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Strange Bedfellows

             The United States and the Guatemalan Army.
             From 1960 to 1996 Guatemala went through an extremely violent and bloody civil war in which over 100,000 died and over 1 million refugees were created. In 1996 a formal peace agreement was signed by both sides and since then this agreement has held fairly well although in no way should Guatemala be considered completely peaceful and stable. Recent political elections were marred by violence and assassination attempts proving that true peace and long-term stability is still a goal for the future. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate that the Guatemalan military, and more specifically the United States government’s relationship with it, remains the single greatest obstacle to achieving long-term peace and stability in Guatemala. “In places like Guatemala, U.S. officials condoned acts of violence that terrorized the civilian population, and the United States even provided material and political support to those who carried them out. They did so in the name of fighting communism. They called it realpolitik: you have to be realistic about how power works in the world and what you can do to preserve your own. And they dismissed their critics as wooly-headed liberals who were out of touch with that reality.” (Wilkinson 352) Wilkinson continues by pointing out that the practitioners of this policy were the ones in fact “misrepresenting” the “reality” of American policies in Latin America by arguing that the war against communism needed to be won at any cost but at the same time refusing to acknowledge the true costs of that victory. In the case of Guatemala that cost was the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
             It is my belief that a series of significant steps must be taken to reform the role of the military in Guatemala and that the United States, because of their intimate relationship with the Guatemalan military over the last 45 years, is the single biggest key to effecting that change.