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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Justice for Mayans in Guatemala genocide

Dina Gilio-Whitaker on the successful verdict in the Maya genocide trial in Guatemala:
Google “Guatemalan genocide” and you’ll find in Wikipedia a description that characterizes it as a civil war between the government and leftist rebel groups made up of predominantly Mayan Indians and poor peasants. This is pretty typical for how aggression against indigenous populations in all of Latin America has been framed in news and other literature since the 1950’s. The applied terms are “civil war,” not colonization. They are “leftist rebels” fighting legitimate governments, not indigenous peoples protecting territories and their rights to exist against settler oligarchies and foreign business interests. This kind of terminology reflects the manipulative, propagandistic language of Cold War-era hysteria where communism was the evil force to be eradicated, and was often a front for despotic leaders in collusion with transnational corporations, all in the name of democracy.

But the facts remain: between 1981 and 1983 the Guatemalan army destroyed 626 villages, killed or disappeared more than 200,000 people and turned well over a million people into refugees. All backed by the Reagan administration government, and accomplished with American and Israeli made weapons.

History was made in May in an interesting turn of events in the Guatemalan legal system. On May 10, a lower court convicted former president/dictator Efrain Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity for overseeing the slaughter of 1,700 people in the mountainous, Mayan occupied Ixil region after a military coup in 1982.

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Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Justice for Mayans in Guatemala (Indian Country Today 6/20)

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