Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sins of the Fathers

America’s involvement in Central America’s liberation struggles of the 1980s continues to reverberate in the region, as noted in this article:
After three Salvadoran congressmen were waylaid and killed on a road in Guatemala last month, it did not take the authorities long to find the culprits: they were Guatemalan police officers, and their unmarked police car had a tracking device that proved they were at the scene.

They quickly confessed, saying they thought their victims were drug dealers, and were sent to a maximum-security prison.

It is a measure of the weakness of the crime-plagued Guatemalan state that what happened just four days later remains something of a mystery — aside from the indisputable fact that the four who confessed ended up dead.

The police and the interior minister say that rioting gang members inside the prison shot and stabbed them. But other inmates and their visitors that day say a group of heavily armed men in military garb and ski masks made their way through seven locked doors and executed them, with no interference from guards, removing any possibility that they could identify co-conspirators.
. . .
Human rights advocates and opposition politicians have taken the two sets of killings as proof that criminal gangs have corrupted Guatemala’s national police force and that groups of officers are operating like drug syndicates, robbing and killing competing dealers.

The squads of rogue officers, human rights experts and others say, are in a sense an outgrowth of Guatemala’s long internal conflict. Some former military officers who came of age during the bloody counterinsurgency operations of the 1980’s are members of the new rogue squads, according to human rights experts and opposition politicians. They say other members are younger, but have adopted the old practices of assassination and terrorism to combat crime and, sometimes, to line their own pockets.

“The truth, I think, is the problem comes from the end of the armed conflict, when the state tried to protect itself against rebels,” said the editor of La Hora newspaper, Óscar Clemente Marroquín. “When the war stopped, the apparatus kept operating the same way but now it doesn’t protect the military. Now it protects organized crime.”