Israel’s role in the Guatemalan genocide

Israel’s role in the Guatemalan genocide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Israel’s Training & Equipping South and Central America’s Bloody Regimes

The reaction of some people to my retelling the history of Israel’s role in Guatemala, the most bloody of all the wars in South America, will be ‘anti-Semitism’.  Telling the truth is often anti-Semitic.  But Israel excelled itself in Guatemala, aiding the Christian Fundamentalist goverment of Rioss Montt in slaughtering up to 200,000 Mayan Indians.  Israel’s involvement in supporting the Rios Montt regime was not a solitary affair.  On the contrary, Israel was up to its neck in supporting all the American death squad regimes in Central and South America – from Nicaragua under Somoza to El Salvador to Chile under Pinochet and of course the Argentinian Junta.

Israeli arms and training fuelled
Guatemalan unrest
If you were to believe the Zionist propaganda in the Labour
Party then Israel is the shining democracy of the Middle East, the equivalent
of Ronald Reagan’s shining City on the Hill. 
However the history of the ‘Jewish’ state is one of supporting the most
vicious and blood thirsty dictatorships on the planet.
In Argentina Israel’s role in supporting the anti-communist regimes of South America extended to supporting a neo-Nazi Junta
that was responsible for the torture and murder of up to 3,000 Argentinian Jews,
some 10% of those who disappeared.  See Argentina
– Proof that Israel is no Refuge from Anti-Semitism
.    Below are some accounts
of the involvement of the Zionist state in the rape of Guatemala.
Tony Greenstein
General Rios Montt, Guatemala’s bloody dictator who rose to power in 1982 with the help of 300 Israeli military ‘advisers’
October 5, 2015 at 5:23 pm |
Nick Rodrigo

On 1 September, Alejandro Maldonado was installed as Guatemalan president.
The choice was controversial due his role in nullifying the conviction of
former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who had been sentenced for acts of genocide
during the civil war. This thirty-six year war was a particularly brutal
episode in Guatemala’s troubled postcolonial history and still leaves deep
wounds, particularly on the collective psyche of the country’s Mayan
population. Israel’s support of Guatemala government forces during this time is
an example of Zionist foreign policy at its most calculated.
During the 1960s the entrenched status of servitude and
poverty for Guatemala’s Mayan peasantry led to a series of armed and unarmed
insurrectionary movements in the countryside. The state responded with unbridled
brutality
, attacking anyone deemed to be a dissident, including Mayan
activists and trade unionists. In 1982, a coup brought Rios Montt to power; in
the same year an Inter-American Human Rights Commission issued a report
pointing the blame at the Guatemalan government for thousands of illegal
executions and missing persons in the 1970s, particularly against campensinos
and Indians. The following year Montt deployed the “Firjoles y
Fusiles
” (beans and guns) campaign which was essentially a scorched earth
military programme against “unruly” villages. Taking on the tactics of his
predecessors, Montt entrenched agricultural resettlement schemes into the
military’s counterinsurgency plans. His successors emulated his pacification
techniques in an attempt to destroy indigenous life and rural existence,
replacing it with agricultural cooperatives that maintained the feudal status
quo. By the time that the UN had brokered peace in 1996, the UN-backed Historical Clarification Commission estimated the
total number of deaths at around 250,000. The report, in line with the findings
of a Catholic Church-sponsored truth commission, found that the state’s
military operations had a disproportionate toll on indigenous communities,
including more than 600 massacres, but also incidents of torture,
rape and forced displacement.

Jimmy Morales, Guatemala’s far Right President and Netanyahu

Israeli and Guatemalan flags

Rios Montt finally faced justice on 10 May 2013. Convicted
of genocide and crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to 80 years in
prison. Dozens of survivors gave testimony at his trial; some were women who
had been raped repeatedly, others were children when the Guatemalan forces
attacked their villages. The killings, displacement and disappearances carried
out under Montt and other Guatemalan leaders could not have been conducted to
such effect without the special relationship that the country enjoyed with
Israel, which extended from agricultural assistance to counterinsurgency
techniques.

Beans, guns and training: Zionist support of Guatemalan state repression

Six years before the “Beans and Guns” campaign ripped
through Mayan village life, the Israeli government initiated a two-year
programme for Guatemalan officials to study agricultural schemes in Israel. The
Kibbutzim pioneer culture of Zionism shares much with the Gaucho frontierism
of colonial and postcolonial Latin America, and in the 1978-1979 period, about
1,000 Guatemalans were trained by Israeli settlement study centres in Rohovot
and other areas. When the Guatemalan congress gave Israel its highest honour in
2009, the speaker commented, “If there is thriving agriculture, it’s an Israeli
contribution.” In reality, there is no thriving agriculture which benefits
Guatemalans today, with hundreds of thousands of rural families dependent upon aid.

Colombian paramilitaries were
trained by Tel Aviv

By the late 1970s, reports of human rights abuses by
US-trained and armed Guatemalan soldiers were causing headaches for the Carter
administration in Washington; the US congress subsequently suspended military aid in 1977.
Within months, Israel had stepped in to fill the void with President Ephraim
Katzir signing an agreement for military assistance. According to the Stockholm
Institute for Peace, Israel supplied Guatemala with $38 million worth of arms
during the civil war period. This included Arava aircraft, artillery pieces and
gunboats. The Galil assault rifle, an Israeli-made weapon, was standard issue
for the Guatemalan army by 1980, with the state owned small-arms production
facility in Alta Verapaz producing its ammunition under Israeli licence.
Indeed, corporate enterprise was a significant aspect of Israel’s involvement
in the Guatemalan civil war, with a number of Israeli firms active on
Guatemalan territory, providing services ranging from military equipment to
radar control systems to water development projects. Israel also utilised its
shadowy arms industry to avoid embarrassing the US, often shuttling arms to
Guatemala through intermediaries, normally retired generals and “securocrats”
with dual nationalities. In June 1977, Barbados customs agents discovered a
shipment of 26 tons of arms and ammunition destined for Guatemala from Israel
in an Argentinian cargo plane; similar shipments were discovered in Fort
Lauderdale, Florida. Reagan’s election in 1979 and his policy of containment in Central America were exploited by
Israel. The late Ariel Sharon engineered a relationship with the US in which
Israel would carry out much of its dirty work in the region, in a bid to cement
a closer relationship and align the countries’ geostrategic interests. This
included funnelling weapons to Nicaragua and El Salvador. In a special report
by the New York Times in 1983, it was noted that Israel had a
role in supplementing US strategic interests.

Israel had contributed considerably to Guatemala’s
counterinsurgency programme by the late 1980s, with at least 300 retired and
Israeli government affiliated trainers active in the country, passing-on
expertise on everything ranging from computer tracking of insurgents and
activists through complex snooping techniques, to training elite troops known
as “Kaibiles” for the rural pacification programme.

Some of those that Israel helped ‘disappear’

Nicaragua vs USA: The framework for reparations from Israel

In the International Court of Justice case Nicaragua vs
USA, America was forced, due to its military and paramilitary acts in
Nicaragua, to pay compensation to the Nicaraguan people. There are a number of
merits from this ruling which could be used to draw up a case against Israel.
Under paragraph 220 of the case it notes that states are obliged to refrain
from encouraging a party to commit violations or provide concrete assistance:
“The United States is thus under an obligation not to encourage persons or
groups engaged in the conflict in Nicaragua to act in violation of the
provisions of Article 3 common to the four 1949 Geneva conventions.” Under the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a
Remedy and Reparation
, it states:

4. In cases of gross violations of international human
rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law
constituting crimes under international law, States have the duty to
investigate and, if there is sufficient evidence, the duty to submit to
prosecution the person allegedly responsible for the violations and, if found
guilty, the duty to punish her or him […]

Israel’s work in providing Guatemala with military advisors
and technical assistance to Rios Montt could constitute such “assistance” for a
Guatemalan to conduct genocide and violations of international humanitarian
law.

Hugo Roitman – corrupt Israeli businessman arrested in Guatemala

Solidarity of rights

What is most remarkable about the tactics used by the
Guatemalan government against the indigenous communities is how much they
emulate strategies used by Israel to control and break those under its military
occupation. Development towns and forced displacement are official policy used
by Israel against its Bedouin population; a scorched earth policy was deployed in South Lebanon;
counterinsurgency techniques used by the Shin Bet are deployed to stifle
popular protest by Palestinians. Truth, reconciliation and reparations are
amongst the hardest of socio-legal programmes to implement. It has been a long
and torturous process for Guatemala’s impoverished and marginalised communities
to extract confessions from those guilty of atrocities committed during the
war. Any admittance of guilt from Israel, in complicity with Guatemalan state
crimes, will be difficult to ascertain. Israel’s intricate web of lobby groups,
as well as one of the strongest legal defence teams in the world, would make
the task difficult. Nevertheless, by bringing a case to the ICJ, a deeper bond
of solidarity between Guatemala’s oppressed peoples and their natural allies in
Palestine could well be fostered.

Arms, Advice and Counterinsurgency
published
in MER140
From the
May-June 1986 issue of
Middle East Report:

Israel’s
increasingly visible presence throughout the Third World, including such
disparate places as the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Zaire, Botswana,
El Salvador and Argentina, raises a number of questions about the objectives
and character of Israel’s foreign policy, the nature of the Israeli state, and
the US-Israeli relationship. One Third World connection — Israel’s involvement
in Guatemala — involves several unique aspects, but the basic structure of the
tie sheds considerable light on the larger issues.
Three
fundamental factors underlie Israel’s involvement in Guatemala and all Israeli
Third World relations. First, Israel’s global involvements are directly linked
to its efforts to break out of its international isolation. Because of that
isolation, Israeli leaders reason that they cannot be particular about the kind
of regimes they assist. As a former head of the Knesset foreign relations
committee recently said, when asked about the Israeli-Guatemalan relationship:
Israel is
a pariah state. When people ask us for something, we cannot afford to ask
questions about ideology. The only type of regime that Israel would not aid
would be one that is anti-American. Also, if we can aid a country that it may
be inconvenient for the US to help, we would be cutting off our nose to spite
our face not to.
[1]
As this
remark suggests, a second element in Israel’s Third World involvements is the
significant congruence of interest between Israel and the United States in
these areas. Israeli policies are not dictated by US wishes, but they
frequently advance what Washington perceives to be its own interests in many
Third World countries. Sometimes Israeli policies are undertaken to lessen
Israel’s dependence on the US. At other times Israel pursues policies with the
specific objective of serving American interests. Such initiatives are primarily
motivated by the desire to increase Israel’s leverage over Washington’s Middle
East policy. Other Israeli policies are happenstance — the outcome of
initiatives by individuals, corporations or institutes operating without
government policy directives. But all these situations reveal a striking
convergence between the results of Israel’s policies and American objectives.
A third
factor in Israel’s broadening international commitments is the growing
militarization of Israeli society. This militarization is reflected in the
increased autonomy of the military in Israel. The military and the
military-industrial complex frequently make foreign policy decisions with
little input or oversight from the civilian sector. Indeed, according to
Israeli military analyst Ze’ev Schiff, the civilian apparatus, i.e., the
Finance Ministry, does not even control the defense budget. [2] The spiraling growth of that
budget, the increasing role of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as a power
factor in the Israeli polity, and the growing concentration of foreign affairs
and defense policy decision making in the hands of a select group — all
typically former high military officers — has resulted in foreign policies
emphasizing military solutions to any and all situations.
A related
consideration involves the sale of arms and military-related equipment.
Analysts today rank Israel as either the seventh or twelfth largest exporter of
conventional weapons globally. [3] Israel’s export interests are
related to its perceived strategic need to attain self-sufficiency in arms
production in order to lessen its dependence on the US while maintaining
absolute regional military superiority. The small size of the country, as well
as its inherent financial weakness, made the development of a
military-industrial complex on the desired scale problematic. The cultivation
of external markets eased the “economy of scale” problem in weapons production.
Moreover, the export of arms has helped sustain production at full capacity,
facilitating strategic planning and stockpiling, assuring supplies when needed,
and permitting scarce resources to be spent on science, technology, research
and development, to maintain the country’s qualitative edge. [4]
Significant
economic motivations are also associated with arms exports. Israel’s 150 companies
that manufacture exportable military equipment employ, directly or indirectly,
60,000 people — some 18-20 percent of the Jewish industrial work force.
Moreover, weapons transfers represent one fifth of industrial exports and one
tenth of all exports. Thus both levels of employment and balance-of-payments
considerations are critically related to arms sales. As a result, Israel’s arms
export program has helped its trade position in the face of a chronic trade
deficit. [5] In Israel’s calculation, these
important military and economic considerations obviously transcend political
“niceties” like human rights violations.
Another
aspect of the growing militarization of Israeli society involves the 19 years
of Israeli military occupation over the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights,
and, for varying periods, both the Sinai and southern Lebanon. This experience
has trained an entire generation of Israelis to impose Israeli rule over subject
peoples. Matti Peled, formerly a general in the Israeli army and now a leading
peace activist, put it this way:
Israel
has given its soldiers practical training in the art of oppression and in
methods of collective punishment. It is no wonder, then, that after their
release from the army, some of those officers choose to make use of their
knowledge in the service of dictators and that those dictators are pleased to
take in the Israeli experts.
[6]
“A Nation of Prisoners”
Since the
CIA-sponsored coup in 1954, Guatemala has been ruled by a succession of
right-wing regimes determined to suppress an indigenous revolutionary movement
that traces its lineage back to the American intervention. Most of these were
military juntas, but even under the nominally civilian regime from 1966 to 1970
military officers filled critical government posts, [7] and during the 1960s the state
waged a brutal counterinsurgency campaign against a guerrilla movement based
mainly among the country’s Ladino population. Although this guerrilla movement
had been dealt a devastating blow by 1970, new sectors of resistance emerged in
the 1970s, particularly in the Indian communities, which evoked new strategies
of repression and counterinsurgency.
These
were the same years that saw Israel “pacify” and consolidate its occupation of
the West Bank, Gaza and Golan territories seized in 1967. Ties between the two
states going back to Israel’s establishment were thus reinforced in the 1970s
by a shared interest in counterinsurgency. These affinities, old and new, took
on new force when Menachem Begin and his Likud coalition came to power in
Israel in June 1977. The new Israeli leaders remembered the key role played in
1947-1948 by Jorge Garcia Granados, Guatemala’s representative to the UN
Special Committee on Palestine. Garcia Granados, who had been serving as
ambassador in Washington, was personally drawn to the Zionist cause long before
taking this post and exerted strong influence on the Special Committee to
recommend partition. Granados had gone out of his way to meet personally with
Begin, Shamir and others in the terrorist underground in Palestine in 1947; in
1948 he urged Guatemala’s president to immediately recognize Israel. [8]
Israel’s
present attention to Guatemala is not, of course, predicated entirely on
history. Guatemala can still be an asset in international forums such as the
UN, where Israel is often quite isolated. Israel also has significant
commercial interests in Guatemala. Moreover, Guatemala’s strategic importance
to the United States in the context of its Central American policy, coupled
with the often stormy relations between Washington and Guatemala City, have
afforded Israel a special role in Guatemala. Guatemalan rulers, for their part,
see Israel as the world’s foremost practitioner of counterinsurgency, and look
to Israel for advice, models, expertise and arms. [9] Israeli assistance began in
1971, but it took on increased importance after 1977, when the Guatemalan
generals rejected US military aid in response to Carter administration
pressures to remedy their gross human rights violations. Israel has displayed
no similar reluctance to work with the country that one Guatemalan lawyer
characterized as “a nation of prisoners.”
Rural Pacification

The broad
base of rural peasant support for Guatemala’s revolutionary movement,
particularly after 1970, led Guatemalan regimes to incorporate agricultural
resettlement schemes into their counterinsurgency plans. One aspect of this was
“civic action” programs, involving both military and agricultural functions,
although the emphasis has clearly been on the military. The US adviser who
directed the civic action advisory staff in Guatemala during 1966-1968, Maj.
Frederick F. Woerner, describes civic action as “a military weapon in
counterinsurgency. I wish I could say that our main concern is in improving
nutrition…. These are only byproducts. The security of the country is our
mission.” [10] In Guatemala, the fundamental
strategy of the military has been to “pacify” the countryside. Between 1954 and
1984, this has meant the murder of more than 100,000 civilians [11]; attempted destruction of the
traditional Indian society and culture; and Indian resettlement in “model
villages,” which include agricultural cooperatives. The objective is total
control of the civilian population, without altering the oligarchic patterns of
land ownership. [12] According to Col. Eduardo
Wohlers, director of the “Plan of Assistance to Conflict Areas” (commonly known
as “Beans and Bullets”) under the Rios Montt regime in 1982-1983, Israel was
the main source of inspiration for Guatemala’s counterinsurgency agrarian
strategy. Particularly inspiring was Israel’s Nahal program. Nahal, the Hebrew
acronym for Fighting Pioneer Youth, trains soldiers in agricultural techniques
in order to set up and expand border settlements. “Many of our technicians are
Israeli-trained,” Wohlers declared. “The model of the kibbutz and the moshav is
planted firmly in their minds. And personally I think it would be fascinating
to turn our highlands into that kind of system.” [13] Another Guatemalan view paints a
more somber picture of Wohler’s “fascinating” system:
Agriculture
holds the key to Israel’s current role. In it [there is] an interlocking mosaic
of assistance programs — weapons to help the Guatemalan Army crush the
opposition and lay waste to the countryside, security and intelligence advice
to control the local population, and agrarian development models to construct
on the ashes of the highlands.
[14]
Israeli
involvement in Guatemala’s agricultural counterinsurgency program began in
1977, shortly after Menachem Begin was elected prime minister. Two important
Guatemalans visited Israel: Col. Fernando Castillo Ramirez, the director of the
National Institute of Agrarian Transformation (INTA), the institution most
concerned with agricultural resettlement in areas of conflict, and Leonel
Giron, an agricultural economist in charge of settlement programs in the Franja
Transversal del Norte, the vast northern area scheduled for infrastructure
development and land settlement. [15] They sought technical, military
and agricultural settlement advice, arms and joint investment schemes. 
Immediately after their visit, Israeli advisers arrived in Guatemala to plan
“civic action” programs in the tense Ixcan area in El Quiche, heartland of the
revolutionary movement and scene of relentless military repression. [16]
In January
1978, Israel initiated a two-year program of grants for Guatemalan officials to
study agricultural cooperative schemes in Israel. Fifty scholarships were made
available, and a steady stream of planners, economists, credit managers and
others — a significant number of them high officials of the Guatemalan army —
went to Israel. [17] In February 1979, the Israeli
Settlement Study Center at Rehovot provided additional scholarships for
officials and employees of INTA, in conjunction with a rural pacification plan
initiated by then-president Lucas Garcia. According to a spokesman for Yitzhak
Shamir, during the 1978-1979 period Israeli experts “trained about 1,000
Guatemalans.” [18] The pacification plan, which
reportedly contained elements of the kibbutz and the moshav, [19] was never implemented, as the
Lucas Garcia regime responded indiscriminately to the growing mass movement,
and army and state-organized death squads murdered peasants, labor leaders,
clergy, students and moderate politicians. [20]
Gen.
Efrain Rios Montt seized power from Lucas Garcia in March 1982 and instituted
the “Beans and Bullets” rural pacification program. It was conceived
by two Guatemalan military officers, Col. Wohlers and Gen. Fuentes Corado,
allegedly in conjunction with Israeli advisers. The new program rewarded with
food and housing any peasant who cooperated with the government, and used force
or the threat of force against those who did not. The army unleashed a violent
crusade against the peasants in which at least 10,000 Indian civilians were
killed. [21] There followed dozens of
projects in rural areas, many of them implemented by Israelis, including
housing in the model villages, roads and new water systems. Analyst Nancy
Peckenham has succinctly described the meaning of the “beans” side of the
program:
These
projects, most of which provided emergency relief to people who had been
displaced from their homes by the army offensive and then rounded up by the
military from their mountain hiding places, are intrinsic to the national
counterinsurgency program. On a secondary level that incorporates long-term
goals, the pacification program is promoting a new social and economic order
that Wohlers expects will undermine the ability of opposition forces to
organize the rural population against the government and military.
[22]
One other
part of Rios Montt’s “Plan Victoria,” implemented with Israeli assistance, is
the recruitment of peasants themselves in civil defense patrols. These patrols
effectively set peasant against peasant, and are integral to the
counterinsurgency campaign. Membership in patrols, which are organized and
controlled by the army, is compulsory. Those who refuse to join are branded as
subversives. Peasant recruits are given weapons and instructed to watch others
for signs of revolutionary inclinations. Approximately 1 million civilians have
been forced to join the patrols. [23] After the overthrow of Rios
Montt in 1983, the new government of Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores adopted
a more selective approach toward executions and forced disappearances. His
regime attempted to consolidate the rural pacification program, focusing on
resettlement of Indians in model villages, and strengthened civil defense
patrols, a more extensive “food for work” program, and various development
schemes initiated by the oligarchy. Available evidence suggests that Israel’s
role in Guatemala certainly did not decline during the Mejia Victores
administration.
Arms Sales and Military Aid

Israeli-Guatemalan
military cooperation began in 1971, during the presidency of Col. Carlos Arana
Osario. Then the Guatemalan chief of staff, Kjell Laugerud Garcia, visited
Israel and met with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and other Israeli military
officials. Laugerud Garcia expressed Guatemala’s interest in procuring
armaments and military communications equipment. Later that year, the two
countries signed their first cooperation agreement, though specifics were not
made public. [24]
In 1974,
Laugerud Garcia became president in what was generally considered to be a
fraudulent election. Just prior to taking office in April, he made a private
visit to Israel, announcing his wish to widen cooperation with that nation. [25] The first Israeli-Guatemalan
arms agreement was signed within months. [26] In 1975, Israeli-made Arava
aircraft (adaptable for counterinsurgency tasks) arrived in Guatemala, followed
by deliveries of armored cars, artillery and small arms, including Uzi
submachine guns and the Galil assault rifle, which became standard issue for
the Guatemalan army. Israeli technicians and military advisers accompanied the
Aravas. [27]
Guatemala’s
interest in purchasing Israeli arms and seeking Israeli advisors was heightened
by its increasingly difficult relations with the United States. Guatemalans
resented the various pressures Washington exerted, as well as the patronizing
attitudes of its advisers sent with the American weapons. In 1977, a series of
events resulted in Israel becoming Guatemala’s principal arms supplier and
primary source of counterinsurgency advice. [28]
Three
months after Jimmy Carter became president in January 1977, the State
Department issued a report condemning human rights violations in Guatemala. The
Guatemalan regime retorted that it would reject in advance any military aid
from a government which dared to impose conditions or interfere in its internal
affairs. [29] At Carter’s request, Congress
suspended military aid to Guatemala, and the administration included Guatemala
on a list of “gross and consistent violators of human rights.” This directed US
officials not to support multilateral loans to Guatemala from the World Bank or
the Inter-American Development Bank, unless the loans demonstrably financed
“basic human needs.” [30]
The
Israeli government immediately stepped in to fill the vacuum and a flourish of
activity ensued. Israel did not put “strings” on its arms or advice and was
indifferent to the repressive practices of the Guatemalan regime. The flow of
arms and “agricultural development” advisers picked up considerably.
In June 1977, Barbados customs agents discovered a shipment of 26 tons of arms
and ammunition destined for Guatemala from Israel in an Argentinian cargo
plane, portending the expanding role of Israel as Guatemala’s main arms
supplier. [31] Soon Israel Aircraft Industries
(IAI), owned and controlled by the Ministry of Defense, installed an Elta radar
air traffic control system at the airport near Guatemala City. The system is
still operated by Israeli technicians. [32]
In
December 1977, Israeli President Ephraim Katzir made a seven-day trip to
Guatemala, where he signed an agreement on military assistance. President
Laugerud Garcia also announced that Guatemala would purchase five Dabur-class
missile patrol boats from Israel. His defense minister visited Israel soon
afterward to finalize the purchase and to seek other Israeli military
equipment. [33] A meeting between the defense
ministers of the two countries, as well as between Guatemalan officials from
other ministries and their Israeli counterparts, took place early in 1978, in
Israel. The defense ministers discussed the supply of weapons, munitions,
military communications equipment (including a computer system), tanks and
armored cars, field kitchens, other security items and even the possible supply
of the advanced fighter aircraft, the Kfir. They also talked about sending
Israeli personnel to install computer and radar systems, to assist in training
and equipment maintenance, to establish an electronics school, and to train and
advise the Guatemalan army and the internal security police (known as G-2) in
counterinsurgency tactics. Guatemala soon received all the desired equipment
and assistance, except the Kfir, [34] which Israel was prohibited by
the US from selling because it contained an American-made engine. By 1980, the
Guatemalan army was fully equipped with Galil rifles at a cost of $6 million. [35]
Computerized Counterinsurgency

In March
1978, Gen. Romeo Lucas Garcia became president of Guatemala in another
fraudulent election. During 1979, Israeli technicians from Tadiran Israel
Electronics Industries began installing a computer center in Guatemala City
which became operational in late 1979 or early 1980. The computer’s data banks
are believed to contain the names of at least 80 percent of the country’s
population. According to Israeli journalist Yosef Pri’el, the system was
established to monitor and “follow up the guerrilla movements in the capital.” [36] Part of the Regional
Telecommunications Center, the system is located behind the National Palace and
is connected to a complex of intelligence gathering and storage facilities. One
report charges that the Center is linked to the US Army’s Southern Command at
Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone. [37] Besides storing information on
guerrilla groups, the computer reportedly can also measure sudden large
increases in water or power use, which might, for instance, indicate the use of
a printing press in the middle of the night. George Black reports that “in the
summer of 1981, sophisticated Argentine computer analysis methods (using
Israeli hardware) had been crucial in detecting and breaking 27 guerrilla safe
houses in Guatemala City.” [38] According to one Guatemalan
opposition group, Israel is responsible for the whole complex and Israelis work
as advisers and instructors there. [39] Amnesty International has
charged that the computer system is an integral part of the state’s apparatus
for terrorizing its own citizens. [40]
On
November 3, 1981, the Guatemalan army opened an electronics school that was
built, funded and staffed by Israelis. According to President Lucas Garcia, the
school would train specialists in important counterinsurgency technologies:
electronic codification and decodification, monitoring and jamming radio
transmissions, and ciphering. [41] The colonel who heads the school
says that “teaching methods, the teaching teams, the technical instruments,
books, and even the custom furniture were designed and built by the Israeli
company DEGEM Systems.” [42]
Experts for Export
The most
controversial aspect of the Israeli-Guatemalan relationship is the role Israeli
advisers have played in the formulation and implementation of Guatemala’s
counterinsurgency strategy. In 1980, the head of Guatemala’s internal security
forces, Interior Minister Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz, made a second trip to Israel.
Subsequently, the Guardian and other sources reported that Israeli, as
well as Chilean, Argentinian and other foreign advisers were working with
Guatemala’s G-2 national police to develop counterinsurgency capabilities. [43]
There
were a large number of retired Israeli officers and military men seeking
employment with foreign governments in the early 1980s, a situation reflected
in the Israeli presence in Guatemala. Guatemala needed precisely those skills
the Israelis were most qualified to offer. Arieh Egozi noted in Yediot
Aharonot
that such individuals have become a major Israeli “export
article.” [44]
By early
1982 there were at least 300 Israeli advisers in Guatemala. [45] The New York Times
reported that “Israel is known to have intelligence teams, security and
communications specialists, and military training personnel in Guatemala.” [46]
Israel
officially denies providing advisers to Guatemala. The Israeli ambassador in
Guatemala City commented: “Maybe there are Israeli persons here, but they are
not with the Israeli Army and not with the embassy. We do not even have a
military attache and we do not have advisers here.” [47] Nevertheless, Israeli advisers
are known to have trained the Guatemalan air force and army special forces, as
well as the intelligence services. The Washington Post reported that,
“Israeli advisers — some official, others private — helped Guatemalan
internal security agents hunt underground rebel groups.” [48] Undoubtedly there are both
official advisers and “independents” — former IDF officers who offer their
personal services as mercenary “anti-terrorist consultants,” advisers,
trainers, and even simple bodyguards. [49] (In addition, dozens of
independent Israeli arms merchants, usually retired IDF officers, promote
weapons sales for personal profit in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America. [50]) Much of the work of official
Israeli advisers has been done under the guise of “civic action” programs,
“cooperative agricultural development,” “literacy campaigns” and other
seemingly innocuous labels. Israeli advisers — either sent by the government
or freelancing — reportedly trained elite troops known as “Kaibiles” for the
Indian pacification program undertaken by President Lucas Garcia in the fall of
1981, and carried out more extensively by Rios Montt. [51] By the early months of 1982, the
Kaibiles had killed hundreds of Indian civilians. [52]
When Gen.
Efrain Rios Montt staged his coup on March 23, 1982, the Israeli news magazine Ha’olam
Hazeh
reported he had the help of 300 Israeli military advisers who
assisted in training, planning and executing the coup. Yediot Aharonot
referred to the coup as “the Israeli connection.” [53] Rios Montt himself acknowledged
to an ABC reporter that things had gone very smoothly “because many of our
soldiers were trained by Israelis.” [54] During the 17 months of Rios
Montt’s rule, Israel’s intensified military involvement in Guatemala was
supplemented by assistance on other levels. Shortly after Rios Montt seized
power, the two countries signed a wide-ranging Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement.
Guatemala’s tourist board reportedly targeted US Jewish communities in its
promotion campaign, and Guatemalan radio regularly aired Israeli programs. [55] Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red
Cross, solicited contributions from American Jews so that Israel could dispatch
relief supplies to Guatemala. During this period, a Guatemalan business leader
told the Los Angeles Times: “We’re isolated internationally. The only
friend we have left in the world is Israel.” [56]
Rios
Montt’s minister of defense, Gen. Mejia Victores, overthrew the president on
August 8, 1983. The change in presidential palace personnel did not appear to
signal any change in Israeli-Guatemalan relations. The Eleventh Convention of
the Federation of Jewish Communities of Central America and Panama met in
Guatemala City in April 1984, attended by Israeli diplomats and high Guatemalan
government officials, [57] though Guatemala’s Jewish
community is estimated at no more than 1,500. [58] Rodolfo Lobos Zamora, the
Guatemalan army chief of staff, visited Israel in early 1985, reportedly to
“negotiate for Israeli aid, particularly military aid.” [59] Mejia Victores himself was
scheduled to make a state visit to Israel on April 14, 1985, but the threat of
a coup forced him to cancel. [60]
Intensified Involvement
In
January 1983, at the height of Rios Montt’s carnage, then-chief of staff Gen.
Hector Lopez Fuentes summed up the relationship this way, “Israel is our
principal supplier of arms and the number one friend of Guatemala in the
world.” [61] What accounts for the pervasive
Israeli involvement in Guatemala? The convergence of two factors in the fall of
1981 provides part of the answer. First, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon felt
strongly, as did Prime Minister Begin, that Israel could increase its leverage
over Washington by performing indispensable functions for the US in third
countries. Second, the Reagan administration was obsessively concerned about
events in Central America, and Guatemala’s significance in US regional strategy
was considered crucial at a time when Congressional restrictions on direct US
aid were still in force. Lt. Gen. Wallace Nutting, then head of the US Southern
Command, noted in 1982 that “the situation in Guatemala is potentially more
serious than in El Salvador because the population is larger, the economy is
stronger, and the geographical position is more critically located in a
strategic sense.” [62]
These two
elements converged in the Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the US
in November 1981. The Memorandum specifically provided that the US would grant
third countries permission to spend part of their US military credits in
Israel. Israel did not feel that the accord went far enough in meeting its
needs for expanded markets, nevertheless the Jerusalem Post stated that
the Memorandum “laid the groundwork for using Israel’s defense needs and the
American aid that nourishes them, to create a broader base for Israel’s
industrial development.” [63] The strategic agreement was
suspended a month later, when the Begin government annexed the Golan Heights,
although Sharon contended that it remained secretly in effect. In discussions
prior to the agreement’s formal reinstatement in November 1983, Israel proposed
that it serve as a conduit for American aid to “anti-communist” forces in
Central America — primarily the Nicaraguan contras and Guatemala — through a
fund the administration would establish independent of the government budget to
finance projects implemented by Israeli “experts.” [64] The Reagan administration’s
commitment to these provisions was apparent when Congress tried to block US aid
recipients from channeling such aid to the contras in the FY 1986 foreign aid
bill: The Reagan team pressed successfully for wording that would not “take
away from the sovereign decision” of other countries to assist the contras. [65]

Markets for Israel

Corporate
enterprise is another significant aspect of Israeli-Guatemalan relations.
Several Israeli firms have established manufacturing subsidiaries in Guatemala;
others have confined themselves to commercial distribution of Israeli products.
By some accounts Guatemala is the regional distribution center for Israeli
military materiel. [66] Israeli firms are also active in
construction projects. 
Interviews with several American businessmen who have
commercial ties there confirmed these Israeli involvements: 1) Eagle Military
Gear Overseas, based in the Hotel Cortijo Reforma in Guatemala City, is in
charge of the sale of military equipment outside that country. 2) Tahal
Consulting Engineers, Ltd. was registered in 1980 for temporary operations in
planning, organizing and supervising water development projects in Guatemala.
According to the commercial registry of Guatemala, its initial capital
investment was $5,000, a miniscule sum given the considerable work it
purportedly engaged in. In 1983, Tahal was granted permission to operate
indefinitely in Guatemala. (Several American firms that have traditionally
engaged in such projects in Guatemala have recently complained bitterly about
losing lucrative contracts to Israeli firms including Tahal.) 3) Tadiran Israel
Electronics was given permission to operate in Guatemala for two years
beginning in September 1983. It manufactures and sells electronic equipment and
was initially capitalized at nearly $12 million. Tadiran installed the computer
system in Guatemala City. 4) Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel’s largest
military-industrial producer, installed the radar control system at the airport
and is reportedly producing specialized equipment in Guatemala. [67]
By 1983,
reports from a variety of sources in Guatemala confirmed the existence of a
munitions factory, in the department of Alta Verpaz. According to Gen. Lopez
Fuentes the factory was functional in May of 1983. [68] Eagle Military Gear Overseas,
the firm which constructed it, is reported to be the major investor in the
factory. [69] There is also an annex where
armored vehicles are assembled. According to Mejia Victores’ foreign minister,
Andrade Diaz-Duran, the plant was built “to save foreign exchange that we would
otherwise have to spend on the international market.” [70] It is not clear, however,
exactly what the profit sharing arrangements are between the Israeli investors
and the Guatemalan generals who established a Military Industry and Services
Secretariat in early August 1983 to “officially” handle the new arms business.
Some analysts have argued that the strategic objective behind developing a
munitions industry (allegedly to be followed by armaments production) in
Guatemala is related to the goals of CONDECA to standardize all weapons and
ammunition throughout Central America (except Nicaragua). According to this
argument, Israel undertook the venture at the behest of the US in the context
of Washington’s regional objectives.
Whatever
the case, clearly the plant is a major new development for Guatemala and
possibly for the entire region. [71] Several joint US-Israeli
projects for long-term developmental cooperation in Guatemala may offer
expanded opportunities for Israeli commercial interests. In April 1982, Israeli
and US officials prepared a proposal to assemble US industrial products in Guatemalan
urban centers, and to encourage the planting of non-traditional export-oriented
agricultural products — asparagus, raspberries, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon
— in the highlands. Israeli agricultural experts would assist in the
development of these commercial farming ventures. [72] Israel, Guatemala and the US
prepared a more detailed plan in late 1983 (during the Mejia-Victores/Reagan
administration “honeymoon” and immediately after the November 1983 US-Israeli
strategic cooperation agreement). At least two trilateral meetings were held in
December 1983 in Guatemala City, attended by army chief of staff Lopez Fuentes,
Vice President Rodolfo Lobos Zamoro, a delegate from the military bases’
commanders’ council, US Col. Jean Gorovit, the Israeli ambassador and other
Israeli officials. The agreements hammered out at the meetings, unofficially
known as the San Marcos Plan, were apparently aimed at completing the
pacification of the Indian highlands and constructing the infrastructure for
the development of military-industrial facilities. [73]
Israel
agreed to send more experts to train Guatemalan special forces at the Santa
Cruz base in El Quiche, as well as to continue training the special forces of
the national security police. The Guatemalan government promised to relocate
some of the “model villages” in which Indians are presently being held to
provide a labor force for industrial development. To date, though, there is
little evidence that these schemes have been implemented.
Strains
between Washington and Guatemala resurfaced with Mejia Victores’ public
denunciation in April 1984 of the US- backed regional military force (CONDECA)
and Guatemala’s subsequent refusal to participate in joint maneuvers with the
US. Nevertheless, the basic objectives of the US and Guatemala in opposing
leftist movements in the area remain as strong as ever.
Guatemala’s
new civilian government under President Vinicio Cerezo, despite its good
intentions, does not have the autonomy and power to undertake critical domestic
reforms or alter key alliances. In particular, because of the various
structural ties that have developed between Israel and Guatemala over the last
two decades, Israeli involvement in that country is unlikely to diminish as a
result of government changes either in Guatemala City or in Jerusalem. Israeli
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, during a May 1986 visit to Guatemala, promised
to increase technical and agricultural aid. [74]
Likud
strategy, to support the anti-communist political objectives of the United
States in order to further cement the US-Israeli relationship and increase
Israeli influence over Washington’s policy in the Middle East, seems to have
enjoyed remarkable success with the Reagan administration. The New York
Times
reported in mid-1983 that “American officials, in confirming Israel’s
cooperation in Central America, said that it was a factor in the recent
improvement of Israel-United States relations.” [75] Israeli support for Reagan
policies in Congress, via the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),
has also been appreciated at the Reagan White House. [76]
Of
course, past US support for Israel originates from Washington’s perception that
Israeli policy in the Middle East serves US interests there. This remains the
core of the US-Israeli strategic relationship. But Israeli cooperation outside
the region, especially in Central America, has certainly enhanced that
partnership. In particular, it seems to have been a factor in the readiness of
the Central Intelligence Agency, under William Casey, to provide reconnaissance
satellite data on Arab states to Israel. According to Maj. Gen. Yehoshua Saguy,
head of Israeli military intelligence from 1979-1983, the US supplied “not only
the information but the photos themselves_Casey now says ‘yes’ all the time.”
According to an American official, because of the value of this CIA support
(“Casey’s gift”) “the Israelis would have every reason to do what Casey wanted
[in Central America].” [77] The backscratching is mutual, as
the Reagan administration’s eagerness to play down the recent case of Israeli
espionage in US intelligence circles indicates.
Israel’s
objective of decreasing its international isolation and winning friends in the
global community appears to have been validated in its relationship with
Guatemala as well. Israeli diplomat Nathaniel Lorch reports a positive
correlation between Israeli assistance and Guatemalan political support. [78] Guatemala has provided Israel
consistent ideological backing, particularly on important UN resolutions.
(Although following the 1981 Reunification of Jerusalem Law, Guatemala moved
its embassy to Tel Aviv, Israeli officials are hopeful that Guatemala’s return
to Jerusalem will be forthcoming.)
More
important, Israel’s failure to move toward any political resolution of the
Palestinian-Israeli question and the continued state of de facto war in the
Middle East only serves to increase the power of the military in Israeli
society. This in turn ensures the continuation of policies in the Third World
which serve the interests of Israel’s military establishment and
military-industrial complex.
Author’s
Note:
I would
like to thank the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International
University for a grant which made the field work in Central America for this
research possible. Also many thanks to Milton Jamail and Jane Hunter for
critiques of early drafts and much valuable assistance. Joe Stork made
extensive editorial changes. Any mistakes, of course, are entirely mine.
Endnotes
[1]
Statement in a public lecture by Yohanah Ramati, former editor of the Israeli
journal The Economist and member of the Foreign Relations Committee
during the Likud government (1977-1984), Florida International University, Bay
Vista campus, March 6, 1985.
[2] Ze’ev Schiff, “The Show in the Hole,” Haaretz,
April 29, 1985, translated by Israel Shahak.
[3] Aharon Klieman ranks it twelfth. See Israeli Arms
Sales: Perspectives and Prospects
(Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic
Studies, Tel Aviv University, Paper 24, February 1984), p. 5. Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute ranks it higher. See SIPRI Yearbooks
(1978-1984).
[4] Klieman, pp. 18-21. See also Jean Briggs, “We Need
Entrepreneurs, Not Military Heroes,” Forbes, November 7, 1983, pp.
134-142.
[5] Klieman, pp. 21-25.
[6] Matti Peled, “Israel and the Arms Market,” Haaretz,
March 4, 1985, translated by Israel Shahak.
[7] Susanne Jonas and David Tobis, Guatemala (New
York: North American Congress on Latin America, 1974), pp. 118-120.
[8] Granados insisted that a UNSCOP subcommittee visit Nazi
concentration camps, and argued forcefully that the “Jewish question” and
Zionism were organically linked. Shortly after they arrived in Palestine to
begin their investigation, Granados convinced UNSCOP to issue a resolution
calling on the British to lift a death sentence imposed on three Jewish
terrorists, arguing that, “No matter how we viewed such activities, the terrorists
were inhabitants of the country playing a definite role in the drama and were
entitled to express their views to UNSCOP.” Granados held several secret
meetings (alone and with Enrique Fabregat of Uruguay) with various members,
including an important lengthy encounter with Begin himself. When the UNSCOP
subcommittee on boundaries (of which Granados was not originally a member) was
unable to reach agreement on a plan, Granados drew a map extending the Jewish
state’s coastal strip to the Lebanese border, then running it parallel to that
border until it joined eastern Galilee. Granados drew the borders in the south
to include the Negev, then tied the areas together with special corridors.
Granados’ own subcommittee assignment was with the group designated to develop
the final partition plan, where he was placed after introducing the concept of
partition into the UNSCOP deliberations and forcefully defending it over all
other possible solutions. Jorge Garcia Granados, The Birth of Israel: The
Drama as I Saw It
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), passim. A revealing
analysis of the extensiveness of Zionist diplomacy in the pre-state period in
Latin America is in Edy Kaufman, “Israel’s Foreign Policy Implementation in
Latin America,” in Michael Curtis and Susan Aurelia Gitelson, eds., Israel
in the Third World
(New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1976), pp. 120-146.
[9] Michael McClintock, The American Connection, II: State
Terror and Popular Resistance in Guatemala
(London: Zed Press, 1985), pp.
162, 187-188, 192-196.
[10] David Tobis, “Retaliation in Guatemala,” National
Guardian
, January 27, 1968.
[11] Luisa Frank and Philip Wheaton, Indian Guatemala:
Path to Liberation — The Role of Christians in the Indian Process

(Washington, DC: EPICA Task Force, 1984), p. 3.
[12] Ibid. See also Allan Nairn, “The Guns of Guatemala,” The
New Republic
, April 11, 1983, pp. 17-21; Clare Maxwell, “Guatemala:
Counterinsurgency Plan Eradicating Native Way of Life,” Latinamerica Press,
October 25, 1984, pp. 3-4; Nancy Peckenham, “Bullets and Beans,” Multinational
Monitor
(April 1984); and George Black, “Israeli Connection: Not Just Guns
for Guatemala,” NACLA Report on the Americas, May-June 1983, pp. 43-45.
(Hereafter Black.)
[13] Black, p. 45.
[14] Ibid., pp. 44-45.
[15] The Franja’s 3,500 square miles, rich in oil and
nickel, are owned by an alliance of generals. At the apex is Gen. Romeo Lucas
Garcia (president of Guatemala, 1978-1982), in partnership with his nephew Raul
Garcia Granados (of the Jorge Garcia Granados family). Raul was also a
principal in the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial
and Financial Associations (CACIF), the umbrella body for Guatemalan business
federations, which from 1963 until very recently has given unswerving support
to military rule and has customarily provided each regime with its minister of
economy. See Rene Poiteven, El proceso de industrializacion en Guatemala,
Costa Rica, EDUCA, 1977, p. 190, cited in NACLA Report on the Americas
(January-February 1983), p. 23. Since 1980 Israel has been involved in the
development of this area. CACIF has been accused, together with the Guatemalan
Association of Agriculturalists, of organizing the rural death squads. Other
major Franja associates include Col. Carlos Arana Osario (president of
Guatemala, 1970-1974), Gen. Otto Spiegler Noreiga (minister of defense in the
Kjell Laugerud Garcia government, 1974-1978), and Gen. Hans Laugerud, brother
of President Kjell. See NACLA Report on the Americas (January-February
1983), pp. 11-15, especially the extensive sources noted on p. 15.
[16] Black, p. 45.
[17] Organizacion del Pueblo en Armas, “La Organizacion del
Pueblo en armas (ORPA) Denuncia: Injerencia de Israel en Guatemala,” (four
pages in Spanish) available from SIAG Press, Managua, p. 4. (Hereafter ORPA
Denuncia.) See also Centro Exterior de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala
(Managua, 1984), p. 4. (Hereafter CERI-GUA).
[18] Miami Herald, May 10, 1986. See also CERI-GUA,
p. 4.
[19] Black, p. 45.
[20] Amnesty International, Guatemala: A Government
Program of Political Murder
(London, 1981).
[21] The figure of 10,000 murdered civilians under the Rios
Montt regime is a commonly accepted statistic. NACLA Report on the Americas
(November-December 1985), p. 11, estimated “that from 1981-1984 between 36,000
and 72,000 Guatemalans had died. And that was only the adults; murdered
children remain uncounted.”
[22] Peckenham, “Bullets and Beans.” See also Peckenham,
“Campos de reeducacion para los indigenas,” Uno Mas Uno (Mexico City),
February 12, 1984.
[23] Frank and Wheaton, pp. 84-98. See also Guatemalan
Information and Analysis Service, “A Troubled Democracy” (Managua, July 5,
1984.) (Hereafter SIAG.)
[24] Edy Kaufman, Yoram Shapira and Joel Barromi, Israel-Latin
American Relations
(New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1979), pp. 107, 118.
[25] Ibid., pp. 107-108.
[26] El Dia (Mexico City), August 12, 1977.
[27] See “Israel’s Part in Central America (II),” Central
America Report
, December 14, 1984, p. 386; and Black, p. 44. The
Economist
(April 3, 1982) reported that Israel was Guatemala’s major arms
supplier. For Israeli arms sales to Latin America in general, see New York
Times
, December 17, 1982. Leslie Gelb cites an instance when Secretary of
State Alexander Haig “prompted Israel to do more in Guatemala. By all
accounts,” Gelb adds, “Israel needed no prompting.” See also NACLA Report on
the Americas
(January-February 1982), pp. 49-50; Miami Herald,
December 13, 1982; MERIP Reports 112 (February 1983), pp. 16-30; Jerusalem
Post
, June 4, 1982; Christian Science Monitor, December 27, 1982; National
Catholic Reporter
, December 25, 1981; Sunday Telegraph, August 28,
1983.
[28] Klieman (p. 6) argues that Israel is not the principal
military supplier to any single country. The overwhelming evidence on Guatemala
suggests that Klieman is incorrect: Israel is indeed Guatemala’s principal arms
supplier and has been since 1977. See “Israel’s Part in Central America (II),” Central
America Report
, December 14, 1984, p. 386; “Israeli Arms,” Latin American
Regional Reports: Mexico and Central America, January 13, 1984, p. 8;
“Guatemala: Weapons Shipment,” Foreign Broadcast Information Service, January
21, 1984, p. 13; Houston Chronicle, January 17, 1983; Israel is not the
only country advising the Guatemalan army, so it is not always possible to be
sure of the source of advice regarding a specific policy. However, the
prominence of Israeli advisers in Guatemala, the praise that government leaders
have heaped on the Israelis, and the parallels with Israeli occupation policies
lends credence to the argument. See for example Alexander Cockburn, “Sharing
Responsibility for Guatemalan Horrors,” Wall Street Journal, February
24, 1983. Argentina, Taiwan, South Korea and South Africa as well as the US
have also played important roles in Guatemala.
[29] NACLA Report on the Americas (March-April 1983),
p. 26.
[30] George Black, Milton Jamail and Norma Stoltz
Chinchilla, Garrison Guatemala (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984),
p. 159. (Hereafter Black et al.)
[31] The incident was reported by Yaov Kami in Yediot
Aharonot
, November 3, 1980.
[32] Central America Report, October 31, 1977.
[33] Central America Report, December 12, 1977; Uno
Mas Uno
, December 4 and 9, 1977.
[34] CERI-GUA, passim; ORPA Denuncia, passim. Cynthia Arnson,
“Israel and Central America,” New Outlook, March-April 1984, p. 20,
provides information on some of the military material Guatemala received. See
also Israel Shahak, Israel’s Global Role: Weapons for Repression
(Belmont, MA: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982). A
variety of other sources, as well as my own field research, have confirmed
Guatemala’s receipt of such equipment and personnel.
[35] Black et al, pp. 154-155.
[36] Davar, August 13, 1982.
[37] Clarence Lusane, “Israeli Arms in Central America,” Covert
Action
(Winter 1984), p. 36.
[38] Black et al, p. 154.
[39] ORPA Denuncia, p. 3.
[40] Amnesty International (1981).
[41] CERI-GUA, p. 5; Jane Hunter in Israeli Foreign
Affairs
1/4; Black, p. 44.
[42] “Moderna escuela de transmisiones y electronica del
ejercito inaugurada,” Diario de Centro America (Guatemala City),
November 5, 1981. Arnson (“Israel and Central America,” p. 20) confirms the
Israeli role in designing, staffing and funding the school.
[43] Guardian, December 29, 1981. See also Jacques
Lemieux, “Le role d’Israel: Encerclement du regime Sandiniste,” Le Monde
Diplomatique
, October 1984. While allegations of Israeli training in
interrogation and torture techniques cannot be proven, such Israeli practices against
Palestinians are amply documented. See, for example, Law in the Service of Man,
Torture and Intimidation in the West Bank: The Case of al-Fara‘a Prison
(Ramallah, 1985); Sunday Times (London), June 19, 1977; and the three
State Department reports of Alexandra Johnson published in the Palestine
Human Rights Bulletin
17 (April 1979).
[44] Arieh Egozi, “An Israeli for Hire,” Yediot Aharonot,
April 3, 1985, translated by Israel Shahak.
[45] The figure is cited in a variety of sources. See
CERI-GUA, and Excelsior (Mexico City), October 11, 1983.
[46] New York Times, December 17, 1982.
[47] Washington Post, January 23, 1982.
[48] Washington Post, August 17, 1983.
[49] Edy Kaufman, “The View from Jerusalem,” Washington
Quarterly
(Fall 1984), p. 46.
[50] Emmanuel Rosen, “Lonely Wolves in the Arms Jungle,” Ma’ariv,
August 12, 1982, translated by Israel Shahak. Victor Perera provides a good
discussion of the role of these private arms merchants, especially that of
Marcus Katz; see “Uzi Diplomacy,” Mother Jones (July 1985).
[51] According to one report, Israeli social psychologists
discovered the great respect of Guatemalan Indians for the ancient Maya-Quiche
gods, including Balam, the God of Gods and of War. Naming the elite troops
Kaibiles was intended to invoke fear and respect. SIAG, Los Kaibiles
(special report), January 1983.
[52] Frank and Wheaton, p. 70.
[53] Yoav Kami in Yediot Aharonot, March 28, 1982 and
Haim Baram in Ha’olam Hazeh, April 12, 1982. Edy Kaufman states that the
allegation of 300 Israeli advisers participating in the coup is a “gross
exaggeration.” “The Israeli Involvement in Latin America,” in William Perry and
Peter Wehner, eds., The Latin American Policies of US Allies (New York:
Praeger, 1986), p. 159.
[54] Black et al, p. 156.
[55] Black, p. 44.
[56] Houston Chronicle, January 26, 1982.
[57] Latin America Regional Reports: Mexico and Central
America (RM-84-04), May 4, 1984, p. 5.
[58] Judith Laikin Elkin, Jews of the Latin American
Republics
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980), p. 193.
[59] “Lobos Visits Israel, Vatican,” Enfoprensa
(Washington, DC), March 1, 1985.
[60] Associated Press, April 12, 1985; New York Times,
April 13, 1985, says only that Mejia Victores was going to “the Middle East.”
[61] CERI-GUA, p. 2.
[62] New York Times, August 22, 1982.
[63] Cited in the Miami Herald, December 13, 1982.
[64] For Sharon’s statement, see Miami Herald,
December 13, 1982. The proposal was subsequently discussed in a New York
Times
article (April 22, 1984) excerpted from Haaretz; the Israeli
government officially denied it was going to play such a role. See also Philadelphia
Inquirer
, May 31, 1984; Washington Post, June 16, 1984.
[65] Washington Post, September 15, 1985.
[66] Israel Shahak in an analysis dated December 1, 1981.
[67] The original source for most of the information on
Israeli investments in Guatemala was CERI-GUA, pp. 5-6. Interviews have
confirmed the presence of Tahal, Tadiran and IAI.
[68] See Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua), November 9, 1983; Granma
(US), October 30, 1983; Disweek (Belize), November 18, 1983; Guardian
(US), November 16, 1983.
[69] SIAG, April 27, 1984. There are numerous sources that
argue that the plant was built with Israeli capital and technology, and that
Israeli technicians set up the factory. See, for example, Latin American
Regional Report, December 2, 1983 and Enfoprensa, January 6, 1984. Other
sources report that Austria is the major external investor in the munitions
factory. Since it was built to produce bullets for the Israeli Galil (and to
produce the Galil in the future), it is reasonable to presume that Israeli
interests are involved.
[70] New York Times, July 7, 1984.
[71] See also “Government Making Its Own Weaponry,” San
Antonio Light
, December 28, 1983, and Guardian, November 16, 1983.
[72] Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias (Managua), “Project
for Economic Recovery,” March 29, 1985. Taiwan and South Africa were also
mentioned as possible investors in the project.
[73] The material on the San Marcos Plan is taken from a
report prepared by SIAG, April 27, 1984, and from my research in Central
America in the summer of 1984.
[74] Miami Herald, May 10, 1986.
[75] New York Times, July 21, 1983.
[76] Robert Kaiser, “Is Dependency on US Aid Doing Israel
Any Good?” Miami Herald, June 3, 1984.
[77] Washington Post, May 19, 1984.
[78] Nathaniel Lorch, “Latin America and Israel,” Jerusalem
Quarterly
(Winter 1982), p. 81.
The history of Israel’s relations with Guatemala
roughly parallels that of its ties with El Salvador except the Guatemalan
military was so unswervingly bloody that Congress never permitted the …
Reagan Administration to undo the military aid cutoff implemented during the
Carter years.
Weaponry for the Guatemalan military is the very
least of what Israel has delivered. Israel not only provided the technology
necessary for a reign of terror, it helped in the organization and commission
of the horrors perpetrated by the Guatemalan military and police. And even
beyond that: to ensure that the profitable relationship would continue, Israel
and its agents worked actively to maintain Israeli influence in Guatemala.
Throughout the years of untrammeled slaughter that
left at least 45,000 dead, and, by early 1983, one million in internal exile –
mostly indigenous Mayan Indians, who comprise a majority of Guatemala’s eight
million people – and thousands more in exile abroad, Israel stood by the
Guatemalan military. Three successive military governments and three brutal and
sweeping campaigns against the Mayan population, described by a U.S. diplomat as
Guatemala’s “genocide against the Indians,” had the benefit of
Israeli techniques and experience, as well as hardware.
***
Israel began selling Guatemala weapons in 1974 and
since then is known to have delivered 17 Arava aircraft. In 1977 at the annual
industrial fair, Interfer, Israel’s main attraction was the Arava. “An
operative Arava is to be parked outside the IAI pavilion for public inspection,
although its silhouette in flight is a common sight over the capital and
countryside.”‘
Referring to the Aravas, Benedicto Lucas Garcia,
chief of staff during the rule of his brother Romeo Lucas Garcia (1978-1982)
said, “Israel helped us in regard to planes and transportation-which we
desperately needed because we’ve had problems in transferring ground forces from
one place to another. By 1982, at least nine of the Aravas had been mounted
with gun pods.
Among the other weapons sold by Israel were 10 RBY
armored personnel carriers, three Dabur class patrol boats armed with Gabriel
missiles, light cannons, machine guns and at least 15,000 Galil assault rifles.
The Galil became Guatemala’s standard rifle and Uzis were widely seen as well.
According to Victor Perera, “Uzis and the
larger Galil assault rifles used by Guatemala’s special counterinsurgency
forces accounted for at least half of the estimated 45,000 Guatemalan Indians
killed by the military since 1978”
***
When the Reagan Administration took office it was
determined to do everything it could for Guatemala. It had promised as much
during the election campaign. Never had Ronald Reagan seen a rightist
dictatorship he didn’t like; during his 1980 campaign he met with a
representative of the right-wing business lobby Los Amigos del Pais, and,
referring to the Carter Administration’s aid cutoff, told him, “Don’t give
up. Stay there and fight. I’ll help you as soon as I get in.”
The Guatemalan far-right apparently helped Reagan
get in.
Guatemalan business leaders reportedly pumped large
illegal contributions into the Reagan campaign coffers. Their tentacles reached
right into the core of the new administration through the lobbying activities
of the Hannaford-Deaver law firm of White House troika member Michael Deaver.
Within three days of the Republican victory on 7 November 1980,
Hannaford-Deaver were busy arranging a Capitol Hill briefing for Amigos del
Pais.
Congress, however, did not change its attitude
about Guatemala, and as late as 1985 remained adamant about denying it military
aid. In 1981, Reagan’s Secretary of State Alexander Haig “urged Israel to
help Guatemala.” In July 1985 Israel helped the administration move a
shipment of 40 assault rifles with advanced night sights and 1,000 grenade
launchers from Israel to Guatemala on a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight.
In late 1983, the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP)
issued a communiqué saying that the previous May a munitions factory producing
bullets for Galil rifles and Uzi submachine guns had begun operation in Alta
Verapaz. Subsequently the director of Army Public Relations confirmed that the
military was producing Galil rifle parts, had begun armor plating its vehicles
at the factory, and that the facility would soon be capable of building grenade
launchers. The following year the factory began manufacturing entire Galil
rifles under license from Israel.
Israeli advisers set up the factory and then
trained the Guatemalans to run it, said Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia, who had
headed the army at the time. “The factory is now being run by
Guatemalans,” he added. There are hopes in Guatemala that 30 percent of
the plant’s output can be sold to Honduras and El Salvador.
The EGP said in 1983 that there were 300 Israeli
advisers in Guatemala, working “in the security structures and in the
army.” Other reports were less specific as to numbers, but suggested that
these Israeli advisers, “some official, others private,” performed a
variety of functions. Israelis “helped Guatemalan internal security agents
hunt underground rebel groups.”
Gen. Lucas said Israeli advisers had come to teach
the use of Israeli equipment purchased by Guatemala. Throughout the 1960s and
1970s the Guatemalan police agencies had had extensive U.S. training in
“riot control training and related phases of coping with civil
disturbances in a humane and effective manner,” a euphemism for the terror
campaigns in which these forces participated that in 1967-1968 took 7,000 lives
while ostensibly fighting a guerrilla force that never numbered more than 450.
When Congress forbade U.S. forces to train the internal police forces of other
countries-passed in 1974, this law was supplanted in 1985 by legislation that
put the U.S. back in the police-guidance business – the Israelis stepped in and
“set up their intelligence network, tried and tested on the West Bank and
Gaza.”
Israeli noncommissioned officers were also said to
have been hired by big landowners to train their private security details.
(Under Marcos, Israel did the same in the Philippines. These private squads,
together with “off-duty military officers formed the fearsome ‘death
squads’ which later spread to neighboring El Salvador, where they have been
responsible for an estimated 20,000-30,000 murders of left-wing
dissidents.”
Not only did the Israelis share their experiences
and their tactics, they bestowed upon Guatemala the technology needed by a modern
police state. During the period Guatemala was under U.S. tutelage, the
insurgency spread from the urban bourgeoisie to the indigenous population in
the rural highlands; with Israeli guidance the military succeeded in
suppressing … the drive for land and political liberation. The Guatemalan
military is very conscious of that achievement, even proud of it. Some officers
argue that with the help of the U.S. they could not have quelled the
insurgency, as Congress would not have tolerated their ruthless tactics.
In 1979, the Guatemalan interior minister paid a
“secret and confidential” visit to Israel, where he met with the
manufacturers of “sophisticated police equipment.” In March of the
following year Interior Minister Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz was in Israel to conclude
an agreement for police training. Following the overthrow of Lucas Garcia, the
home of Interior Minister Alvarez was raided, “uncovering underground jail
cells, stolen vehicles…[and] scores of gold graduation rings, wrenched from
the fingers of police torture victims.”
Israeli advisers have worked with the feared G-2
police intelligence unit. overseen by the army general staff, the G-2 is the
intelligence agency – sections charged with “the elimination of
individuals” are stationed at every army base – which has been largely
responsible for the death squad killings over the last decade. The present
civilian government has dissolved the DIT, a civilian organization subordinate
to G-2, but not G-2 itself.
In 1981, the Army’s School of Transmissions and
Electronics, a school designed and financed by the Israeli company Tadiran to
teach such subjects as encoding, radio jamming and monitoring, and the use of
Israeli equipment was opened in Guatemala City. According to the colonel
directing the school, everything in it came from Israel: the “teaching
methods, the teaching teams, the technical instruments, books, and even the
custom furniture…designed and built by the Israeli company DEGEM
Systems.”
At the opening ceremony the Israeli ambassador was
thanked by Chief of Staff Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia for “the advice and
transfer of electronic technology” which, Lucas said, had brought
Guatemala up to date. Calling Guatemala “one of our best friends” the
ambassador promised that further technology transfers were in the works.
Perhaps the most sinister of all the equipment
supplied by Israel to Guatemala were two computers. One was in an old military
academy and became, as Benedicto Lucas called it, “the nerve center of the
armed forces, which deals with the movements of units in the field and so
on.” The other computer was located in an annex of the National Palace.
The G-2 have a control center there, and, since the days of Romeo Lucas Garcia,
meetings have been held in that annex to select assassination victims.
According to a senior Guatemalan army official, the complex contains “an
archive and computer file on journalists, students, leaders, people of the
left, politicians, and so on. ” This material is combined with current
intelligence reports and mulled over during weekly sessions that have included,
in their respective times, both Romeo Lucas and Oscar Mejia Victores.
The bureaucratic procedures for approving the
killing of a dissident are well-established. “A local military commander
has someone they think is a problem,” the officer explains. “So they
speak with G-2, and G-2 consults its own archives and information from its
agents and the police and, if all coincide, it passes along a direct
proposition to the minister of defense. They say, ‘We have analyzed the case of
such and such a person in depth and this person is responsible for the
following acts and we recommend that we execute them.”
***
Control of the Rural Population

The aspect of Israeli cooperation with Guatemala
with the most serious implications is the role played by Israeli personnel in
the universally condemned rural “pacification” program. Extreme
maldistribution of land-exacerbated by encroachment on indigenous land-was a
major cause of the present rebellion. After trying several different
approaches, the military, under Rios Montt, embarked on a resolution of the
problem, substituting forced relocation and suppression for equitable land
distribution.
In 1982 Israeli military advisers helped develop
and carry out ‘Plan Victoria’ the devastating scorched earth campaign which
Rios Montt .unleashed on the highland population. In June 1983, the Guatemalan
embassy in Washington confirmed that “personnel sent by the Israeli
government were participating in the repopulation and readjustment programs for
those displaced.” Rios Montt himself told the Washington Times that the
Israeli government was giving his administration help with the
counterinsurgency plan called “Techo, tortilla y trabajo” (shelter,
food and work). The “three T’s” followed an earlier Rios program
called Fusiles y Fridoles, or beans and bullets, where wholesale slaughter was
combined with the provision of life’s necessities to those willing to cooperate
with the military.
The success of the government’s initially savage
but sophisticated campaign against the rebels has come without significant U.S.
military assistance, and top field commanders say that none is necessary now to
finish the guerrillas.
“We declared a state of siege so we could kill
legally,” Rios Montt told a group of politicians. The Roman Catholic
Conference of Bishops called what Rios was doing “genocide.”
Following Rios’ overthrow, his successor Mejia Victores continued the program,
proclaiming that model villages would be extended throughout the country.
As the army bombed, strafed and burned village
after village, an estimated 100,000 peasants escaped across the border to
Mexico or to the mountainous territory controlled by the guerrillas. Others
were captured by the military. Many of those who went to the guerrillas were
later forced by hunger to surrender themselves to the military. Their fate was
confinement in model villages, what were called strategic hamlets during the
U.S. assault on Vietnam.
***
One of the most oppressive features of Guatemala’s
pacification program is the “civilian self-defense patrols” whose
ranks are filled by coercion, with most joining out of fear of being called
subversive, and thus marked for torture or execution.
Those who do serve in the patrols must “turn
in their quota of ‘subversives.”‘ Otherwise, “they will be forced to
denounce their own neighbors and to execute them with clubs and fists in the
village plaza.”‘
The patrols are believed by most analysts to have
been suggested by Israelis. They have had a profound effect on Mayan society,
both psychologically, “a permanent violation of our values or a new
negative vision,” as the country’s Catholic bishops charged, and
practically, as long shifts on patrol prevent fulfillment of family and
economic obligations
In 1983 the Guatemalan government estimated that
850 villages in the highlands had “self defense” units. The following
year the U.S. embassy in Guatemala estimated that 700,000 men had been enrolled
in the units, armed with Israeli assistance. Currently 900,000 men are
organized into the civil patrols.
***
It is no accident that the Guatemalans looked to
the Israelis for assistance in organizing their campaign against the Indians,
and having followed their mentors’ advice, wound up with something that looks
quite a bit like the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the
West Bank and the Gaza strip. As the Israelis wrecked the local economy and
turned the occupied territories into a captive market and a cheap labor pool,
the Guatemalan military has made economic activity in the occupied highlands
all but impossible.
As it is openly acknowledged in the Israeli media
that the Palestinian population must not be allowed to exceed the Jewish population,
it is common knowledge that the Guatemalan military would like to reduce the
Mayan population to a minority.
But most of all there is the unyielding violence of
the suppression. The occupation regime Israel has maintained since 1967 over
the Palestinians (and its occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian
Sinai and Southern Lebanon) has trained “an entire generation of
Israelis…to impose Israeli rule over subject peoples.” “The Israeli
soldier is a model and an example to us,” Gen. Benedicto Lucas said in
1981.
It was in the coercive resettlement program that
Israel’s activities in Guatemala intersected most directly with those of the
Christian right surrounding the Reagan Administration. This was particularly
true during the reign of Rios Montt. Montt was a so-called “born-again
Christian,” a member (“elder”) of the Arcata, California based
Church of the Word, a branch of Evangelical Gospel Outreach.
In Guatemala, the Christian right was interested in
converts by the end of 1982 reactionary Protestants had succeeded in recruiting
22 percent of the population to their theology of blind obedience and
anti-communism. They were particularly hostile to Catholicism, especially
“Liberation Theology,” which many of the Guatemalan military deemed
responsible for the insurgency.
Right-wing Christian organizations seemed to be
especially drawn to the harsh social control being exerted on the highland
Mayans. During the Rios Montt period, foreign fundamentalists were permitted
access to military operational zones, while Catholics were turned away-or
attacked. During this period “many Catholic rectories and churches in
Quiche [a highland province] [were] turned into Army barracks. In late 1983,
the Vatican itself protested the murder of a Franciscan priest in Guatemala and
the (exiled) Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (CDHG) charged that in the
space of several months 500 catechists had been disappeared. In October the
police caught and tortured some religious workers.
Meanwhile, Rios Montt surrounded himself with
advisers, both North American and Guatemalan, from his Verbo church, and what
appeared to be a loose coalition of right-wing fundamentalist organizations,
most notably Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, began an extensive
fundraising drive and also started sending volunteers to Ixil Triangle villages
under military control. Rios Montt chose Love Lift International, the
“relief arm” of Gospel Outreach, Verbo’s parent church, to carry the
food and supplies purchased with the money raised. Verbo representatives, along
with an older evangelical outfit, the Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT/SIL, the
latter initials for the Summer Institute of Linguistics, an organization whose
CIA connections are long and impeccable and which has often been charged with
involvement in massacres of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas),
arranged with the government “to take charge of all medical work in the
Ixil Triangle, and for all education in Indian areas up to the third grade to
be taught in Indian languages with WBT/SIL assistance,” through the
Behrhorst Clinic. WBT/SIL and the Clinic’s parent, the Behrhorst Foundation,
incorporated with Verbo Church into the Foundation for Aid to the Indian People
(FUNDAPI), whose stated purpose was to channel international Christian
donations to refugees and which coordinated volunteers from U.S. right-wing
religious organizations.
Although nothing has yet emerged which definitively
ties Israeli activities in Guatemala to those of the religious right, it is
reasonable to assume there is contact. Since the late 1970s the government of
Israel has devoted considerable energy to befriending such political luminaries
of rightist evangelism as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, having turned to
these groups after the National Council of Churches passed some mildly
reproving resolutions about the Middle East. The Christian extremists tell
Israel what it wants to hear. Jerry Falwell found justification in the Bible
for an Israel encompassing parts of “lraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, Sudan and all of Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait. Pat Robertson praised the
Reagan Administration’s veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon with some gobbledygook tying the invasion to the
fundamentalist superstition that Israel will be the site of the last battle,
Armageddon: “Israel has lit the fuse, and it is a fast burning fuse, and I
don’t think that the fuse is going to be quenched until that region explodes in
flames. That is my personal feeling from the Bible.” Robertson urged his
viewers to call the White House and voice their support for the Israeli
invasion.
Untroubled by the scene in Armageddon when all the
Jews will be converted (or damned), Israel welcomed the “Christian Voice
of Hope” radio station and its companion “Star of Hope”
television to Southern Lebanon, and, even though proselytizing is illegal in
Israel, provided the stations with Israeli government newscasts. Supported by
donations from U.S. right-wing evangelicals, and in particular by Pat
Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, the stations were “used as a
military tool” by the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army.
Aside from the religious right and their secular
allies, the Guatemalan model villages have been universally condemned. Until
1985 a bipartisan majority opposed the granting of any U.S. aid that would
strengthen the development poles. This, of course, stopped short of
undercutting support for the “pacification” program, as funds
received from U.S. AID and other foreign sources freed up government funds for
use on the model villages. In 1984, U.S. AID granted Guatemala $1 million which
was used for constructing infrastructure for the model villages. Americas Watch
Vice Chairman Aryeh Neier pointed out that humanitarian assistance from the
U.S. has “played an essential role in the Guatemalan Army’s
counterinsurgency programs,” enabling the army to distribute (or withhold)
food to exact compliance with its resettlement program.
***
Abdication of Responsibility
… When the U.S. intervened in Guatemala and
overthrew its liberal, democratically elected government in 1954, it
effectively transferred rule to the country’s military, which has held power
ever since. Even the civilian presidency of Julio Cesar Mendez Montenegro was (with
U.S. acquiescence) immediately subjugated by the military. To cite only one
example of the continuity that makes the last three tragic decades of Guatemala
a U.S. responsibility: the dossiers that formed the basis of the intelligence
unit G-2’s death squad selection process also date back to 1954. After the fall
of the government of Jacobo Arbenz, the army confiscated the membership lists
of the many organizations which had blossomed during the all-too-short hiatus
between repressive regimes- Guatemala was ruled by the oppressive dictator
Jorge Ubico until 1945, when he was bloodlessly replaced by a popular
government under Dr. Juan Jose Arevalo-and from these lists culled 70,000
“communists.” These files were updated during the 1960s and used for
assassinations during a U.S.-supported counterinsurgency. In the 1970s Israel
stepped in and helped with the computerization of the whole bloody system.

It does not take convoluted reasoning to conclude
that “both the U.S. and Israel bear rather serious moral responsibility”
for Guatemala.

 

 

 

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