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Clinton Covers Up on Guatemala

by Stan Goff


Since the CIA engineered overthrow of the first democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954, in which the military toppled the center-left administration of Jacobo Arbenz, over 200,000 civilians have been "disappeared" or killed by the right wing government and their paramilitary death squads. As recently as last year, the US government was still actively hiding its own complicity in the prosecution of Guatemala"s war against its own people in the case of Jennifer Harbury, an American whose Guatemalan husband was tortured and executed under the direction of a Guatemalan officer employed by the CIA. Harbury initiated a hunger strike in Guatemala City which drew attention to the connection and catapulted the issue into public view‹for a little while.

The Clinton Administration is continuing our government"s legacy of cover-up by refusing to order the release of thousands of US documents related to CIA and US military complicity in these crimes. The documents have repeatedly been demanded by Guatemala"s Truth Commission. The Administration refuses to grant declassification of human rights information on both Guatemala and Honduras, while the Truth Commission has only a six month mandate to carry out its work, documenting the reality of Guatemala"s history since 1954. They need the documents now.

In response to demands from Central America solidarity groups around the country, both a Senate and House resolution have been drafted to force the Clinton Administration to cede the documents, without redacting them. S.1220, the Human Rights Information Act, is sponsored by Senators Dodd, Bingaman, Bumpers, and Murray. H.R.2365, the House version, is sponsored by Representatives Lantos, McGovern, Furse, Porter, and Morella. Both bodies are actively seeking new co-sponsors. Clinton could resolve the issue with a simple executive order to release all the files, without redaction.

President Clinton maintains that many documents have been released, but this is a huge prevarication. Only a handful of documents, mostly those pertaining to attacks against Americans, have been released. The Administration, in refusing to open the record, is committing to continuance of the Cold War by protecting its crimes from disclosure. Given the deep involvement of the US foreign policy apparatus in the activities of the Guatemalan elite from 1954 to the present, the President has a moral obligation to come clean. The national security argument is too outlandishly preposterous to even entertain. They are covering up for four and a half decades of imperialist trespasses.

The President"s phone number is 202-529-6599; fax 202-526-4611.

  The author thanks Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America for the action alert which prompted this article.  

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