Saturday, September 8, 2007

Elections and Political Killings

With no less then 14 candidates vying for the Guatemala presdiency, competition has been fierce. Election Watch 2007 reports that so far more than 60 acts of violence have been commited in relation to the election campaign. Many have been killed in what has thus far been the bloddiest election season since 1985, the first year elections were held after succesive military regimes.

Some suggest that the reasons for the barrage of killings is realted to a history of Civil War and and a subsequent culture of violence. A closer examination would reveal that their has been an increases in cladestine violence since the beginning of the Berger administartion. These killings have been linked to employees of the prosecutors office, justice system, and police. The integration with police agents reveal that recent violence is systematic and are not random killings that have their originis in an unstable populous. It is the inability of a law and order candidate to control his own forces that has elevated violence in the country. In Guatemala 5% of cases are investigated and 2% get set to a judge, this figures leave a clear impression that impunity reigns.

In newspaper articles and in the face of international scrutiny, Berger has often suggested that groups that protest his administration or those on the fringe of society are responsible for all the violence and esalation of vilence on behalf of the police. Specifically, he often cites bands of youth gangs and "terrorists groups" such as the Nueva Linda community that was massacred by the government in conjunction with private security in August 2004 as agents trying to destabilize the state.

While these political killings have garnered the most attention. Femincide is at an almost epedimic level, mostly in Guatemala City. Reprts from Guatemala also indicated that the homides do not appear to be entirely randomwomen. Rather, the cadavers are reported have executed in a manner that implies military training. This has lead Guatemala human rights activits to believe that the mostly indigenous women are killed as a social cleansing police, echoing the ideology and tactics of counterinsurgency strategines through the civil war. A report from the UC Hastings Center for Gender & Refugee studies entitles, "Guatemala's Femicides and the Ongoing Struggle for Women's Human Rights: Update to CGR's 2005 Report Getting Away with Murder" comments that, "While violence against both men and women has increased in Guatemala in the past year, the murders of women are distinct both for their misogynisitc nature, as well as the disproportionate rate at which they are increasing."(September 2006, Page 8)

In short more attention needs to be paid to these strategic deaths. Increasing amounts of homicides appear to be done groups with a plan and the weakness of the Guatemalan state leaves amble opportunity for impunity and lack of thorough investigations and arrests.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

North American Media outlets have a tendency to ignore the goings on in Latin America. Other then the occasional story about border crossers or the always dramatic and sexy drug trade wars little well researched articles come from the various Latin America Bureaus. Often when articles do appear they are decontextualized and lack the critical analysis that allows the reader to understand and appreciate the sinister role of US foreign policy in this region of the world.

One such example is the ongoing controversy implicating Chiquita banana with "terrorists" groups in war torn Columbia. While the article does an excellent job of drawing out the history and scope of Chiquita paying right wing paramilitary group Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) for "protection" it overlooks the political subtext behind who was being killed. Local human rights organization have know for years that the AUC has been identifying labor organizers who for decades have tried to organize the workers of the banana plantations. Chiquita claims that they were unaware of this particular political aspect. They reiterate that they were only paying the AUC so that they would not harm their workers. Observations from the ground as reported by groups such as Human Rights Watch argue that Chiquita was complicit in the murders happening on their behalf. In essence the AUC served as hired thugs to keep workers inline, keep labor costs minimal and continue to line the pockets of Chiquita executives. Basically, Columbia is out of control and Chiquita recklessly handing over millions of dollars helps to exacerbate the devastation inflicted upon workers receiving poverty wages.

Chiquita itself and other fruit companies such as its predecessor United Fruit Company have a long and uneasy history in Latin America. United Fruit Company was directly involved in the overthrow of Democratically Elected President of Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz in the 1940's. Arbenz was attempting to expropriate land to benefit poor Guatemalans and also developed the political space for labor unions to proliferate and grow in strength. As a result of the coup thousands were detained and killed in order to sustain subsequent dictatorships.

This is my first blog. More to come!!! I promise to be more coherent!!