Guatemala- The Best Kept Secrets Are the Military’s

(ht2 Memory in Latin America) By Danilo Valladares (IPS) – Human rights groups are worried that the declassification of military archives dating from Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, which left more than 200,000 victims, by a special commission will not go far enough in terms of clarifying the atrocities.

In March 2009, centre-left President Álvaro Colom established the Military Archive Declassification Commission, made up of three representatives of the Defence Ministry, one delegate from the Presidential Human Rights Commission, and three representatives of presidential secretariats.

According to the agreement that gave rise to the commission, its mandate is to sort out and file military documents on national security affairs involving the 1954 to 1996 period. (In 1954, a coup d’etat organised by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) overthrew democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, ushering in decades of military dictatorship.)

The agreement also gave Colom the authority to decide not to declassify documents “that qualify as pertaining to national security in the president’s judgment.”

Other countries in Latin America have also begun to take steps to declassify military records to shed light on human rights abuses committed during periods of dictatorship.

In early January, Argentine President Cristina Fernández ordered the military to declassify all documents related to that country’s 1976-1983 dictatorship, stating in a decree that “such information cannot continue to be kept inaccessible under the argument that it would threaten national security.”

Guatemala’s Military Archive Declassification Commission had a Jan. 12 deadline for completing its work, but Colom extended it until June 2010.

In the meantime, human rights groups’ doubts and scepticism with regard to the possibility of real progress are growing, because virtually nothing has come out about the Commission’s work.

They also point to precedents indicating that the archives could be manipulated in order to hinder the investigation of massacres and other human rights abuses committed in the decades in question, and thus stand in the way of eventual reparations for survivors and victims’ families and the possibility of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

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Tax & Human Rights In Guatemala

GUATEMALA: A Tax Code by and for the Oligarchs? Eli Clifton (IPS) – Taxation and government spending are the targets of a new report on Guatemala that argues the government is failing in its fiscal commitments to food, health and education.

The report, issued earlier this month by the Guatemala-based Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI) and the United States- and Spain-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), attempts to tackle the difficult question of why Guatemala has experienced consistent levels of inequality and deprivation despite having the largest economy in Central America.

The decision to focus on government spending and taxation is a relatively new method of addressing human rights and development.

“I think looking at a budget as a human rights issue is fairly new and looking at taxation is an important element of a budget,” Ann Blyberg, director of IHRIP, which supports budget analysis by human rights groups around the world, told IPS.

“I know of efforts to look at taxation but looking at it from a human rights lens is newer,” Blyberg said.

Low levels of social spending – and failure to realise economic and social rights – are attributed to “the lack of political will by democratic governments to invest more in upholding those rights, and ensuring that resources reach the most vulnerable population”, said a statement by CESR and ICEFI.

A combination of a social budget that, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is one of the lowest in the region and an inability to enact fiscal reforms has led Guatemala to its current situation of being unable to leverage its wealth into meaningful improvements in economic and social rights, the report says.

Guatemala exhibits some of the worst poverty in Latin America, with half of children under five suffering from malnutrition; one-third of children not completing primary school; and 290 women dying from complications in pregnancy or childbirth for every 100,000 live births.

Particularly, Guatemala has failed to address health, education and nutrition disparities along the lines of the lines of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and geography, finds the report.

It emphasises that in the context of Guatemala’s recent civil war – armed conflict ended in 1996 – addressing economic, social and cultural rights was a crucial component of the plans put forward for post-conflict stability and development.

At the time of the 1996 Peace Accords, both land and taxation reforms were identified as important steps to be taken, but vested interests have blocked these reforms for the past 13 years.

CESR and ICEFI claim that the failure of Guatemala to implement a “fair and progressive” tax policy violates the social and human rights of its citizens and has led Guatemala to fall behind on human development indicators – some indexes put Guatemala on par with sub-Saharan African countries.

“Guatemala has one of the lowest tax burdens in Latin America, as well as one of the most generous regimes of exemptions and tax breaks. The study attributes the low tax collection and expenditure to the state’s historic control by elite sectors of the economy,” say the report’s authors.

“This makes health, nutrition and education privileges of the few instead of universal rights,” said Ignacio Saiz, executive director of the CESR.

The report made several recommendations for how to improve Guatemala’s public spending and enact the tax reforms that have been promised since 1996.

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Lewis Amselem, Friend of Rapists, Scum

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Pampered children enjoy making and viewing horror movies, because it is a safe way of approaching the dark reality of what humans can and will do, I enjoy indulging in them sometimes too. The extreme end of thrill horror, torture porn, Tarantino etc are actually immaturely banal, the real thing will scar you, just reading about it, hearing it will stay with you forever, it should. One such testimony for me is that of Dianna Ortiz, a US nun who was tortured in Guatemala, you can search about, read her writings, or buy her book (click the image) it will not be an easy thing to bear, how she lives with it is true bravery. 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala under torture regimes supported by the US, a Holocaust of its own, US officials were hands on involved with raping and torturing people, US taxpayer’s money paid their wages and met their expense accounts (yet some protest at funding healthcare).

Al Giordano caught this (and Machetera), I did not remember the name, Lewis Amselem,

Lewis Amselem

Lewis Amselem

Earlier I posted about Amselem, the second highest ranking US official to the OAS who blamed Zelaya for causing trouble even as the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH) found 101 killings by the coup regime. This man Lewis Amselem is working for Hillary Clinton, he was a Bush appointee, a fundamentalist right winger. He was political-military officer at the US embassy in Guatemala City (1988-92) Ortiz’s remembers this of him-

Two months later, after a U.S. doctor had counted 111 cigarette burns on my back alone, the story changed. In January 1990, the Guatemalan defense minister publicly announced that I was a lesbian and had staged my abduction to cover up a tryst. The minister of the interior echoed this statement and then said he had heard it first from the U.S. embassy. According to a congressional aide, the political affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, Lew Anselem, was indeed spreading the same rumor.

In the presence of Ambassador Thomas Stroock, this same human rights officer told a delegation of religious men and women concerned about my case that he was “tired of these lesbian nuns coming down to Guatemala.” The story would undergo other permutations. According to the Guatemalan press, the ambassador came up with another version: he told the Guatemalan defense minister that I was not abducted and tortured but simply “had problems with [my] nerves.”

Dianna Ortiz was treated appallingly by the US government in the aftermath-

In 1996, I held a five-week vigil before the White House, asking for the declassification of all U.S. government documents related to human rights abuses in Guatemala since 1954, including documents on my own case. A few days into my vigil, I was granted a meeting with First Lady Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton admitted what no other U.S. government official had dared to concede during my seven-year search for the truth behind my abduction and torture in Guatemala: she said it was possible that the American in charge of my Guatemalan torturers was a “past or present employee of a U.S. agency.”

She eventually won a judgement against General Gramajo Morales who had been Defence Minister at the time and covered up the crimes, he was by then studying at Harvard (by invitation) and lecturing at the School of the Americas.

Architect of genocidal policies which essentially legalized military atrocity in Guatemala throughout the eighties. (HAH)Found guilty by default of numerous war crimes in a U.S. Court six weeks before speaking at a prestigious SOA graduation. (The Bayonet, 1/3/92) Former SOA Commandant José Feliciano claimed Gramajo inspired many SOA policies. (The Benning Patriot 2/21/92)

The General used it as campaign…plus-

The Guatemalan general ordered last month by a Boston judge to pay $47.5 million in damages for terror against a U.S. nun and eight Guatemalan Indians said the ruling will help his chances to win his bid for president of Guatemala in November elections. Gen. Hector Gramajo claimed publicity generated by the court ruling is proving useful in his presidential campaign as candidate of the right-wing National Unity Front Party, or FUN.

You will be pleased to know he is now dead, killed by bees, I hope that was, FUN.

So back to Clinton, as her personal meeting with Dianna Ortiz testifies she is not ignorant of the torture regimes the US ran nor can she be ignorant of Amselem, certainly not after his statements against Zelaya. For Clinton to send him to the OAS is a big fuck you, to keep him on now it is worse. It is perhaps a lesson in imperialism, that even as consummate a politician as Clinton is, she once still had some human feelings, she did not absolutely ignore Dianna Ortiz, but over time she has been corrupted completely by the needs of power and dominance. She employs one of the men who were behind Ortiz’s gang rape & torture. Amselem is just one of the many thousands of government operatives who have done things that would normally mean they ended their days in prison, yet do it in the name of Empire- rape, murder, torture and you get a raise and a promotion and you are a respectable senior official. I wonder what his wife and four children think of him, spreading lies about a rape & torture victim to protect his fellow gang members, one of many crimes he assisted in, I guess the money and prestige helps with that. If I were a US citizen I would contact my Reps and insist the Obama administration fire this Bush hangover and rights abuser. I’ll leave you with this Bruce Cockburn song.