KILLINGS REVEAL LINK BETWEEN CIA, GUATEMALAN ARMY
From: Nathan Newman and From: Jonathan Prince. The New York Times
Adjacent to La Aurora Air Base in Guatemala City, the workplace of CIA informer Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, stands a new military intelligence school built with CIA encouragement and money.
“I got a lot of help from U.S. Central Intelligence,” said Gen. Hector Gramajo, Guatemala’s defense minister from 1987 to 1990.
The school’s aim is to instill professionalism. On its walls hang a plaque thanking the CIA for its support, said Gramajo, who was a field commander in an early-’80s campaign against a leftist insurgency in which tens of thousands of Guatemalan villagers were killed.
The existence of the school and the case of Alpirez, accused of ordering the murders of a U.S. innkeeper and a guerrilla married to a U.S. lawyer, are glimpses of a hidden history: the CIA’s deep ties to Guatemala’s army.
The army gained a reputation as Central America’s most violent military for its killing of as many as 110,000 people, mostly Maya Indians, razing hundreds of villages and resorting to torture over the past three decades to destroy a guerrilla force that may have been no larger than 2,000 armed rebels.
U.S. and Guatemalan officials long denied those links. But they now acknowledge the CIA gave the Guatemalan military millions of dollars in the 1980s and 1990s, used some of the money as bribes to buy information from high-ranking military intelligence officials and provided intelligence to the army for its long war against guerrillas, farmers and other opponents.
The case also suggests the CIA sometimes had a closer cooperation with the Guatemalan military than with the State Department, which cut official military assistance to Guatemala in December 1990 but continued paying the Guatemalan military, officials of the Bush and Clinton administrations said.
The ties between U.S. intelligence agents and Guatemalan soldiers go back to the CIA’s “Operation Success,” the 1954 coup that ousted President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman and installed a military regime.
The secret relationship was strengthened by the Reagan administration’s 1981 edict that the CIA provide “training, equipment and related assistance to cooperating governments throughout Central America in order to counter foreign-sponsored subversion.”
But it took the disclosure of Alpirez’s suspected involvement in the two murders to shed light on some of those secrets.
In June 1990, after only eight months as U.S. ambassador in Guatemala, Wyoming oilman Thomas Stroock found himself staring into the heart of darkness.
A U.S. innkeeper, Michael DeVine, had been slain for no apparent reason in the village of Poptun, in the northern jungles of Guatemala. The ambassador says he has come to learn only in recent days how closely his embassy was tied to Guatemala’s army.
The CIA station chief in Guatemala from 1988 to 1991 was, like many intelligence officers who had served there, a Cuban American who had worked on the Reagan administration’s secret programs in Central America.
He commanded about 20 officers with an operating budget of about $5 million a year and an equal or greater sum for “liaison” with the Guatemalan military, U.S. intelligence officials said. His job included placing and keeping senior Guatemalan officers on his payroll.
Among them was Alpirez, who recruited others to serve the CIA.
The intelligence unit spied on Guatemalans and is accused by human rights groups of assassinations.
The CIA’s station also gave the Guatemalan army “special information” on the guerrillas, said Vinicio Cerezo, the president of Guatemala from 1986 to 1990.
His account contradicts statements from U.S. embassy officials denying U.S. involvement with the counterinsurgency campaign.
Cerezo said he realized during his presidency that the CIA in Guatemala was a fact of life, but he tried to control his military by establishing rules of conduct.
Cerezo said he was aware many high-ranking Guatemalan military intelligence officers – including Alpirez – had maintained contacts with the CIA’s station.
“We knew that he communicated with the CIA,” Cerezo said of the colonel. “But we never saw Alpirez involved in any suspicious activity.”
The Guatemalan military has been accused by human-rights groups of killing at least 10 U.S. citizens between 1976 and DeVine’s death.
Other U.S. citizens reported being kidnapped, tortured or abused, and some said they received insufficient support from the embassy.
The DeVine case was different. Stroock said he had summoned the station chief, the deputy chief of mission, the consul and the military attache to his third-floor office and ordered them to investigate.
The ambassador flew up to Poptun after DeVine’s funeral and found the man’s widow, Carole DeVine. She had gathered an impressive amount of intelligence: A white pickup truck filled with soldiers appeared in
the village a few days before the murder.
The men questioned villagers about DeVine. The truck had been seen entering and leaving a training base for the Guatemalan army’s counterguerrilla forces.
The base was run by Alpirez.
Stroock said he sent his military attache and his naval attache “to talk to Alpirez about the white truck, to see the logs, and to find out how long those enlisted men stayed on the base.”
When they arrived, Alpirez was gone.
“I was furious,” Stroock recalled. “Here was a peaceful American citizen being murdered by an army we were sending aid to, and then the army that did the murder was trying to cover it up.”
About six weeks after the murder, Stroock said, it occurred to him the CIA’s paid agents in the Guatemalan army might be mixed up in the killing. The station chief denied it. The ambassador believed him.
In December 1990, the White House angrily cut off about $3 million a year in military aid to Guatemala, citing DeVine’s death. But the CIA continued “liaison” support for Guatemala’s military intelligence programs, according to Bush administration officials.
State Department officials say they didn’t know of the liaison and didn’t mean to send the Guatemalan military a mixed message.
In October 1991, the CIA became worried about its connection to Alpirez and asked the Justice Department for an opinion about his “potential criminal involvement” in the murder of DeVine, a senior Bush official said last week.
The Justice Department took six months to inform the CIA it did not have a legal problem, but no written record of this inquiry has been found.
The CIA didn’t tell the State Department about Alpirez, he said, even after halting its financial dealings with him with $44,000 in severance pay in July 1992.
That same month, Santiago Cabrera Lopez, a 23-year-old guerrilla captured in 1991, swears he saw Alpirez presiding over the brutal interrogation of a guerrilla commander – Efrain Bamaca Velasquez.
The prisoner was married to Jennifer Harbury, a U.S. lawyer who supported the guerrillas’ cause. Alpirez, Cabrera insisted, was the senior officer present.
Cabrera said he escaped to Mexico in December 1992. He presented his testimony to the United Nations in Geneva in March 1993.
His affidavit contradicted the position of the Guatemalan government that Bamaca had been killed in a shootout a year earlier. And it identified Alpirez as the last ranking officer to have seen him alive.
In the fall of 1992, Clinton administration officials say, the CIA’s Guatemala station sent classified cables about the Bamaca case to the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va. They were not shared with Stroock.
Heavily edited summaries of those cables were sent to the State Department, where they languished for nearly two years until Harbury’s hunger strike in October at Guatemala’s Justice Ministry.
Her protest sent State Department officials searching their files, where they learned they had unwittingly lied to Harbury.
They then demanded more information from the CIA, but it took from October 1994 to the end of January, the Clinton administration officials said, before they saw the connection between DeVine and Bamaca: Alpirez.
Last week, Alpirez denied involvement with the CIA or the killings of DeVine and Bamaca. CIA officials also say they did nothing wrong.
Investigations are now under way at the CIA, the Pentagon, National Security Agency and other branches of the U.S. government.
(This article is based on reporting by Sam Dillon in Guatemala City and Tim Weiner in Washington and was written by Weiner.
Story Number: 02027 Story Date: 4/2/95
Guatemala mass murderer/dictators’ church based in Eureka Ca.
Rios Montt massacred 60,000 Maya Indians in 1982-83. He just lost a bid for Guatemalas’ presidency.
Group Watch: Gospel Outreach/Verbo Ministries
See also: Directory of Right-Wing Groups GroupWatch: Profiles of U. S. Private Organizations and Churches, was compiled by the Interhemispheric Resource Center, Box 4506, Albuquerque, NM 87196. < http://www.irc-online.org/ > Their work focused on issues related to U. S. foreign policy in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Note that this collection includes a wide range of groups with a variety of political viewpoints. Some, like the Heifer Project, appear to be what they seem-engaged in charitable humanitarian efforts. Check when each article was last updated as much material is no longer current. This material is provided as a source for historic research.
Carlos Ramirez, co-founder and director, Linda Ramirez, co-founder, Verbo Ministries. (16,18) Jim Durkin (pres), Joseph Anfuso, Rodolfo Bianch, James Jankowiak (dir BR), Efrain Rios Montt (elder). (1,2,3)
Gospel Outreach is an evangelical Pentecostal church with headquarters in Eureka, California and Guatemala. It grew out of the “Jesus People” movement of the 1960s in the United States. Jim Durkin and Joseph Anfuso are among its founders. (1) According to Sara Diamond, a researcher on the Religious Right, Gospel Outreach practices a moderate form of shepherding because its literature emphasizes “commitment,” “covenant relationship,” and “spiritual authority. “(2) It is an evangelical organization that believes the Bible is the Word of God and that the authority of government is ordained by God. (3)
Under Mr. Durkin’s direction the basic precepts of Gospel Outreach evolved: “unquestioned acceptance of the Bible as the literal word of God; a missionary responsibility to reach out and carry the word to others; a decentralized structure with autonomous congregations and little distinction between clergy and laity; strong emphasis on family ties, and a pentecostal liturgy which includes the practice of speaking in tongues. “(3)
BR, CR, EC, ES, FR, GE, GT, IT, NI, SP, US. Activities:
Gospel Outreach is a nondenominational missionary agency of charismatic tradition engaged in church planting, Christian education, missionary orientation and training. (4) Gospel Outreach and its Latin American affiliates, Verbo churches and Verbo Ministries, are promoting an extensive church planting ministry and a relief-educational program in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and throughout Latin America. (8,17)) Most recently Verbo reported that in Monterrey, Mexico a “large church with seven satellite outreaches” joined Verbo Ministries. (18) International Love Lift Foundation, a social assistance project of Gospel Outreach based in Guatemala, supports several projects throughout Central and South America such as the Foundation for Aid to Indian People (FUNDAPI), the Foundation for the Protection of Orphan Children (Casa Bernabe), “Amor Project,” (Medical aid), and Verbo Schools. (8) Verbo Ministries also runs several schools of evangelism and has a Master Plan of evangelism directed to convert the Latin American continent for Christ. It publishes ESTHER, a Spanish-language Christian magazine for women. (8)
Guatemala: After the 1976 earthquake, 28 Gospel Outreach evangelicals from California arrived in Guatemala to help rebuild the country and establish El Verbo church. (1) Since its arrival in Guatemala El Verbo has been involved in rebuilding earthquake-damaged infrastructure, building housing, establishing “Christian” schools and establishing Casa Barnabe, an orphanage. (16) In March 1991 Verbo doctor, Mario Bolanos, opened the first Christian hospital in Guatemala. (16)
An early convert was General Efrain Rios Montt, who became president after a military coup in March 1982. (1) Hap Brooks, a preacher from Florida, hailed the coup as “the greatest miracle of the twentieth century, formed in heaven before it was formed on earth.”(5)
Efrain Rios Montt and his supporters expected to turn Verbo Churches into a new political movement. Rios Montt announced that his movement would “moralize national life from the top down. “(13)
According to Deborah Huntington, a researcher on the Religious Right, during the Rios Montt counterinsurgency campaign “Gospel Outreach and the Verbo Ministries were valuable allies of the military. Verbo members became the preferred liaison between the army and the local community, leading civil defense patrols and weeding out guerrilla sympathizers. “(5)
“The experience of a born-again Christian shepherding an entire nation reinforced the notion that they could seize their vision of the Kingdom of God on earth. “(5) According to sociologist David Stoll, Verbo Ministries organized FUNDAPI together with the Behrhorst Clinic, and Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1982. (13) FUNDAPI’s purposes were to provide food, medicine, clothing, shelter and tools to Indian refugees and “restrain the army from crimes” which “FUNDAPI staffers knew the army was still committing. “(13) However, in many cases, FUNDAPI declared that assassinations had been perpetrated by guerrillas “who wanted to discredit the new president. “(13) FUNDAPI expended a lot of time and energy on denying the army’s massacres. (13)
According to the Latin American Institute of Transnational Studies, “Within the first nine months of Rios Montt’s administration, 12 evangelical pastors were assassinated; 69 were kidnapped; 45 disappeared; 15 were jailed; 11 foreign missionaries were expelled; 88 evangelical temples were destroyed; and 50 more were occupied by the Army. “(7) By 1986, Verbo Ministries reported 250 congregations. (15) Verbo Ministries also runs a Leadership Training School with over 1000 members directed by Rios Montt himself. (7)
A recent article in Now, a progressive Canadian monthlymagazine, reported that El Verbo has 250 congregations in Guatemala. (19)
Nicaragua: Verbo Ministries has been in Nicaragua since September of 1979. Supervised by Bob Trolese, Verbo churches in Nicaragua have constructed housing and water projects as well as opening schools and orphanages. (9) They also have a discipleship center located on a farm of several acres. (9) “Project Manna,” a combined effort of Verbo Ministries and Park West Children’s Fund has been active in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In May 1991, the ship “Spirit” brought its second 4000-ton shipment of food and supplies to Nicaragua before moving on to deliver another 1000 tons of supplies to Guatemala. While the ship was in port, Carlos Ramirez, Don Tipton, Pepe Garces, and Bob Trolese of Verbo held an audience with Nicaraguan president Violeta Chamorro and her staff. (16) El Verbo has also established a Casa Barnabe orphanage in Nicaragua, which specializes in arranging foreign adoption of Nicaraguan orphans. (16) Verbo has a Christian school in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. (16) Verbo has expanded its church-planting operations to Bluefields, Nicaragua. (18)
To the dismay of Guatemalan refugees in Canada, El Verbo announced plans to begin operations in Toronto in early 1991. (19)
Bible Literature International of Ohio supported the Verbo church campaign called “Operation Whole Armor” which put a copy of the New Testament in the hands of 70,000 military personnel, civil patrol members, and police officers. (6)
Since the Ixil Triangle counterinsurgency operation started, Verbo Ministries has worked among Indian refugees with Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Behrhorst Clinic, Globe Missionary Evangelism, and World Vision. (10,13,14)
Rios Montt has been supported by Pat Robertson (Christian Broadcasting Network), Jerry Falwell (Moral Majority, Thomas Road Baptist Church, Liberty Federation), and Loren Cunningham (Youth with a Mission). (2) They have worked with the Florida Cuban community. (2)
The Love Lift School of Evangelism is directed by Christian Equippers Intl of South Lake Tahoe, California (headed by Francis Anfuso, Joseph’s brother). (2)
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has provided financial support for the schools of El Verbo in Guatemala. This is done under the “Programa Ayuda Infantile,” a branch of the Swaggart ministry. (19,20)
Gospel Outreach denies it has political goals in Central America. (3) According to its literature, Verbo schools are “an alternative to secular schools which promote secular humanism. “(11) They say: “We must teach and reinforce in children that God does not change, that there are absolute principles and truths. “(12) According to Carlos Ramirez, director of Verbo Ministries for Guatemala, the Ixil Triangle counterinsurgency operations destroyed about 17 of the 22 villages of the Ixil people. (14)
U. S. Address: Gospel Outreach, P. O. Box Z, Eureka, CA 95501/ Verbo Ministries, Apartado Postal 2621 Guatemala, Centro America.
Verbo Ministries, 980 S. W. 82nd Ave, Miami, FL 33144.
1. The Resource Center, Private Organizations with U. S. Connections: Guatemala, July 1988. 2. Sara Diamond, “Shepherding,” Covert Action Information Bulletin, #27, Spring 1987.
3. Robert Lindsey, “Church Denies It Has Political Goals in Guatemala,” The New York Times, Aug 14, 1983.
4. Samuel Wilson and John Siewert, eds. , Mission Handbook, (Monrovia, CA: Mission Advanced Research and Communication Center, 1986).
5. Deborah Huntington, “God’s Saving Plan,” NACLA/Report on the Americas, #1, Jan-Feb 1984.
6. Sara Diamond, “Holy Warriors,” NACLA/Report on the Americas, #5, 1989.
7. Instituto Latinoamericano de Estudios Transnacionales, “Sects and Religion in Latin America,” translated by Sara Diamond and quoted in her “Shepherding” article, Covert
Action Information Bulletin #27, Spring 1987.
8. International Love Lift, Front Line Report, vol 9, #6 undated.
9. Verbo Ministries, Front Line Report, vol 11, #6, undated. 10. Gospel Outreach, “Love Lift,” brochure, undated.
11. Verbo Ministries, News Release, June 1987.
12. Verbo Ministries, Front Line Report, vol 12, #1, undated. 13. David Stoll, Is Latin America Turning Protestant? Studies in the Politics of Evangelical Growth, University of California, 1988.
14. Verbo Ministries, News Release, June 1988.
15. Interview with Richard Funnell, April 1987.
16. Verbo Ministries, Front Line Report, vol. 16, #1, May 1991. 17. Verbo Ministries, “Project Manna” brochure, undated, received 1991.
18. Verbo Ministries, Front Line Report, Oct-Dec 1990.
19. Howard Goldenthal, “Bibles, Ballots, and Bullets,” NOW, Oct, 1990.
20. Presentando a Jimmy Swaggart, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, n. d. , received Jan 5, 1989.
The underlying cites for this profile are now kept at Political Research Associates, (617) 666-5300. http://www.publiceye.org
Israel and Guatemala
… The history of Israel’s relations with Guatemala roughly parallels that of its ties with El Salvador except the Guatemalan military was so unswervingly bloody that Congress never permitted the … Reagan Administration to undo the military aid cutoff implemented during the Carter years.
Weaponry for the Guatemalan military is the very least of what Israel has delivered. Israel not only provided the technology necessary for a reign of terror, it helped in the organization and commission of the horrors perpetrated by the Guatemalan military and police. And even beyond that: to ensure that the profitable relationship would continue, Israel and its agents worked actively to maintain Israeli influence in Guatemala.
Throughout the years of untrammeled slaughter that left at least 45,000 dead, and, by early 1983, one million in internal exile – mostly indigenous Mayan Indians, who comprise a majority of Guatemala’s eight million people – and thousands more in exile abroad, Israel stood by the Guatemalan military. Three successive military governments and three brutal and sweeping campaigns against the Mayan population, described by a U.S. diplomat as Guatemala’s “genocide against the Indians,” had the benefit of Israeli techniques and experience, as well as hardware.
Israel began selling Guatemala weapons in 1974 and since then is known to have delivered 17 Arava aircraft. In 1977 at the annual industrial fair, Interfer, Israel’s main attraction was the Arava. “An operative Arava is to be parked outside the IAI pavilion for public inspection, although its silhouette in flight is a common sight over the capital and countryside.”‘
Referring to the Aravas, Benedicto Lucas Garcia, chief of staff during the rule of his brother Romeo Lucas Garcia (1978-1982) said, “Israel helped us in regard to planes and transportation-which we desperately needed because we’ve had problems in transferring ground forces from one place to another. By 1982, at least nine of the Aravas had been mounted with gun pods.
Among the other weapons sold by Israel were 10 RBY armored personnel carriers, three Dabur class patrol boats armed with Gabriel missiles, light cannons, machine guns and at least 15,000 Galil assault rifles. The Galil became Guatemala’s standard rifle and Uzis were widely seen as well.
According to Victor Perera, “Uzis and the larger Galil assault rifles used by Guatemala’s special counterinsurgency forces accounted for at least half of the estimated 45,000 Guatemalan Indians killed by the military since 1978”
When the Reagan Administration took office it was determined to do everything it could for Guatemala. It had promised as much during the election campaign. Never had Ronald Reagan seen a rightist dictatorship he didn’t like; during his 1980 campaign he met with a representative of the right-wing business lobby Los Amigos del Pais, and, referring to the Carter Administration’s aid cutoff, told him, “Don’t give up. Stay there and fight. I’ll help you as soon as I get in.”
The Guatemalan far-right apparently helped Reagan get in.
Guatemalan business leaders reportedly pumped large illegal contributions into the Reagan campaign coffers. Their tentacles reached right into the core of the new administration through the lobbying activities of the Hannaford-Deaver law firm of White House troika member Michael Deaver. Within three days of the Republican victory on 7 November 1980, Hannaford-Deaver were busy arranging a Capitol Hill briefing for Amigos del Pais.
Congress, however, did not change its attitude about Guatemala, and as late as 1985 remained adamant about denying it military aid. In 1981, Reagan’s Secretary of State Alexander Haig “urged Israel to help Guatemala.” In July 1985 Israel helped the administration move a shipment of 40 assault rifles with advanced night sights and 1,000 grenade launchers from Israel to Guatemala on a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight.
In late 1983, the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) issued a communiqué saying that the previous May a munitions factory producing bullets for Galil rifles and Uzi submachine guns had begun operation in Alta Verapaz. Subsequently the director of Army Public Relations confirmed that the military was producing Galil rifle parts, had begun armor plating its vehicles at the factory, and that the facility would soon be capable of building grenade launchers. The following year the factory began manufacturing entire Galil rifles under license from Israel.
Israeli advisers set up the factory and then trained the Guatemalans to run it, said Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia, who had headed the army at the time. “The factory is now being run by Guatemalans,” he added. There are hopes in Guatemala that 30 percent of the plant’s output can be sold to Honduras and El Salvador.
The EGP said in 1983 that there were 300 Israeli advisers in Guatemala, working “in the security structures and in the army.” Other reports were less specific as to numbers, but suggested that these Israeli advisers, “some official, others private,” performed a variety of functions. Israelis “helped Guatemalan internal security agents hunt underground rebel groups.”
Gen. Lucas said Israeli advisers had come to teach the use of Israeli equipment purchased by Guatemala. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the Guatemalan police agencies had had extensive U.S. training in “riot control training and related phases of coping with civil disturbances in a humane and effective manner,” a euphemism for the terror campaigns in which these forces participated that in 1967-1968 took 7,000 lives while ostensibly fighting a guerrilla force that never numbered more than 450. When Congress forbade U.S. forces to train the internal police forces of other countries-passed in 1974, this law was supplanted in 1985 by legislation that put the U.S. back in the police-guidance business – the Israelis stepped in and “set up their intelligence network, tried and tested on the West Bank and Gaza.”
Israeli noncommissioned officers were also said to have been hired by big landowners to train their private security details. (Under Marcos, Israel did the same in the Philippines. These private squads, together with “off-duty military officers formed the fearsome ‘death squads’ which later spread to neighboring El Salvador, where they have been responsible for an estimated 20,000-30,000 murders of left-wing dissidents.”
Not only did the Israelis share their experiences and their tactics, they bestowed upon Guatemala the technology needed by a modern police state. During the period Guatemala was under U.S. tutelage, the insurgency spread from the urban bourgeoisie to the indigenous population in the rural highlands; with Israeli guidance the military succeeded in suppressing … the drive for land and political liberation. The Guatemalan military is very conscious of that achievement, even proud of it. Some officers argue that with the help of the U.S. they could not have quelled the insurgency, as Congress would not have tolerated their ruthless tactics.
In 1979, the Guatemalan interior minister paid a “secret and confidential” visit to Israel, where he met with the manufacturers of “sophisticated police equipment.” In March of the following year Interior Minister Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz was in Israel to conclude an agreement for police training. Following the overthrow of Lucas Garcia, the home of Interior Minister Alvarez was raided, “uncovering underground jail cells, stolen vehicles…[and] scores of gold graduation rings, wrenched from the fingers of police torture victims.”
Israeli advisers have worked with the feared G-2 police intelligence unit. overseen by the army general staff, the G-2 is the intelligence agency – sections charged with “the elimination of individuals” are stationed at every army base – which has been largely responsible for the death squad killings over the last decade. The present civilian government has dissolved the DIT, a civilian organization subordinate to G-2, but not G-2 itself.
In 1981, the Army’s School of Transmissions and Electronics, a school designed and financed by the Israeli company Tadiran to teach such subjects as encoding, radio jamming and monitoring, and the use of Israeli equipment was opened in Guatemala City. According to the colonel directing the school, everything in it came from Israel: the “teaching methods, the teaching teams, the technical instruments, books, and even the custom furniture…designed and built by the Israeli company DEGEM Systems.”
At the opening ceremony the Israeli ambassador was thanked by Chief of Staff Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia for “the advice and transfer of electronic technology” which, Lucas said, had brought Guatemala up to date. Calling Guatemala “one of our best friends” the ambassador promised that further technology transfers were in the works.
Perhaps the most sinister of all the equipment supplied by Israel to Guatemala were two computers. One was in an old military academy and became, as Benedicto Lucas called it, “the nerve center of the armed forces, which deals with the movements of units in the field and so on.” The other computer was located in an annex of the National Palace. The G-2 have a control center there, and, since the days of Romeo Lucas Garcia, meetings have been held in that annex to select assassination victims. According to a senior Guatemalan army official, the complex contains “an archive and computer file on journalists, students, leaders, people of the left, politicians, and so on. ” This material is combined with current intelligence reports and mulled over during weekly sessions that have included, in their respective times, both Romeo Lucas and Oscar Mejia Victores.
The bureaucratic procedures for approving the killing of a dissident are well-established. “A local military commander has someone they think is a problem,” the officer explains. “So they speak with G-2, and G-2 consults its own archives and information from its agents and the police and, if all coincide, it passes along a direct proposition to the minister of defense. They say, ‘We have analyzed the case of such and such a person in depth and this person is responsible for the following acts and we recommend that we execute them.”
Control of the Rural Population
The aspect of Israeli cooperation with Guatemala with the most serious implications is the role played by Israeli personnel in the universally condemned rural “pacification” program. Extreme maldistribution of land-exacerbated by encroachment on indigenous land-was a major cause of the present rebellion. After trying several different approaches, the military, under Rios Montt, embarked on a resolution of the problem, substituting forced relocation and suppression for equitable land distribution.
In 1982 Israeli military advisers helped develop and carry out ‘Plan Victoria’ the devastating scorched earth campaign which Rios Montt unleashed on the highland population. In June 1983, the Guatemalan embassy in Washington confirmed that “personnel sent by the Israeli government were participating in the repopulation and readjustment programs for those displaced.” Rios Montt himself told the Washington Times that the Israeli government was giving his administration help with the counterinsurgency plan called “Techo, tortilla y trabajo” (shelter, food and work). The “three T’s” followed an earlier Rios program called Fusiles y Fridoles, or beans and bullets, where wholesale slaughter was combined with the provision of life’s necessities to those willing to cooperate with the military.
The success of the government’s initially savage but sophisticated campaign against the rebels has come without significant U.S. military assistance, and top field commanders say that none is necessary now to finish the guerrillas.
“We declared a state of siege so we could kill legally,” Rios Montt told a group of politicians. The Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops called what Rios was doing “genocide.” Following Rios’ overthrow, his successor Mejia Victores continued the program, proclaiming that model villages would be extended throughout the country.
As the army bombed, strafed and burned village after village, an estimated 100,000 peasants escaped across the border to Mexico or to the mountainous territory controlled by the guerrillas. Others were captured by the military. Many of those who went to the guerrillas were later forced by hunger to surrender themselves to the military. Their fate was confinement in model villages, what were called strategic hamlets during the U.S. assault on Vietnam.
One of the most oppressive features of Guatemala’s pacification program is the “civilian self-defense patrols” whose ranks are filled by coercion, with most joining out of fear of being called subversive, and thus marked for torture or execution.
Those who do serve in the patrols must “turn in their quota of ‘subversives.”‘ Otherwise, “they will be forced to denounce their own neighbors and to execute them with clubs and fists in the village plaza.”‘
The patrols are believed by most analysts to have been suggested by Israelis. They have had a profound effect on Mayan society, both psychologically, “a permanent violation of our values or a new negative vision,” as the country’s Catholic bishops charged, and practically, as long shifts on patrol prevent fulfillment of family and economic obligations
In 1983 the Guatemalan government estimated that 850 villages in the highlands had “self defense” units. The following year the U.S. embassy in Guatemala estimated that 700,000 men had been enrolled in the units, armed with Israeli assistance. Currently 900,000 men are organized into the civil patrols.
It is no accident that the Guatemalans looked to the Israelis for assistance in organizing their campaign against the Indians, and having followed their mentors’ advice, wound up with something that looks quite a bit like the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. As the Israelis wrecked the local economy and turned the occupied territories into a captive market and a cheap labor pool, the Guatemalan military has made economic activity in the occupied highlands all but impossible.
As it is openly acknowledged in the Israeli media that the Palestinian population must not be allowed to exceed the Jewish population, it is common knowledge that the Guatemalan military would like to reduce the Mayan population to a minority.
But most of all there is the unyielding violence of the suppression. The occupation regime Israel has maintained since 1967 over the Palestinians (and its occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian Sinai and Southern Lebanon) has trained “an entire generation of Israelis…to impose Israeli rule over subject peoples.” “The Israeli soldier is a model and an example to us,” Gen. Benedicto Lucas said in 1981.
It was in the coercive resettlement program that Israel’s activities in Guatemala intersected most directly with those of the Christian right surrounding the Reagan Administration. This was particularly true during the reign of Rios Montt. Montt was a so-called “born-again Christian,” a member (“elder”) of the Arcata [sic], California based Church of the Word, a branch of Evangelical Gospel Outreach.
In Guatemala, the Christian right was interested in converts by the end of 1982 reactionary Protestants had succeeded in recruiting 22 percent of the population to their theology of blind obedience and anti-communism. They were particularly hostile to Catholicism, especially “Liberation Theology,” which many of the Guatemalan military deemed responsible for the insurgency.
Right-wing Christian organizations seemed to be especially drawn to the harsh social control being exerted on the highland Mayans. During the Rios Montt period, foreign fundamentalists were permitted access to military operational zones, while Catholics were turned away-or attacked. During this period “many Catholic rectories and churches in Quiche [a highland province] [were] turned into Army barracks. In late 1983, the Vatican itself protested the murder of a Franciscan priest in Guatemala and the (exiled) Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (CDHG) charged that in the space of several months 500 catechists had been disappeared. In October the police caught and tortured some religious workers.
Meanwhile, Rios Montt surrounded himself with advisers, both North American and Guatemalan, from his Verbo church, and what appeared to be a loose coalition of right-wing fundamentalist organizations, most notably Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, began an extensive fundraising drive and also started sending volunteers to Ixil Triangle villages under military control. Rios Montt chose Love Lift International, the “relief arm” of Gospel Outreach, Verbo’s parent church, to carry the food and supplies purchased with the money raised. Verbo representatives, along with an older evangelical outfit, the Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT/SIL, the latter initials for the Summer Institute of Linguistics, an organization whose CIA connections are long and impeccable and which has often been charged with involvement in massacres of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas), arranged with the government “to take charge of all medical work in the Ixil Triangle, and for all education in Indian areas up to the third grade to be taught in Indian languages with WBT/SIL assistance,” through the Behrhorst Clinic. WBT/SIL and the Clinic’s parent, the Behrhorst Foundation, incorporated with Verbo Church into the Foundation for Aid to the Indian People (FUNDAPI), whose stated purpose was to channel international Christian donations to refugees and which coordinated volunteers from U.S. right-wing religious organizations.
Although nothing has yet emerged which definitively ties Israeli activities in Guatemala to those of the religious right, it is reasonable to assume there is contact. Since the late 1970s the government of Israel has devoted considerable energy to befriending such political luminaries of rightist evangelism as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, having turned to these groups after the National Council of Churches passed some mildly reproving resolutions about the Middle East. The Christian extremists tell Israel what it wants to hear. Jerry Falwell found justification in the Bible for an Israel encompassing parts of “lraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan and all of Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait. Pat Robertson praised the Reagan Administration’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s invasion of Lebanon with some gobbledygook tying the invasion to the fundamentalist superstition that Israel will be the site of the last battle, Armageddon: “Israel has lit the fuse, and it is a fast burning fuse, and I don’t think that the fuse is going to be quenched until that region explodes in flames. That is my personal feeling from the Bible.” Robertson urged his viewers to call the White House and voice their support for the Israeli invasion.
Untroubled by the scene in Armageddon when all the Jews will be converted (or damned), Israel welcomed the “Christian Voice of Hope” radio station and its companion “Star of Hope” television to Southern Lebanon, and, even though proselytizing is illegal in Israel, provided the stations with Israeli government newscasts. Supported by donations from U.S. right-wing evangelicals, and in particular by Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, the stations were “used as a military tool” by the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army.
Aside from the religious right and their secular allies, the Guatemalan model villages have been universally condemned. Until 1985 a bipartisan majority opposed the granting of any U.S. aid that would strengthen the development poles. This, of course, stopped short of undercutting support for the “pacification” program, as funds received from U.S. AID and other foreign sources freed up government funds for use on the model villages. In 1984, U.S. AID granted Guatemala $1 million which was used for constructing infrastructure for the model villages. Americas Watch Vice Chairman Aryeh Neier pointed out that humanitarian assistance from the U.S. has “played an essential role in the Guatemalan Army’s counterinsurgency programs,” enabling the army to distribute (or withhold) food to exact compliance with its resettlement program.
Abdication of Responsibility
… When the U.S. intervened in Guatemala and overthrew its liberal, democratically elected government in 1954, it effectively transferred rule to the country’s military, which has held power ever since. Even the civilian presidency of Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro was (with U.S. acquiescence) immediately subjugated by the military. To cite only one example of the continuity that makes the last three tragic decades of Guatemala a U.S. responsibility: the dossiers that formed the basis of the intelligence unit G-2’s death squad selection process also date back to 1954. After the fall of the government of Jacobo Arbenz, the army confiscated the membership lists of the many organizations which had blossomed during the all-too-short hiatus between repressive regimes- Guatemala was ruled by the oppressive dictator Jorge Ubico until 1945, when he was bloodlessly replaced by a popular government under Dr. Juan Jose Arevalo-and from these lists culled 70,000 “communists.” These files were updated during the 1960s and used for assassinations during a U.S.-supported counterinsurgency. In the 1970s Israel stepped in and helped with the computerization of the whole bloody system.
It does not take convoluted reasoning to conclude that “both the U.S. and Israel bear rather serious moral responsibility” for Guatemala.