Thursday, March 19, 2009

Declassified US State Dept Docs, US Knew of Abuses by Guatemalan Leaders it Supported

The U.S. government knew that top Guatemalan officials it supported with arms and cash were behind the disappearance of thousands of people during a 36-year civil war, declassified documents obtained by a U.S. research institute show.

The National Security Archive, a Washington D.C.-based institute that requests and publishes declassified government documents, obtained diplomatic and intelligence reports from the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act and posted them on its Web site on Wednesday.

"Government security services have employed assassination to eliminate persons suspected of involvement with the guerrillas or who are otherwise left-wing in orientation," one 1984 State Department report said.

State Department spokesman Fred Lash said he was unaware of the declassified documents and could not immediately comment.

Guatemala's U.S.-backed army battled leftist guerrillas in a 1960-1996 civil war that left more than 200,000 people dead or missing. Most were Mayan Indians.

"The government is obviously rounding up people connected with the extreme left-wing labor movement for interrogation," then-U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin said in a 1984 cable.

Chapin also said he was optimistic that missing union activist Fernando Garcia was alive and would be released. But Garcia has never been found, and two police officers were arrested in his case last week based on information found in Guatemalan police documents discovered in 2005.

The U.S. and local police files show that disappearances and executions were part of a deliberate strategy to crush leftist rebels, said Jesse Franzblau, a researcher at the Archive.

See the rest of the AP story here

Read it all at the George Washington University National Security Archive

Government Allocates Q900 Million for Social Programs

Yesterday, the president created the Social Solidarity Fund, one of the pillars of social cohesion, which will operate through a trust to be administered by the Ministry of Communications and will be funded with Q100 million.

This axis of Social Cohesion, which consists of infrastructure for schools, housing, and other projects, was handled by the Executive Coordination Secretariat of the Presidency (SCEP), but later it was decided that the Secretariat lacked the necessary ministerial powers and the agency was moved as a trust to the Ministry of Communications.

Jairo Flores, secretary of the SCEP, said the trust aims to develop housing construction, school infrastructure and emergency care.

The decision of the constitutional court on this move has not yet been published.

Flores denied that there is duplication of functions, given that this ministry handles infrastructure and the new trust will also.

Wilfredo Garcia, Vice Minister of Communications, said yesterday that they have no official knowledge of the creation of the new trust. "The only trust that we have is the Road Fund (Covial), funded at Q1.85 billion for 2009," he said.

Assistant Secretary of State to Visit Guatemala

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon, will make a one-day official visit to Guatemala on Friday to discuss issues related to regional security, trade and immigration.

Official sources confirmed that Shannon will come to Guatemala early on Friday and planned to meet with President Alvaro Colom and foreign minister Haroldo Rodas.

"The topics to be discussed with the Assistant Secretary of State will be about immigration, regional security, trade and the effects of the global financial crisis in Central America," the sources explained.

Moreover, the the president will use the opportunity to confirm to Shannon his participation in the meeting to be held on March 30 in Costa Rica between the presidents of Central America and the U.S. vice president, Joe Biden.

According to sources, "We will also talk about the upcoming Summit of the Americas", scheduled to take place in Trinidad and Tobago from April 17 to April 19 where the presidents of Latin America and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet.

Banguat Sells Another $11.8 Million

The Bank of Guatemala (Banguat) went to battle again yesterday in defense of the quetzal by selling U.S. $11.8 million for the purpose of curbing the rise in the exchange rate.

Banguat initially offered $11.75 million but managed to place only $7.75 million, equivalent to 65 percent. It subsequently offered $13.3 million and sold 31 percent of that, or U.S. $4.1 million, for a total of $11.85 million.

The sale yesterday is in addition to the $19.2 million sold the day before, which means a sale of $31 million in two days.

The exchange rate stood at $ 8.10 today, however, due to the involvement of Banguat, the exchange rate will start tomorrow at $ 8.09. The banks also lowered their earnings yesterday as they had sold Quetzales at at an average of 8.22 and are now selling between 8.14 and 8.18.