Then corn was only eaten in small amounts. But here only dry grains and beans.
“We live in fear. The Mexican authorities gave us a card good for two months, because of the change of government they said. We don’t have any assurance from their plans. Are they going to have us here or throw us out? How could it be possible for anyone to consider sending us back, into the ferociousness of a beast waiting for meat, to eat us? It is not possible.”
At this point a young Indian man stepped forward and said, “Forgive this if it seems suspicious, but we must know where you are from so that we may know if it is safe to speak with you.”
He explained that since Ríos Montt’s policy of beans for bullets, even people who brought food might not be safe to speak to. We assured him that we were from an independent aid group, and had no government or religious ties. Satisfied, he began to speak of the situation.
“We would like it if Ríos Montt would come so that we could point out these injustices of what he is doing to us in Guatemala. When we were in Guatemala, we would present him with memorandums calling his attention to the rights we were losing. The group that would try to reclaim its rights would subsequently receive repression kidnapping and eventually disappear.
“Right now, we cannot go back. It is impossible. It is like we said. Ríos Montt is a liar. When he came in he said that he was a friend of the peasants. But what happened? Within a couple of weeks he was proving to be worse than Lucas.
“We are afraid. We do not want to die. If our only offense is that we work and we eat, how can that be an offense? We ail have a right to eat.”
2.4 Refugees or Guerillas…
“We hear Ríos Montt on the radio, accusing all refugees in Mexico of being subversives. We are not subversives. If we were guerrillas, we would be down in Guatemala putting bullets into soldiers. We would have stayed. But because we are not guerrillas, we flee in order to defend ourselves. We are here as refugees. A guerrilla doesn’t run, he fights; but us, we flee.
“We landed here because this is the way station where we came over. We solicited permission from the Mexican farmer who owns that land; he said it would be fine if we stayed here, only one kilometer from the border. We thought at least we would be outside of the country and it wouldn’t be so easy for the soldiers to come and massacre us.”
2.5 Mexican Commission on Refugees…
“The Mexican Commission came and authorized us to stay here for a while. They gave us immigration cards, and when they came back with newspaper people, they announced that here we would stay; we cannot go further into Mexico. The river is to the north of us a kilometer and the border just south. We would like to have been able to head further into Mexico.
“We have thought about this, and if the Commission would authorize us further entry into Mexico we would feel more secure. Right now, it is pretty much life or death. If the army comes in by night intending to massacre us, they easily can.”
2.6 Massacre at Cuarto Pueblo…
“For example, in a place nearby, the army massacred three or four hundred people. This was back home in Guatemala. It was a Sunday. The people were in the village square. We knew the situation was hard already. The people were selling their wares, not thinking about it. Then the army entered in from the mountains and the people were surrounded. When the people of the village heard the shots, some were able to make their escape, ducking bullets as they fled. Others stayed there and were killed and burned until now all you would find are ashes and bones.”
A young Indian man, apparently full grown, although less than 4’11″, stepped forward to take up the story.
“Not even bones, only ashes.
“I know of this because I returned to find that they had burned my entire family, just like that. We were unworried, knowing that we had done no wrong. People went shopping in the square. My family went to buy. We weren’t aware that we were surrounded, later to be massacred. What crime had those children committed? Why should the government have sent its army upon us? But nonetheless, it did. The army threw itself upon the people. And the people didn’t know what it was about any more than we know now. Those that stayed were killed. Me, I remain alone, my whole family slain.
“We were working hard with our machete, working the corn, single-mindedly. But with the same kind of machetes, they killed my family. I am from Cuarto Pueblo, near the village of Mayalan, near the border.”
After an hour and a half, the plane came to pick us up to take us back to the airfield. As we left, the people, all of whom greeted us beautifully and politely; “Buenos tardes,” (“Good afternoon”), and told us “Que le vaya bien.” (“May you travel well”). The only thing I could say was, “Nos vemos,” which is “We shall see each other again.”
That is the most important thing, that these people should remain alive, that they should see anyone again.
2.7 Postscript about Mayalan, in the land of Ixcán…
Camp Puerto Rico is within ten miles of the villages of Mayalan, among which lies the town of Cuarto Pueblo.
A Mayan friend from the area told us that in the sixties, this land, Ixcán held great promise for the people. It was distant land far removed from the encroachment on their lifestyle and seemed a place pioneers could set up with hopes of a plentiful future. Initially 1500 Indian pioneers set out from Todos Santos in Huehuetenango and begin settling in Mayalan, some six miles south of the Mexican border
It was difficult for the people trying to make it in the jungle filled mountain terrain, but hard work and perseverance paid off and over the next years new villages sprang up near Mayalan: Nuevo Pueblo, La Resurrección, Cuarto Pueblo. Each was built nearer to the border until the last ended right at the frontier. Yet, with the advent of helicopters and scorched earth tactics, there was to be no safety in distance, and over three hundred people were massacred in Cuarto Pueblo.
MEXICAN TREATMENT OF REFUGEES
In January 1982, the U.N. estimated there were 3,000 refugees among less than a dozen camps in Mexico. Presently there are about 50 camps and a conservative estimate of 100,000 refugees. Historically both sides of the border are Mayan. Some of the refugees have fled far into Mexico; some, who were seasonal workers in the Mexican plantations, simply stayed on. Some are held in temporary border camps; others have settled in with “cousins” in the small villages and ejidos. Gabriel Suarez, in an interview at la Galeria, spoke of the ejido system.
“An ejido is a village given collective use of land by the Mexican government. People in the ejidos are typically poor peasants and Indians.
“Among the refugees there is the clear idea of helping in the ejido. In [one camp called] La Sombra there had been killings [by the Guatemala soldiers] and the camp’s aid was withdrawn for political reasons. Five big trucks of food were sent out; about seven tons each truck. The camp had overflowed its boundaries and intermingled with the local ejido. So the refugees formed a committee and decided to give two trucks to the Mexican ejido.
“They decided that never as refugees in that area would they eat better than the Mexicans there. That is their decision of solidarity that exists among the people. It exists among the humble people.
“The Guatemalan refugees already had permission to seek refuge with the ejidos. That is very important. They never invaded — they first asked the ejido.”
After slow initial response, the Mexican Government has appointed the Mexican High Commission on Refugees, which is administering a million-dollar U.N. grant. The suspicion remains that the Mexicans are running the refugee camps a little slim on purpose because they don’t want to encourage people to come into them.
Of course, such a policy can get out of hand. Last October 1500 refugees were evicted, by force of arms, from their refugee camp at Rancho Tejas.
Although the newly installed Miguel de la Madrid government no longer deports the refugees, there is still a problem with racism. In the words of an American visitor to the camp in November 1982. “Thus it is easy for two young officials from Mexico City to dominate 5,000 Indians. ‘You! You from Mayalan. What have you people been doing? What? You’ve got to work. What thanks do you give us for what we are doing for you? If you’re not satisfied, you should go back to Guatemala,’ one says to a village leader, as one would scold a child.” He conducts his tirade from a reclining position, stretched out over some bags of corn, as the leaders stand in front, hats in hand, waiting for some announcement as to when corn will be distributed.
He is the nephew of the official who runs the local office of the Mexican Refugee Commission. Nearby is a thatched hut with seven tons of sardines, milk, cooking oil, beans, and corn, which the Comité Cristiano has donated to the refugees. It has been there for some time. ‘You people have no reason to accept that food,’ the young official continues. ‘If you want the food of the priests, go ahead; take it. Go on. But the priests won’t be sending any more, and if you want to take their food, then don’t expect to be coming back to us.’”
We were told by people who were very helpful to us, “Stay out of the camps until March. Then we will see if the new government is going to do better, and replace the people on the border, who are letting the Guatemalan army in, and unreasonably rationing the food. They may fire those people and put in De la Madrid’s own appointments, or they may continue a policy of neglect.” Meanwhile most of the help given the refugees at the border has been through the Mexican High Commission, the ejidos, the Catholic Christian refugee support groups, and international groups working on tourist passes.
After a group of immigration agents said that they were under orders to persuade Guatemalan refugees in leaving, the head of Chiapas immigration was relieved of his post.
Guatemala News Information Bulletin reports: “An unidentified government official stated that Morales ‘was acting in conflict with Mexico’s official refugee policy…’ Mexico’s Government Minister Enrique Olivares Santana stated that there would be no more deportations and that political asylum would soon be granted to the refugees in the 30 Chiapas camps. Olivares stated, however, that Mexico would reserve the right to relocate the refugees where their labor power would be most useful to Mexico.” 
RÍOS MONTT: “A BUM RAP”
“The General scratches his belly and thinks
The pay is good but the company stinks.”
— The Police
There has been a continual low-grade war going on for the 29 years since the CIA takeover of 1954. In the seventies, there were a series of wars down through the southern provinces near El Salvador.
Because there was a scorched earth policy, that area is fairly quiet now.
During the late 60s, the war was in Baja Vera Paz, and Alta Vera Paz and El Petén. Just recently, they announced the “pacification” of Quiche, Huehuetenango, Sololá, and Chimaltenango.
In 1980-81, the action was in Escuintla and the other South seacoast states, where the great plantations are. People come down from the mountains and spend their planting season working on the large fincas and don’t make enough money to take any back home with them to the mountains. In this area the repression has taken the form of the assassination of the leaders of unions or sindicatos. There has been a definite pattern that covers the entire country. While soldiers were beginning to go into the pacification phase in Huehuetenango and our newspapers were announcing peace in Guatemala, the army moved the action over into San Marcos, and destroyed 15 or 20 villages in that state in November and December 1982.
The disinformation that comes to us is that whatever abuses there were in the past, were possibly in the Lucas Garcia regime and not in this regime at all; or if they were in this regime, it was an unavoidable byproduct of the reduction of the communist threat in Guatemala.
What we know to be the case is that it went from bad to worse. Ríos Montt is worse than Lucas Garcia, who was worse than Kjell-Laugerud Garcia. The country has lost all semblance of civil law under Ríos Montt.
When Ríos Montt took over by military coup, he abrogated the constitution that was the fundamental legal document of the country. The constitution of 1965 contained provisions for suspending civil rights during periods of emergency, but they were not used. Ríos Montt told Raymond Bonner of the New York Times: “When the Constitution was in force, I could not search for someone in a house. So I have to establish a legal framework so I can enter a house.”
According to Americas Watch, “On June 9, Ríos Montt, President of the military junta, dissolved the junta, stripped the other two members of their cabinet posts, and declared himself President and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Ríos Montt, that same day, issued Decree Law No. 36-82 which amended the Fundamental Statute of Government to permit him to exercise both executive and legislative powers (Article 1) and to exercise all other powers as President vested in the military junta by the Statute.” 
Then Ríos Montt, of his own authority, saying it was from God, cast off the other two Catholic members of the junta and proclaimed it a transcendental moment for Guatemala. He thereby broke all continuity with previous governments, which had signed the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Ríos Montt could have broken with the previous regime completely.
He made no break in fact, as the National Council of Churches (NCC) reports: “Army officers responsible for gross violations of human rights under the Lucas Garcia government have not been brought to trial on such charges; as one officer commented, ‘A government can change its face, but the army doesn’t change.’ The team discovered no evidence of a break in policy regarding human rights violations between the present and past governments. Killings by the army continue; refugees continue to flee into Mexico from repression. ‘Calm’ in the conflicted countryside is imposed and maintained by military force and presence, by fear and by control of food supplies.” 
Ríos Montt is actively supported by Gospel Outreach, an evangelical Protestant sect based in Eureka, California. Victor Perera, writing in The Nation, said: “Ríos Montt’s evangelism has not set him apart from previous presidents in another respect: his profound disregard for the Indians and his determination to pursue a program of virtual ethnic extermination in order to wipe out the guerrilla’s base of support in the highlands. Contempt for the Indians is bred into soldiers from the day they enter the army, and it is included as part of officer training in Guatemala’s military academy.” 
According to the Americas Watch Report: “The subject of human rights,” President Ríos Montt has said, “is an international topic which they use to annoy a government which is against communism.”
When asked if he was pursuing a scorched-earth policy, Ríos Montt said, “Only scorched Communists.” 
Ríos Montt continues the Garcia policies because that is the quickest way to the legitimization of his military coup d’état, which the United States government should otherwise have had no reason to recognize. The quickest route to recognition was to align himself with the major world power, and to continue the work that had been begun by the previous administrations. It is for this loyal service that Ronald Reagan came back to the United States and said Ríos Montt is getting “a bum rap.”
Ríos Montt’s kindest thought, the one he advertises to the Christians as the good part of his program, is to take the Indians away from their culture, stop them from speaking Indian languages, and commit what is called ethnocide, the deliberate death and suppression of a culture.
The National Council of Churches took testimony on these plans from a Guatemalan officer, who, “…made a comparison between Venezuela, where he had studied military strategy, and Guatemala: ‘When Venezuela had had a problem with insurgents, government forces went in and ‘bombed them off the map.’ Then they entered the same areas with a development program — roads, agriculture, electrification, and industry — to win the people. Venezuela has oil money to carry out this plan; Guatemala has no such resource.
“The army is requiring many families in areas of conflict to relocate from their ancestral land holdings to ‘model villages’ where they will be under the protection or control of the army and where the army will have a critical role to play in the form of development the villages undertake.” 
Americas Watch reports the plan for education which: “…includes, in the ‘sociological field,’ a recommendation to structure and define nationalism, promote and encourage it in every organization of the State and spread it to the rural area, making sure that it forms part of the process of education and training of the population, as a doctrine opposed to international communism. The junta’s attitude toward the purposes of education is also worthy of note; the document advocates that the new government: make sure that programs are conducted, designed to reduce the levels of illiteracy, in order to make the population more receptive to new ideas and augment the feasibility of actions directed at the molding and maintenance of nationalism.” 
The National Council of Churches says that: “In rural areas of conflict controlled by the army, there is an atmosphere of fear which leads to reluctance on the part of the populace to speak openly or to speak in opposition to the army or government. Code words, such as ‘calm,’ ‘tranquil’ or ‘subversives’ who bring ‘bad ideas’ are used by people in such zones, while in areas not so subject to military control these words are not heard in descriptions of the situation…
“For the Department of Chimaltenango, the plan is that future economic development should take advantage of the land’s fertility to grow alternative crops, e.g. citrus fruits, that can be sold profitably. Beans and corn should be bought elsewhere. The cultural problems of such a plan for indigenous people are recognized as are technical problems such as water supply, but these can be managed … There are vegetable gardens in the area, but commercialization is not good; the Indian producers are exploited by merchants. Planners are entering this arena, including those from the Bank of Guatemala.” 
All the aid groups are accused of being duped by the communists.
But it is not only aid groups who protest Ríos Montt’s inhumanity; when Costa Rica was suggested as a meeting place for Reagan and Ríos Montt, Costa Rica’s President Monge refused to allow Ríos Montt into his country. The Guatemalan News and Information Bureau reports that Monge stated that the executions under Ríos Montt may be grounds for excluding Guatemala from the Central American Democratic Community.
Monge added, “As long as there are no signs that the government is taking a democratic path, it would be hard to justify their presence in the community.”
In order to receive food, campesinos must participate in public works projects, often building highways necessary for troop movement and building model or “Luxury” villages as the government calls them. The government forcibly relocates Guatemala’s displaced population into “model villages” equivalent to strategic hamlets used by the U.S. in Vietnam to control the population. The strategic hamlet theory is that they can repopulate the villages with 500 people each. The peasant economy is largely self-sufficient and has very little relationship or impact on Guatemala’s economy, but its destruction would condemn entire villages to die of hunger.
The peasants are not viewed as cost effective. The government wants to make Indians quit growing their own food and being subsistence Indians, as is their custom, and force them into a system of trade and commerce that is quite foreign to the way they have lived for thousands of years. It could be called a capitalist conspiracy to overthrow the people.
Known as “beans for bullets” the strategy was aptly interpreted by a Guatemalan officer to mean, “If you’re with us we’ll feed you, if not, we’ll kill you.”
Ríos Montt is specifically trying to remove indigenous culture.
He doesn’t want Indians to have their own culture — he only wants them to have his culture, American Protestant evangelism, and western Wonder Bread economy. They are not permitted to have their own proven, viable culture. This is the suppression of six million people.
Ríos Montt’s own plan is, after they burn out all these villages, to go back in with projects and build model villages, hydroelectric power and all. These programs are not significantly different from Hitler’s plans for the Rhine and Ruhr Valleys and making France the breadbasket of Europe and Germany the industrial center, to order Europe more efficiently. Ríos Montt’s plans are being carried out in exactly the same fashion, through selective genocide.
Gospel Outreach is an example of a simplistically deceptive dogma that makes you think that this is a finite game board, and that there can be such a thing as a “final solution.” It is said that the big difference between the Russians and us is that they believe the end justifies the means, and we don’t. Yet this is exactly Ríos Montt’s hidden premise; this is what the U.S. has had to swallow in order to recognize Ríos Montt as the rightful ruler of Guatemala, a man who self-proclaimed that God had chosen him. To allow him to carry out the ruthless oppression of a whole people by the use of and with the help of American technology is a tacit acceptance on the part of the United States government, in our name, that the end justifies the means.
Although it is currently fashionable for Guatemalan and U.S. officials to say, “He did it without any help,” U.S. involvement in Guatemala has never stopped. Aid has been slipped to Guatemala in many forms through many sources, both official and laundered.
The National Council of Churches reports: “Colonel Patton said that 100 field phone/radio packs (FM) had been delivered by the U.S. to the Guatemalan army in 1981, though they had been in the pipeline since 1973, before the 1977 cutoff of U.S. military aid. Colonel Patton also said that there was a U.S. military officer in Guatemala who was training helicopter pilots; he was not permitted to go into combat areas… The Guatemalan government [bought] nine civilian Bell helicopters for $10.5 million in 1980 and 1981 through the Commerce Department. These were later adapted for military use. They also bought $3 million worth of military trucks and jeeps in June, 1981.” 
Reagan’s attempt to send a $6.5 million package of helicopter parts, etc., to Guatemala points up the way in which the administration has kept the American people off balance over a period of years in its relationships with Guatemala. We are told that Congress has said that no more military assistance can go to Guatemala; then we find that the State Department feels free to act behind the back of Congress and send military advisors and materials into Guatemala. And when Congress refused to sell Huey gunships, an arrangement was made for Bell helicopters to be bought directly from the Bell factory, as if it were merely international commerce, although the ships were converted to military use when they arrived in Guatemala. In the same fashion, the embargo of military parts made by Jimmy Carter’s government in 1977 has been broken just to send down the rest of these helicopter parts.
Although the current annual level of U.S. economic aid is $200,000, according to the U.S. Ambassador there is $40 million available for U.S. economic assistance to Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy plans to use at least some of this money to support the development plan of the Guatemalan army in “areas of conflict.”
There is a media war going on in the United States where the arguments and the information take place in the United States and the victims of the war die in Guatemala.
It seems clear that any change in Guatemala’s status in regards to being the recipient of helicopter parts has not resulted from any change of policies, implementation of policies, intentions, or any other facet of the Ríos Montt government, but only a change of policy on the part of the United States government. There has been no change on the part of the Guatemalan government.
When the Reagan administration wanted to preserve the helicopter sales, they began to issue press releases to the media stating that the situation in Guatemala had improved. The pointed disinformation that came through the country gave sudden optimistic estimations of the Guatemalan situation, somewhat cheerily passing over the number of deaths much in the manner of congratulating a mugger for the speed and accuracy of the mugging, legitimizing the act by its success and its skill.
The December 27th edition of The San Jose Mercury refers to “Ríos Montt: Paternalism That Works” and “Pacification of Border Country Becoming a Reality in Guatemala.” “Guatemalan Plan Shifts from Bullets to Beans.” Another headline read, “Guatemala Tiptoes Toward Democracy: A Nascent Legislature Includes Formerly Outcast Indians.” But during the period reported on, and during the time when Reagan says conditions were improving, the Washington Office on Latin America reported that bombings and massacres continued.
While newsmen were being shown pacified areas of Huehuetenango, Quiche, and Sololá, the army’s new offensive continued in the province of San Marcos. Military actions by Guatemalan special forces (“kaibiles”) took place through the latter part of November, including the destruction of the villages of Carrizal, Monte Cristo, Bullaj, Chalquits, Taquian Grande, Totana, and Pueblo Nuevo.
On December 23, 1982, the same day Congressman Barnes met with Ambassador Enders to discuss the helicopter sales, the village of Santa Rita, in the state of San Marcos, was attacked with heavy artillery and mortars. Congressman Barnes came away from this meeting apparently believing that the situation in Guatemala had improved.
The reports that come from the U.S. government mention few specifics, few names, acting as if the people in the villages up there are so far removed, with such strange names, as to be almost off the edge of the map. However, in the Mexican press, there are long lists of the names of the officers who did the atrocities, and the names of the people whose bodies were counted by their friends and relations who survived the massacres. It is known name-by-name, troop-by-troop, gun-by-gun, where the guns came from. The United States still affects not to know what is going on.
As the Americas Watch investigators concluded: “The Embassy staff are at the disadvantage of not having visited Chiapas, southern Mexico, to interview refugees there. Unlike human rights groups, therefore, the Embassy has not, at first hand, received reports from Guatemalans relatively safe from reprisal and able to speak freely. But in discussions with the Americas Watch delegation. Embassy officers made it clear that they considered these refugees neither essential sources nor credible ones; they are dismissed, rather, as guerrilla sympathizers creating propaganda against the army. The basis for this characterization appears to be the act that they fled the army.”
“Questioned about the findings of human rights groups that have interviewed these refugees, a political officer explained that in the Embassy’s view, the ‘burden of proof’ is on the refugees to prove their statements, not on the army of Guatemala to prove its innocence. Told that the delegation had corroborated aspects of refugees’ statements with Mexicans in Chiapas, Ambassador to Guatemala Chapin stated that he, ‘wouldn’t believe a goddamn thing any Mexican told me.’”
“A political officer called into question the testimony of a Finca San Francisco survivor, on the grounds that his account of escaping from beneath a pile of dead bodies was much like the account of an escape given by a survivor from another nearby village where a massacre also reportedly took place; the similarity struck this officer as suspicious. As noted above, neither that officer nor anyone else on the political staff had visited San Francisco, nor talked with these two survivors. The opinion therefore reflected assumptions rather than independently verified data; yet it was consistent with the overall attitude of Embassy staff with whom the delegation met.” 
In a more recent Washington Post report of atrocities in Guatemala since December 29, Christopher Dickey, although apparently too disciplined to draw the conclusion himself, nonetheless accurately reports the answer of a deaf mute who perhaps didn’t know better what to say about the massacres. In an area where many of the people said, “Oh no, we don’t know who did these things,” the deaf mute stood, saluted smartly, whirled his arm over his head and pointed to the sky. Clearly the army and helicopters. 
REVOLUTION OR SUBVERSION
There’s something unfair about labeling every attempt on the part of any downtrodden people anywhere in the world to relieve themselves of their suffering as “Communist.” It all stems from Reagan’s evident fixation that any way that the peasants of Guatemala get a square deal will result in Russian domination of Mexico, right up to Texas.
There were revolutions even before Marx or Lenin were born. They were about the divine right of kings, where you were considered to be against God, if you were against the king. When Ríos Montt says “Communist,” he means Indians who live collectively like they did before Western civilization came to this country.
In the climax phase of the Indian civilization, the Mayan, the Aztecs, the Incas, excesses were committed equal to those of Greece and Rome. But the societies in which the great majority of New World people lived were organized in small communities. The Indians of North America didn’t build castles. So these Indians could be called Communists, possibly with more justification than you would say it of a citizen of Moscow, who is only a small-time capitalist in a permanently depressed economy.
The State Department has had ready definitions for Communism: Marxist-Leninist. This is how they isolate the strain of Communism that they mean is the poisonous one, the Herpes II of the political world. And if that is the criteria, then what are we going to say about Indians who live up valleys, in the jungle, in Guatemala, who have never traveled more than 5 or 10 miles from their village, many of whom speak only Indian languages, not even Spanish, and who haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on anywhere else in the world. How then can these people be Communists? By decree!
The Americas Watch reports:
“Guatemala’s state of siege law. Decree Law No. 45-82, makes persons subject to warrantless arrest if they are considered ‘persons belonging or having belonged to groups that act in cooperation with or in subordination to international organizations that uphold the philosophy of Marxism/Leninism.’
“Thus it establishes a ‘crime of opinion’ with ideas or presumed ideas, rather than actions, being sufficient grounds for limitless detention. Thus, the authorities may arrest whom they please solely on the basis of an accusation concerning the detainee’s thoughts and philosophy. Moreover, the detainee has no effective legal recourse since the writs of habeas corpus and amparo are suspended during the state of siege.” 
The Americas Watch further reports: “Army methods of distinguishing ‘subversives’ from ‘non-subversives’ individuals or villages can be crude at best. As Indian sources told us, to show fear in the presence of soldiers places a campesino under immediate suspicion, and in immediate danger. Asked how he acts when raiding a village including women and children, if that village is suspected of harboring guerrillas, a soldier in Cunen, El Quiche, told Washington Post reporter John Dinges: ‘When there is a battle, we shoot everybody alike, even though they don’t have uniforms… Practically all of them are guerrillas… so the order is to attack everybody alike.’” [l8]
Amnesty International corroborates the extent of the power given to the military to determine who is subversive and who is not: “What is the result of such sweeping powers being given to the military?
“During an interview carried out in April by a foreign journalist, a transcript of which is in Amnesty International’s possession, civil defense patrol members from Baja Verapaz admitted that they had been involved in such atrocities. They stated that they acted under the orders of military commanders who instructed them to consider as ‘involved’ anyone they found over the age of 12 in areas or houses considered suspicious by the commanders. They were told to seize such people and kill them. Even younger children, if they too were felt to be ‘involved,’ were to be summarily executed…” [l9]
This is not to say the guerrillas are not guilty of something.
The guerrillas are guilty of thinking they can win by force of arms.
They never had a fighting chance, and that naiveté has some responsibility in the horrendous loss of life. But it’s also true that the American people do not get to act naive. In these days of global communication, they cannot say, like the good Germans, that “they didn’t know” what was going on in Guatemala.
The National Council of Churches reports: “The army says that the guerrillas are responsible for the incident; the villagers say the army is responsible.” 
From the Americas Watch report: “We encountered allegations by knowledgeable persons, who did not provide details, that there are instances in which the guerrillas have engaged in massacres. We condemn these actions. Our delegation’s visit to Guatemala and our other research have convinced us, however, that most of the killings of campesinos are attributable to the army, and that such extra-judicial executions are a central element in the government’s counter-insurgency, or ‘pacification,’ strategy.
“Indian sources with whom the Americas Watch delegation spoke, as well as knowledgeable persons in the U.S. government and in human rights organizations, maintain that campesinos are not generally confused by disguise. Soldier’s identities show in their accents, gestures and the fact that they often do not speak the area’s Indian language (there are 23 such languages in Guatemala). Weapons too distinguish the army from the guerrillas; campesinos know the word ‘Galil’ for the Israeli-made rifle used by the armed forces, and know the difference between a Galil and the M-16s of the guerrillas.” 
In the Arizona Daily Star, Manuela Saquic, a teen-age Indian refugee is quoted as saying: “In my country, the army says that those who run when the army comes are guerrillas. But in truth, if you don’t run, they kill you, so what is the choice? She does not understand what it is to be a Socialist or a Communist. I do not know what that means, or what those people stand for. All I know is that I have seen things that should not be.” 
The war in Guatemala is a genocidal and ethnocidal war of extinction along racist, religious lines. With American assistance, the million Ladinos of western civilization in the cities are waging war on the six million Indians who live in the countryside.
The competition between Catholics and the fundamentalists, the evangelicos, has been going on in Central America for a long time.
Guatemala, having been an entirely Catholic country at one time, has virtually disenfranchised the Catholic Church. Even under the Lucas regime, the government still favored the Protestant missionaries who came in because they were using the Protestant missionaries as a lever to uproot Catholicism.
Things have gotten seriously worse under Ríos Montt. Before him, it was mostly political and somewhat racial. Under Ríos Montt, it has become overtly racial and religious as well.
The massacres have the characteristic savagery of places where people kill each other for racial and religious reasons, trying to “wipe each other’s seed from the earth.” We are experiencing the religious wars of the 20th century: Spanish Catholic South America and Protestant North America; the Jews and the Arabs; the Arabs and the Christians; the Protestants and the Catholics in Ireland; and between the Protestants and Catholics in Guatemala. At another level, mainstream Christianity tries to hold off the missionaries of Moon, Hare Krishna, Scientology; arms that reach out around the world. And now a newcomer has raised its head on the national and international scene.
Gospel Outreach, a small dark horse entry, has fielded out a whole country on its own: Guatemala. Ríos Montt belongs to their church and teaches Sunday school. It used to be only the big religions, like the Catholics or the Lutherans, who could control an entire country, but with modern media and the ability to take over with sophisticated military weapons in a very short time, even a small sect has the potential of “evangelizing” a whole country.
A program is being carried out against the Mayan people, as cruel if not as efficient as the Holocaust. Western civilization continues its pattern of, as the conquistadores said, the “reduction” of the Indians.
The National Council of Churches says in their report: “There are deeply rooted racial prejudices of Ladino (Guatemalans of mixed Spanish-Indian blood or those identifying with them) toward Indian people and a failure fully to understand the Indian cultures and especially their ties to the land.
“Government intent to make Guatemala one nation ‘in place of 23’ carries the threat of extinction for the rich cultures of the Indian groups. One of them, Ixcán, is nearly extinct.” 
This is deeper than the problems between the Ladinos and the Indians in Guatemala. The fact is that the United States is an outpost of Europe in the New World even now. The attitudes that are killing the Indians in Central and South America are the same attitudes that killed the Indians in North America in the last century. They are the continuing colonization of the western hemisphere by the European-based cultures.
There is a root danger in the colonization of the entire world.
When we take away the people’s native way of how to make it, we are unable to give them back anything else to replace it with that is as honestly keyed to the real hard times and good times of rains and droughts and suns and freezes. Already, in places where Indians have been elevated from what our culture thinks of as near savagery, they are reduced to a dependence on electric motors and gasoline engines.
When they lose the gasoline and the electricity they are unable to survive. They no longer have the natural systems which where developed over thousands of years.
The National Council of Churches reports: “The people in certain areas have lost most of the harvest because of crop burning or the people’s absence during planting time, and are in great need of food, shelter, medicines. Military distributions and food for work programs do not reach all the people in need and do not provide an adequate diet for those they do reach.” They also point out that “indigenous communities have relatively few and basic needs according to Escobar: often a community will identify a cemetery wall as its greatest need.” … “There is an atmosphere of fear and attitude of submission among the people.” 
The Evangelicals teach, according to Americas Watch: “‘He who resists authority is resisting that which has been established by God,’ said a fundamentalist preacher at a military-sponsored rally in El Quiche in July. ‘He who lacks God in his heart is the one who is unable to love the authorities.’” 
The National Council of Churches reports: “Most of the Roman Catholic clergy and religious workers are still suspect of being in sympathy with anti-government elements. There is a deliberate effort on the part of the Guatemalan government to discredit church sources of information on violations of human rights in Guatemala.” 
Americas Watch reports: “The official attitude toward socially-concerned sectors of the Catholic Church differs sharply from the official attitudes toward fundamentalist Protestantism. This may reflect the personal beliefs of Ríos Montt, himself a ‘born again’ Christian, but it is also noteworthy that the religious message brought by some fundamentalists tends to support the counter-insurgency effort.” 
The Guatemalan News and Information Bureau reports: “Evangelical ministers, whose numbers in Guatemala have increased by 18 percent since born-again Christian Ríos Montt took power, distribute food in the villages. They also preach about the evils of communism and the necessity of obeying and respecting the army and government. Operation Lovelift, part of Gospel Outreach of Eureka, California, is in charge of the food distribution and village construction. Gospel Outreach is the U.S. part of the Church of the Word sect that Ríos Montt belongs to.” 
The massacres in Guatemala will be remembered as the Inquisition of the Protestants.
In The New York Times Salomon Nahmad, the Director of Indigenous Education in Mexico’s Education Ministry, says, “Those Americans are the Franciscans and Dominicans of our time,” referring to the Catholic clergy who accompanied the Spanish conquistadors four centuries ago.
“They might not see it that way, but they are the religious arm of an economic, political and cultural system. They are plainly a part of American penetration.” 
The President’s own brother has been run out of the country after receiving numerous threats on his life. As The New York Times further reports, “Among the worried is bishop Mario Enrique Ríos Montt, the President’s older brother and the prestigious Catholic prelate of Escuintia, a town south of the capital. ‘What is going on in Guatemala may have grave consequences,’ says Bishop Ríos Montt, whose own life has been threatened numerous times in the past. If people’s religious sentiments are manipulated, ‘it could well turn into a religious war more serious than our political war.’
“Like some other Catholic leaders in the region. Bishop Ríos Montt decries the rise of Protestantism as part of a larger design, conceived in the United States.” 
His fears are not without substance. Americas Watch reports: “Although the Catholic hierarchy in Guatemala is doctrinally and socially conservative, for over a decade local priests in the poorest areas — notably El Quiche and Huehuetenango departments, among others — have supported Indian efforts to organize for economic improvements, agricultural education and literacy, on the basis of a theology of liberation that has identified much of Latin America’s Catholic Church with the economic and social aspirations of the poor. Under Lucas Garcia, many such priests were either killed by rural security forces and death squads or forced to abandon their parishes and flee the country.”  However, the forces of the Protestants are clearly on the upswing. On November 7, 1982, The New York Times reports, in a comprehensive story by Marlise Simons: “Since Guatemala’s March 23 coup, life at the Christian Church of the Word — Guatemala’s most famous and powerful sect because of General Ríos Montt’s patronage — has not been the same. When the young rebel officers telephoned the General and asked him to be their leader, church elders were convinced that the choice was God’s will.
“Two of the church elders — Francisco Bianchi, former television executive and now Secretary of Public Relations, and Alvaro Conterras, restaurateur and engineer — have become the President’s personal assistants. The President refers to them as ‘my conscience,’ and outside of the military they are regarded as the most powerful men in the presidential entourage.” 
As The New York Times also points out, the real significance of General Ríos Montt’s rise to power transcends Guatemala. “He symbolizes the startling growth of Protestantism — especially fundamentalism — throughout once solidly Roman Catholic Latin America.”
Ríos Montt claims that the U.S. Christians had offered to send “more than a billion dollars worth of aid.” Well-known U.S. evangelicals, including Jerry Falwell, Bill Bright, Billy Graham, and Pat Robertson head the list. Donations are going through Gospel Outreach’s International Love Lift (ILL), which has vowed to come up with 10 to 20 million dollars in eighteen months. ILL implements part of Ríos Montt’s “beans and bullets” program. The missionaries of the Gospel Outreach Organization consider Ríos Montt to be a central figure in the coming of the new Protestant world order.
The evangelicos are teaching that God wants people to be submissive to the government. The guerrillas are teaching against that. They are saying that time goes on indefinitely, which is to say that there is no Judgment Day and that heaven and hell are only psychological constructs, not places. But as the U.S. press has reported, the Indians found out that, with Ríos Montt and the army of Guatemala, there is God, there is Heaven, and there is Hell.
This is what Ríos Montt calls the spiritual transformation of the Indians: this is the Protestant Inquisition.
SUAREZ LETTER FROM CAMP CHAJUL, FEBRUARY 1983
Comité de Ayuda a Refugiados Guatemaltecos
San Cristobal de Las Casas
February 10, 1983
Today, with journalists from New York and Capitan Jaime Eboli, we flew to the refugee camp in Chajul, located in the Chiapas jungle near the Lacantún River.
Chajul is a camp with about 3,000 refugees; about 500 of them arrived February 4th, 1983.
We arrived about 11:00 a.m. amidst much activity. There were Mexican television crew and other press. At first, we got in touch with the Sisters who are doing spectacular, very humanistic work with the refugees.
Turning to the people, who are in bad shape, we about broke down in tears. To see mothers desperate to feed their children, but only able to offer a dry breast to their starving crying child. These Indian mothers, normally dark-skinned looked completely blanched of color, anemic and suffering severe malnutrition. A horrible anguish-filled panorama brought home to us the great need, not only for foods, but also for food high in protein and iron.
We parted company with the video crew and looked into some of the houses. The scene was the same. We saw no child under the age of two who looked healthy. They all looked on the verge of dying. The camp representatives informed us that about three kids a day die in this camp, and four or five adults die each week. Because of malnutrition and hunger.
We realized that we must take serious responsibility for helping these people. It wasn’t like in other camps we’d seen where refugees were still able to smile despite what they’d suffered in their country. When we’d first flown into the airstrip at this camp, we noticed a lady. She sat with a fixed, unmoving gaze, totally pale and without expression. A couple of hours later we noticed her still there, in the same position, without having moved or changed her expression, just looking out through her eyes without seeing the camera crews, the airplanes, nothing, gone.
On the fourth of February, 499 people arrived at Camp Chajul from a place near “Delores,” which was totally destroyed in a massacre.
The village was called “Rosario de Caneja.” After their village had been destroyed, the harvest and animals were burned. For five months the villagers sought refugee in a hostile rugged jungle without provisions. The pregnant women lost their babies, the babies they carried in their arms died too. And with each day the adults started fading as well. In their desperation, they decided to return to their village in the forlorn hope they’d find something left. The surprise that awaited them was the soldiers, who killed many of them.
In this same camp I was presented with various people who were to testify. One man had lost his tongue, another a leg. It wasn’t necessary to take pictures, actually I couldn’t. It was even difficult to ask them much. In their look of terror and anguish, I could see their whole story. This camp left me deeply moved. There was an ache in my belly the whole time I was there, a shame, and feeling of impotence. As we walked through, we continued to see the misery, the need. We heard terrible things: in the nearby Mexican village of Chajul there is fishing. They sell fish to the refugees, 100 pesos per kilogram, which is a small fortune for the refugees.
The refugees don’t know how to fish, and the people don’t teach them because they can’t afford to lose the business.
On the other hand, COMAR, (Mexico’s Commission of Refugees) with its bodega filled with beans and other foods, delivers by small airplane, amounts less than the minimum needs of the refugees. We must save the lives of these refugees! The only way is an urgent airlift of protein and iron foods, and medicine and other foods by launch. It takes eight hours by launch, but you can take 4-8 tons depending on the seasonal depth of the river.
But from this moment, we must take the responsibility. I held one of the kids in my arms. I compared him to my four-month old, who is fat and healthy and full of joy. As I carried the starving youngster I felt great love, love for him and his poor wasted body. As I looked into his eyes, I saw death near. In that moment, I resolved to save them. We must save them!
NOTES AND REFERENCES
 Barry, Wood, and Preusch, Dollars And Dictators: A Guide to Central America (The Resource Center, Albuquerque, 1982).
 “The Guatemalan Troops Call Themselves ‘The Guerrilla Army of the
Rich,’” Bishop Ruiz reprint. Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas Mexico.
 An Americas Watch Report, “Human Rights in Guatemala: No Neutrals Allowed” (Nov. 23, 1982).
 Note 2, op. cit.
 Guatemala News and Information Bureau, “Guatemalan Refugees: Will Mexico Shelter Them?” Guatemala 1 3:7 (Nov/Dec 1982).
 Note 4, op. cit.
 National Council of Churches, “Report of an Inquiry Team to Guatemala” (Nov. 1982).
 Victor Perera, “Two Cultures, Two Extinctions,” The Nation (Nov. 11, 1982).
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 4. op. cit.
 Christopher Dickey, “Guatemalan Village’s Agony,” Washington Post (Jan. 4, 1983).
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Amnesty International Special Briefing. “Massive extra judicial executions in rural areas under the Government of General Efraín Ríos Montt” (July 1982).
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Guillermo Garcia, “U.S. tour reveals the terror of a Guatemalan girl’s past,” The Arizona Daily Star (Nov. 5, 1982).
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Note 8, op. cit.
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Note 6, op. cit.
 Marlise Simons, “Latin America’s New Gospel,” The New York Times Magazine (Nov. 7, 1982).
 Note 4, op. cit.
 Note 30, op. cit.