Saturday, March 26, 2005

Military aid for Guatemala

Rumsfeld was in Guatemala this week to announce a renewal of military aid to that country, $3.2 million worth, the first trickle of its kind in 15 years. Human rights groups are reasonably upset:
”Despite its commitment to ending impunity and combating clandestine groups, the Berger administration has demonstrated a lack of political will and ability to make progress in establishing an effective mechanism to investigate and dismantle clandestine groups,” according to a joint statement by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Centre for Human Rights, and other groups.

It noted that these clandestine groups or illegal armed groups, which were supposed to have been dismantled after the signing of the historic 1996 Peace Accords, are believed to have ties to Guatemala's military intelligence apparatus, which is also widely believed to have become increasingly active in drug trafficking and organised crime.
This is just a quibble, but I think the framing of this issue around "clandestine" groups doesn't really convey the full extent of the problem, which is that the Guatemalan military has long been tied up with and partially owned by mafia-like groups. Has that really changed? The fact that the military has a new civilian mandate doesn't mean all that much, nor does the fact that its numbers are reduced. If there's evidence of involvement with drug traffickers, etc., what kind of prosecution (even if only internally) has gone on that would demonstrate the military's taken a new direction?

The Bush administration obviously feels that this has changed, or at least that Berger is going to be a better ally in this pursuit than was the thoroughly corrupt Portillo administration.
But the Bush administration, increasingly concerned about drug-trafficking through Guatemala in particularly, has decided to restore funding now. Almost three billion of the 3.2 million dollars that is being restored will be used to upgrade Guatemala's air force and small navy for use in drug-interdiction operations.
Will $3.2 million be enough of a carrot to really make a difference?

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