The Guatemalan Experience

By: Neri Briceno

History has shown that Guatemala is an aggressor nation. Its military is by far the most powerful institution in the region and basically still controls the country, despite the fact that there is a civilian government in place.

The military takes the lead in most domestic and international affairs and by far any potential civilian president, normally seeks both the military’s blessing and support prior to any presidential bid.
It is safe to say that all civilian presidents since Jacobo Arbenz serve at the pleasure of the Guatemalan military.

The Guatemalan modus operandi has never been one of diplomacy and for those who believe that, they are seriously misled.

The Guatemalan method has always been one of violence for the simple fact that it is militaristic society. A close look at Guatemala reveals that rather than deal with any issues or talking it over with a conflicting party, their first approach has always been intimidation and finally violence.

The country’s 36 year old civil war, which is one of the longest not only in Latin America but also in modern World history, in which over 200,000 of their population died, is proof definite of the Guatemalan taste for violence. Rather than resolve an internal conflict regarding the right of its most down- trodden people to acquire land, they undertook a 36 long year war. Never during this period was the government ever willing to place diplomacy first with its own people.

They decided to sit at the negotiation table when international pressure was placed on them. With a history like this, do we really expect that ingrained tradition to change? If the Guatemala military regime was not willing to sit and talk to its own people, are we now expecting diplomacy to work with us?

Guatemala has continued to sit at the negotiating table because we continue to appease them and that is the only reason. The minute we stand up to them, as the Territorial Volunteers did, their approach will change.
The military has always dominated Guatemalan politics and almost 90% of its leaders since its first head of state, Mariano Rivera Paz in 1839, have either been closely affiliated with the military oligarchy or were military officers themselves.

Whenever dissent rose, they opted for a coup. The lives and careers of a vast number of Guatemalan presidents have ingloriously ended by coups. Does this sound like the mindset of a rational nation? Bear in mind also that the current President Otto Perez Molina is a military man.
The current political crisis in Guatemala gives memories of a similar situation in 1982 Argentina. After years and years of corruption and mismanagement the Argentine economy was at the brink of collapse.

Like most of Latin America, the nation was also led by a strongman in the form of General Leopoldo Galtieri. Galtieri’s popularity was low from the day he stepped into office and was even lower thanks to the dismal Argentine economy. Galtieri and his generals realized that to distract the Argentine people and to take their minds off the squalid conditions that they were living in, that he would invade the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland are a range of islands immediately off the Argentine coast, which sparked a long territorial dispute between the UK and Argentine.

Galtieri invaded in April 1982 and the Argentine military quickly overwhelmed the poorly defended and outmanned islands. The success of the initial victory was met with patriotic joy and jubilation by the public and Galtieri’s stock quickly rose. Eventually the Argentines were driven out of the Falkland Islands by the British.

Otto Molina is facing a similar situation next door but for a slightly different reason; corruption.
While Molina is constitutionally barred from seeking a second term, it is not actually Molina who runs the country.

The military oligarchy are really the power behind the throne. Therefore it is imperative that the military maintains strong popularity and support. What better to garnish this support than to keep the Belize dispute alive and to maintain a strong aggressive military stance in the Sarstoon.

While it’s doubtful that Guatemala will undertake a direct military invasion, they will never show weakness in the eyes of their people. With Israel and one of the most successful secret intelligence services in the form of Mossad at their disposal, I am sure that they are already in our midst and may even be in the highest echelons of our government.
It’s all about the people!

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