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American Accountability Project: The Guatemala Genocide

Background -> Commission Reports & Projects

Introduction

In 1954, the U.S. State Department and the CIA sponsored a covert operation resulting in the overthrow of the democratically-elected Guatemalan President, Jacobo Arbenz. Following the coup, the U.S. maintained close ties with every successive, non-democratic government in Guatemala. From the 1950s until the 1990s, the U.S. directly supported Guatemala's army by supplying it with combatant training, weaponry, and money. The U.S. sent the Green Berets to Guatemala to transform its Army into a "modern counter-insurgency force," making their army the most powerful and sophisticated in Central America. The CIA also created a list comprised of those Guatemalan leaders who were targeted for assassination. The U.S. government used the potential threat of communism to justify its support for the Guatemalan government and its activities against the alleged guerrillas. The CIA directly employed Guatemalan military personnel in Guatemala with which it maintained continuous communications regarding their clandestine operations. Those Guatemalan personnel hired by the CIA were referred to as "assets." As documented by the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission and the Intelligence Oversight Board, assets committed egregious acts of violence on the citizens of Guatemala including:

  • Mass indiscriminate killings defined as "genocide" by the Historical Clarification Commission
  • Arbitrary executions
  • Kidnappings
  • Widespread and systematic torture
  • Policies of genocide such as the "Scorched Earth" operations
  • Extrajudicial executions

U.S. support for the Guatemalan State directly contributed to the creation of 36-years of terror by successor dictators. This support included military training in counterinsurgent techniques, financing of actions resulting in human rights violations, and close collaboration with military intelligence units. According to the Historical Clarification Commission, 93% of human rights violations and acts of violence are attributable to the Army. The Historical Clarification Commission documents the following human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan State:

  • The deaths or disappearances of over 200,000 persons
  • The carrying out of over 600 massacres
  • The elimination of leaders of those organizations in defense of human rights
  • The mass extermination of defenseless Mayan communities, including children, women, and the elderly
  • Damage to many Mayan communities homes, cattle, crops, and other elements essential for survival
  • Multiple acts of cruelty and savagery either preceding, accompanying, or occurring after the deaths of the victims
  • A systematic practice of forced disappearances
  • The rape of women as a common practice
  • A systematic practice of arbitrary executions
  • Counterinsurgency tactics, including psychological warfare, propaganda, and intimidation
  • Death squads used to eliminate alleged members, allies, or collaborators of those considered "subversives"
  • Systematic denial of habeus corpus, continuous interpretation of the law favorable to the authorities, indifference to the torture of those detained, and limitations on the right to defense
  • Forced and discriminatory military recruitment, including minors under the age of fifteen.
  • Failure of the Army to make the distinctions between the enemy and the civilian populations
  • "Genocide" as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In 1997, the Clinton Administration agreed to open secret documents regarding the human rights atrocities in Guatemala for the Historical Clarification Commission. The Clarification Commissions exposure of U.S. complicity in Guatemala over the past 36 years prompted President Clinton to offer a formal and unequivocal apology on March 10, 1999. Disclosure of U.S. complicity in Guatemala is now widely available through numerous newspaper editorials across the U.S. that have condemned the actions of the U.S. government in Guatemala. The Americas Accountability Project seeks to hold U.S. government officials who participated in the Guatemalan genocide accountable for their actions. The Project is providing NGOs worldwide with information and support necessary to bring "Pinochet" actions against responsible U.S. officials when they visit abroad, and to support legal actions in the U.S. against responsible U.S. officials through the use of jus cogens. As a peremptory norm, jus cogens provides the possibility of piercing traditional shields of sovereign immunity and other defenses against challenges to state actions.

Links:

A "killing field" in the Americas: US policy in Guatemala

Outlines the history behind the CIA-sponsored coup against
President Arbenz. It includes information regarding the influences of the
United Fruit Company, Green Berets, death squads, G-2, and their efforts
to suppress opposition

END OF THE INNOCENCE: The 1954 CIA Coup in Guatemala

Includes a summary of the historical and political factors
leading to the 1954 coup against President Arbenz. It examines the impact
of anti-Communist propaganda and similar circumstances leading to the coup
and ensuing acts of repression.

"We have condoned counter-terror": The United States in Guatemala

A brief historical background emphasizing U.S. involvement in the 1954
coup and its following years of repression.

Virtual Truth Commission: Report on Guatemala

Offers a detailed history behind US involvement in the 1954 coup against
President Arbenz and the U.S.s following support for Guatemalan dictators.
Also includes U.S. and Truth Commissions reporting on the assassination of
Monsignor Juan Gerardi and reports on the genocide of the Mayan community.

Guatemala: A Brief History

A brief account of Guatemalas 35 year civil war. Includes information
about the 1954 coup against President Arbenz, the influence of the
US-owned United Fruit Company, the Scorched Earth Campaign, and the
Commission for Historical Clarifications findings of complicity.

CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents

Offers a brief discussion of CIA operations, PBSUCCESS and PBFORTUNE. Also gives explanations of selected declassified CIA documents. Such documents reveal instructional guides on assassinations
and lists of those to be "neutralized." This site also includes links to
the actual declassified documents.

The Lowenstein Project at Yale Law School

Ccontains the press packet compiled for the Lowenstein Project at
Yale Law School. The press packet includes background information on the
Historical Clarification Commission, the history of the war in Guatemala,
a chronological timeline marking major events in Guatemalas civil war,
U.S. involvement in Guatemalan affairs, the problems of impunity, photos,
and more.

http://www.sisterparish.org/guatemala/cia.htm

Includes background information on CIA involvement in the overthrow of
Jacobo Arbenz and the Scorched Earth Campaign, and their use of
assassination plots and psychological operations to preclude opposition.

The Consortium: Guatemala 1954, Behind the CIA's Coup

This site focuses on the CIA-sponsored coup to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz.
Includes and explains CIA covert tactics such as propaganda, nerve war,
and provocation used to intimidate Arbenz and his administration. Also
emphasizes the impact of the coup as becoming a model for future CIA
actions in Latin America.

Licensed to Kill

A brief explanation of the CIA covert operation PBSUCCESS and background
information for the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz.

[ This page is under construction. Mail Comments and suggestions to Joe Castrofort or Rekha Eanni ]

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