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Guatemala is not becoming “Guate-Buena”

Why U.S. intervention in the Latin American country is far from being the solution.

Elizabeth Campos, Staff Writer

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TO THE EDITOR: Re: “From Guate-mala to Guate-Buena” (Opinions, Sept. 21): Michaela Kwoka-Coleman argues that U.S. intervention in Guatemala is necessary. She also claims that the flow of Mexico’s organized crime into Guatemala is a central reason as to why the country is in conflict.

Yet, what she fails to address is that organized crime in Guatemala began decades ago as a result of American intervention. Among other things, beginning her argument by asking whether people can locate Guatemala on a map leads me to believe that she didn’t know much about the country’s history — especially in regard to colonization.

Guatemala is not hidden, it is not lost; it is attempting to rise despite the United States having tried to bury it.

I grew up in Mexico but currently live in the United States. Situations may seem different when looked at from a new perspective.

From my perspective as a Latinx person, the United States is more exploitative than it appears and it only seems to respond to conflicts which will benefit its economy. I respect Kwoka-Coleman’s opinion, but I don’t agree with it for several reasons.

As a Hispanic woman myself, I can’t help but feel empathetic for any Latin American country in turmoil, as we all share a similar history in regard to colonization . I can’t help but being skeptical of who provides these countries with “help.”

The U.S. didn’t commit the kind of atrocities in Guatemala that Spain did while colonizing Latin America (although they did commit their own atrocities in North America toward American Indians), but the western country did take advantage of Latin America’s economy, natural resources and workforce.

I have no doubt that if Americans intervene again in the future, they will once again exploit Guatemala’s resources.

Moreover, Kwoka-Coleman claims Guatemala will become a “Guate-Buena” with the U.S.’s help, and I don’t believe it’ll happen with U.S. intervention. If Guatemala starts becoming a stronger economy or the democracy that it once was hoping to become, I believe the U.S. will come again to take over Guatemala’s efforts.

It’s not that I dislike the United States – in fact, this country has given me countless memories and plenty of opportunities in education. Being a U.S. citizen gives me privileges that I wouldn’t have been able to get in Mexico.

But, that doesn’t make it perfect.

To start, the United States has hurt various Latin American countries including Guatemala. An example of this is the CIA’s involvement in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, an event that stained Guatemala’s history with blood.

A country’s economy is essential for its growth. In Guatemala’s case, the country’s income comes from its exports, mainly coffee and fruit. Guatemala’s economy may have already been damaged during the 1930s Great Depression; however, it wasn’t until 1954 — when former president Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown — that Guatemala’s economic situation seriously worsened.

In her op-ed, Kwoka-Coleman claimed that president Juan Arevalo was overthrown because he was considered a communist. But it wasn’t Arevalo who was taken out of power, it was Jacobo Arbenz.

Arbenz, who the U.S. mistakenly believed to be communist, was overthrown in a coup planned by the CIA.

After Arbenz was overthrown, Carlos Castillo Armas became president and abused his power. He took dictatorial power and tortured political opponents. Many of the attacks committed during his government were backed up by the CIA.

The U.S. crushed Guatemala’s opportunity of living a democracy by helping Castillo Armas rise to presidency. Knowing that the U.S. started this domino effect makes me doubtful of them being capable to help the Guatemala today.

A New York Times article titled “An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later” published in 2011 by Elisabeth Malkin explains that the overthrow “squashed a 10-year effort to build a democratic state.”

Arbenz’s efforts to better Guatemala took place through his agrarian reform, Decree 900. This reform aimed to relocate unused land to indigenous families for them to practice agriculture thus improving jobs and access to food resources. According to an Economy Watch report, this improved the economy between 1951 and 1954.

Regardless of the improvements Arbenz’s reform made, the CIA and U.S. government nonchalantly wrecked its progress. If you ask me, this was simply another way that the U.S. portrayed its true exploitative colors.

The lands and territory Arbenz relocated belonged to the United Fruit Company – an American corporation that traded fruit grown in Central and South America and sold it in Europe and the United States.

As I mentioned before, Arbenz only wanted to create a bridge between the upper and lower class for indigenous families to have jobs and a land that could help them get through.

But, the United States and its imperialistic way of handling foreign affairs saw this as a threat by Arbenz allowing indigenous families to work on land that belonged to the United Fruit Company.

I think the U.S. knew the potential this land and its workers possessed and feared it being reclaimed. However, I believe there was no need for the U.S. to fear Latin America taking from its profit — I’m sure that Guatemala would have been more than happy to work alongside the western country.

A report by the CIA titled “Congress, the CIA, and Guatemala, 1954” by David M. Barrett explains that the motives the CIA had in Guatemala were planned. Therefore, if you tell me that the idea of U.S. intervention in Guatemala is not a promotion for imperialistic affairs, I don’t buy that.

Here’s why: According to the same CIA report, the U.S. pretended to have nothing to do with Castillo Armas’ rise to power by labeling him as “inept.” Yet, they were the force which bolstered the man to power.

Moreover, the exodus of Guatemalan migrants coming to the U.S. is also a consequence of the country’s past. People are still trying to escape from the organized crime, inequalities and injustices of the country.

I do, however; support the involvement that the United Nations has had in the country in an effort to rid the country’s government of corrupt officials.

But, until I see honest and concrete examples of help from the United States toward Guatemala, I have yet to believe U.S. intervention in the country will bring any kind of “solution.”

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