Guatemala: Army Massacres Indigenous Protesters

On 4th October Guatemalan government forces attacked a demonstration of Guatemalan indigenous people killing 8 demonstrators. Thousands of protesters had blocked sections of the Pan American Highway to protest against rises in electricity prices. Although the responsible soldiers have been arrested, the regime stated that the whole affair was not a big deal. Once again we are provided with evidence of the inhuman face of capitalism and the racist and death squad character of the rightwing Guatemalan regime.

On Thursday, 4th October, thousands of protesters from Guatemala’s indigenous peoples had blocked sections of the Pan American Highway near Totonicapán, 170 kilometres west of the capital, in a protest against hikes in electricity prices. The protest was then attacked by the Guatemalan army in a massacre which left 8 protesters dead. Afterwards, investigators found more than 100 shell casings at the scene which all came from the same type of rifle that is used by the army. This proves that the Guatemalan army attacked unarmed protesters with a massive show of force that could easily have led to many more deaths.

Although the responsible colonel, Juan Chiroy, and eight soldiers were arrested in order to be put on trial for the extrajudicial killings, it can be said that the regime has once again shown its true colours. The massacre has been internationally condemned by the UN, who classified the protests as legitimate, and by diplomats from the USA, the EU and Israel. One might say that when countries like the USA, with its near extermination of its own indigenous population, and Israel, with its apartheid state and constant war on the indigenous Palestinian population, criticize another government for going too far in the repression of the indigenous population, you might want to listen. It would as if the dark lord Sauron himself from Lord of the Rings were telling people to lighten up a bit and keep the peace.

Not a big deal…

In response to the criticisms, the Guatemalan foreign minister, Harold Caballeros, answered according to the October 12 edition of the Tico Times, “With sadness, I recognize that in some parts of the world eight deaths is a very big deal, but, although it sounds bad to say this, … every day we have double that number of deaths [from violence]. So, it’s not something that we should make a big deal about”. Not make a big deal about? That is the attitude of the government towards the slaughter of 8 innocent indigenous protesters committed by its own army. This clearly once again show the true colours of a regime known for its racist anti-indigenous policies, neoliberal economic strategy and cold war iron fist attitude towards democracy and the opposition.

Socialism or Barbarism

During the last couple of weeks the media has been filled with reports of human right violations and violent repressions of the political opposition in Latin America. But these reports have not been about the massacre in Guatemala. No, this alarming news has been met with international silence. The bourgeois media attention has been aimed toward the false and manipulative incrimination of the socialist and democratic government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. While, according to former USA president Jimmy Carter, the country in the world with the best electoral process, Venezuela, has been accused of every crime known to man, the well proven crimes of the USA friendly and neoliberal rightwing government of President Otto Pérez Molina in Guatemala have been ignored. In this way, this example shows us not just the true colours of the regime in Guatemala but of the bourgeois media as well.

Guatemala and Venezuela show us the choice the world is faced with. On the one side we have the barbarism of capitalism with racism, poverty, killings of the opposition and the dismantling of democracy, or in the case of Guatemala, the dismantling of so-called democracy. On the other side we have the striving towards socialism, the eradication of illiteracy, a massive reduction in poverty and the creation of a people’s democracy in Venezuela. The international labour movement needs to learn from these events and take a clear stand against capitalism and in favour of socialism.

The international labour movement must show solidarity with popular protests in Guatemala and demand the stepping down of this criminal government and the securing of simple social rights for the population. In Guatemala the labour movement must organize defence brigades together with the indigenous population in order to prevent future attacks on legitimate protests. But most of all, the popular resistance in Guatemala must organize to take power and end this criminal regime through the abolition of capitalism and the creation of a socialist democracy. This will be the best respect we can ever pay to our dead comrades.