Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 243 | Octubre 2001



Pain and questions in the Guatemalan Press

The world won’t be the same, but Guatemala will. We will continue in our daily drama, our eternal poverty…" The thoughts of Guatemalans on the September 11 tragedy are reflected here in a chorus of voices.

Juan Hernández Pico, SJ

The catastrophic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have had strong repercussions in Guatemala—in the media, in people’s conversations in the streets, in the people themselves. I will not easily forget the sharp pain and deep anger I felt watching that disaster happen live, along with millions of other people. Pain for those who died right before my eyes and anger over the global arms trade that helps explain what we saw.

I recalled that 42 years ago, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a famous speech on the danger to democracy posed by the "military-industrial complex," the fusion of the ever-greater technological capabilities of modern industry and the military’s endless need for increasingly sophisticated weapons. This fusion, he warned, could divert industrial technology from its worthy purpose of creating greater well-being for humanity and aim it instead towards the destruction of life and democratic civilization. The specter of a perverse alliance between industry, finance and the military coalescing in dictatorships equipped with sophisticated weapons to oppress people, repress dissent and destroy liberty and life thus reared its head on the horizon. The most important thing about this warning was that it came from a five-star general who led the allied troops to their victory over Nazi Germany and expansionist Japan in World War II. It came, in short, from someone who knew what he was talking about.

The incredible arms trade

Since then, the business of producing and selling increasingly complicated and efficient arms aimed at destruction has become the second most profitable criminal business in the world, after the drug trade. The 1994 UN Conference on Global Organized Crime estimated that international drug trafficking rakes in some US$500 billion a year, even more than the oil trade. The profits from all other kinds of criminal trafficking—in arms, radioactive materials, children, human organs, illegal immigrants, prostitution, kidnapping, paid assassinations, cutting-edge technology, illegal chemical or radioactive waste dumps—amount to between US$750 billion and $1 trillion.

The United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Israel and the Czech Republic are among the world’s leading arms exporters. There are no controls over either the destination or the use of the exported weapons, however. This is demonstrated by the scandal involving former Argentine President Carlos Menem. It is revealed by the AKs, M-16s and Uzis that were used in Guatemala to massacre whole villages in the 1980s and have now found their way into the hands of the people who rob our country’s banks and buses. And it is shown by the arms US adolescents use to cut short the lives of their classmates. Something is clearly rotten in the legal and illegal global arms trade.

A pocket-sized nuclear weapon?

On September 11, the whole world saw a live broadcast of the most devastating terrorist attack of all time—if we exclude the US napalm bombings of Vietnam and a few other events. We were stunned with pain for the victims, shock and surprise over the blows struck, panic over the vulnerability and lack of security in our global village and indignation over the insensitivity and fanatical abuse of ideologies and religions implicit in the attacks. These are such devastating emotions that we must pray that the response will not submerge us into a violent spiral of revenge. We must hope that democracy and civilization are defended with ethical thinking and not only technological might. Above all, we must trust that this horrible event will lead to global decisions to drastically cut, regulate and control the production and export of arms and severely pursue illegal trafficking. Enough harm has been done with a few box-cutters; those of us who remember the hecatombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 do not want to see the horrendous results of a terrorist’s imaginative use of a pocket-sized nuclear weapon or a state’s use of its terrible weapons in retaliation.

Echoes and analysis

Between September 12 and 29, I read 130 editorials and opinion pieces in the Guatemalan press on the events of September 11. This averages out to eight a day, and my inventory is probably not complete. There were all kinds of articles. Some focused on the feelings that the catastrophe produced in the writer: solidarity, impotence, indignation, a certain satisfaction because "the Gringos got what was coming to them." Others speculated on the changes that this ominous event will bring about in the United States and beyond. Many tried to explain what happened and delved into analyses of the international situation, especially the new epoch in the world; the contrast between the prosecution of justice and the search for revenge; prospects for war and peace; and the economic, political and cultural impact.

Other commentators steeped themselves in philosophical analyses on humanity, the destiny of our species on the planet, Manichaean or simplistic emotional explanations, the fate of freedom and the ethical challenges posed. Some launched into agitated debates—part of an ideological struggle, perhaps?—with people who don’t share their opinions. There were also reprints of editorials from other newspapers in Latin America, Europe and the United States, and of course many writers reflected on the consequences for Guatemala, or boldly anticipate them.

Where did we go wrong?

Of all that I read, one of the commentaries that moved me most profoundly, because of its humanism, philosophical depth and political vision, was an essay by Arturo Monterroso titled "A Time of Pain." He wrote, "In the midst of the inevitable grief caused by so much absurd death in the most universal of cities which remains, nonetheless, a Tower of Babel, I thought back to 1969, a time of leisure and love, when the twin towers that have now been destroyed by terrorism did not yet exist. In the light of such pain, I again affirm that nothing justifies the loss of a single human life; no idea, political cause or religious creed justifies death or destruction. Nor can we justify any commercial ambition, political domination or hegemonic power that obliges millions of human beings to live in poverty and dependence…. What an innocent time that was, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed in bed for seven days to demonstrate in favor of peace. Perhaps the time has come to rethink human destiny once again, to find out where we took the wrong path, to ask ourselves if the way of life the West has chosen is equally good for everyone; perhaps it is time for people in the United States to ask themselves how much responsibility they bear in the causes of their own tragedy."

For whom the bells toll

Other writers took similar lines. For example, in an essay titled "For Whom the Bells Toll," Eduardo Villatoro attempted to look honestly at the complexity of the United States. "I feel pain, sadness and anger at the perversity of man and am moved by the suffering of the North American people…. At the edge lingers vague resentments and silent reproaches to US governments that have used America as their backyard, their support to military dictatorships and their interventions in past decades…. But the United States is not only the imperial, arrogant country of Theodore Roosevelt, the Dulles brothers and Richard Nixon. It is also the country of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway. Do you remember for whom the bells toll?"

New York was my city

Dina Fernández, an audacious columnist who regularly bells the cat without worrying about the scratches, wrote with deep tenderness about the unforgettable tragedy and the city that suffered it. "As the numbness from the terrorist attack begins to wear off, what remains among the ruins of this world we thought invulnerable is great indignation for the lives treacherously cut down and great concern for a future that appears stormy. In my case, I have also been left with an immense sorrow for a city that was for a time my city…. Among the memories I treasure is a visit to the financial district when I laid down under the twin towers to see how they both seemed to bend to reach towards each other high in the sky. Today, these enormous structures of steel, glass and aluminum that defined the city’s skyline, its economic power and the character of its inhabitants have disintegrated along with thousands of people inside them. You can come to love or hate New York, because you need a special kind of boldness to live there. I obviously didn’t have enough of it and came back home, but I can’t deny that I fell in love with the place forever. New Yorkers are indefatigable people. That’s why I’m sure the city will know how to remember the date that changed it and the world, but will also be able to shake off the sadness and move on."
Margarita Carrera, a poet, responded to the tragedy with these words: "When I saw the two towers in New York collapse, I felt something die inside me. First came terror and then depression. The world had changed and nothing would be the same, because these attacks were aimed not only against the United States but against all of humanity. New York is the capital of the world, the place where all nationalities meet, where all economic and cultural movements of East and West come together. And in one way or another, for better or worse, humanity revolves around it."

Fear is a poor adviser

Many commentators have focused on the changes this provocation will bring about in the United States and the world as a whole. An editorial in El Periódico the day after the attack said that it "reveals the vulnerability of the United States and will transform the way this enormous country sees itself. It is not good for anyone that the world’s most powerful country feels threatened to such a degree. Fear tends to be a poor adviser."
Mario Monteforte Toledo, a writer and former politician who has spent many of his 90 years in exile, explored the ominous changes that could result from a new security policy aimed at all countries more or less disaffected from the United States, like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. The events are also likely, he said, to "unleash a streak of racism against foreigners within the United States, torpedo projects aimed at resolving the situation of immigrants and lead the United States to an isolationism that would seriously affect the global economy."

The great empire’s feet
are made of clay

Héctor Mauricio López Bonilla, a retired lieutenant colonel and intelligence expert, differed with those who believe everything has changed: "We shouldn’t fool ourselves. The action had a strong psychological impact, but has not changed the new international order. The political, economic, military, cultural and technological power of the United States has not been affected. It will have even greater capacity to maneuver. These events have created the conditions necessary to fully deal with the danger of terrorism as a criminal arm of extremist groups, whether Islamic fundamentalists, xenophobic nationalists or radical ideological activists."
Gustavo Porras, who was once former President Arzú’s private secretary and one of the government’s negotiators in the Peace Accords, disagrees. "No reprisal, no matter how great, will annul terrorism’s will to fight, but will rather exacerbate it. For this reason and many more, it is essential to define a path of peace, even if we have no one to negotiate with. Those of us who want peace can prove it by helping to find solutions to the sharpest global conflicts and renouncing the unilateral prerogative to intervene in the affairs of other states and nations, imposing solutions by force. The events of September 11 show that there is no absolute military hegemony in today’s world, that the great empire’s feet are made of clay."

Unjustifiable but explicable

Some commentators have sought to examine the possible causes of the tragedy, while others staunchly reject any such efforts. For example, Mario Roberto Morales, a novelist and professor of literature in universities in the United States, wrote that "terrorism can be condemned but it also can and must be explained, which does not justify it. It is appropriate to refer to the long sequence of violent acts between Israel and the Arab world and the unrestricted US support for the extreme rightwing ideologies and policies of Israeli fundamentalism, which brutally collides on a daily basis with "illuminated" terrorist and suicidal Islamic fundamentalism."
Francisco Pérez de Antón, a Spanish language scholar, argued against such explanations. "The writings of that incoherent, uncompassionate Left, which seem to be filled more with congratulations than condolences, have caught my attention. The massacre is not justifiable, say some, but it is explainable. And they explain it. The causes of the tragedy must be sought in US policy in the Middle East. The $40 billion that is to be invested in the war against terrorism should be used instead to fight hunger, argue those adept at platitudes. One must lament, but the Gringos were looking for it and got what they had coming. It is hard to find a single drop of humanitarianism in this Left. Their incapacity to distinguish terrorism from politics is stunning."

The war didn’t begin that day

Many writers set the attacks in the context of recent history. Oscar Clemente Marroquín, a quasi-editorialist for La Hora, recalled a CBS interview with people whose villages were destroyed by Clinton’s retaliatory response to the 1998 attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: "‘Human beings lived here too, just like those hurt or killed in the embassies. The difference is that you take revenge with missiles from afar, while we do it with our own hands.’ The principle of an eye for an eye only draws us into a terrible, spiraling confrontation. A Third World War? The principle of an eye for an eye does not do much to keep that specter at bay."
Mario Roberto Morales recalled that "the next day, the 12th, marked the 19th anniversary of the horrendous massacre in Sabra and Shatila by Israeli forces.” It is worth considering the two dates and actions as moments in a war that didn’t begin with the destruction of the World Trade Center, in which intricate ethnic and religious factors are mixed with economic ones related to control over oil and its distribution channels."

Undermining the demands
of the oppressed

Some commentators discussed the likely impact of the events on the world’s poor and oppressed. Victor Ferrigno wrote that "the irrational violence of miniscule terrorist groups will not bring down an economic and military power. But it brutally hurts civilians and undermines the actions and just demands of the oppressed, discriminated and excluded, exposing them to the indiscriminate reprisals of the powerful. For the moment, terrorists are characterized as people with dark skins, the Islamic faith and Arab origins. Later, this stereotype will be extended to all citizens of the Third World and all social sectors that question hegemonic power, to the joy of racists in Guatemala and around the world. Independent of the validity of Huntington’s postulates (that future wars will be waged between civilizations), it is monumentally stupid to maintain that Osama bin Laden represents Islamic culture and that the Pentagon and NATO are the custodians of Western culture."

Against terrorism and war

Carolina Escobar Sarti’s commentary goes straight to the contrast between revenge and justice. "If all of humanity acted according to the notion of an eye for an eye, we would all end up blind. The last century left us with a very bitter taste, a product of violence and wars. These irrational acts also occur for political reasons and because of unresolved problems between countries. War isn’t just war, it’s a synonym for more hunger in the world. It could endanger the progress made in human rights, encourage a witch-hunt, fan the arms race. People of peace have a very important role to play: reminding the world that violence always engenders more violence and never more peace, that you can be against terrorism and also against the war, that we need not set ourselves against an absolute enemy once again."

A prudent response

Víctor Ferrigno, one of the most perceptive columnists in the Guatemalan press, wrote along similar lines: "The shock and pain will be followed by a generalized demand that the crime not go unpunished, but we must not confuse justice with vengeance. Those responsible should be punished but without causing innocent victims, in the framework of international law, proportionality and political prudence. The phantom of war began to arise when the media and government officials compared the attacks to Pearl Harbor, which led to the United States’ entry into the Second World War. That war ended with the dropping of atomic bombs and over half a million innocent deaths, which did not include Emperor Hirohito, the man responsible for the attack."
The same idea resonated in Carolina Vásquez Araya’s commentary: "The prime minister of Japan knows what he’s talking about when he calls for prudence. He is recalling Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the United States was responsible for executing hundreds of thousands of human beings. The world is crying out now for a prudent response."
Jorge Palmieri, a journalist who served as President Miguel Ydígoras’ private secretary some forty years ago, expressed a different opinion. He described what happened as "an attack on the symbols of economic and military power, of capitalism. It is senseless to ask the United States to respond gently; this would only occur to hackneyed Marxists who are happy at heart about what happened. It would be in vain to appeal to the nobility of the great people of the United States and ask them to understand the apocalyptic risks the world will run as a consequence of the reprisals."

A different historical moment

Savio Garavini di Turno raised the issue of that ideologically optimistic eagerness that interpreted the approaching 21st century after the fall of the Berlin wall and breakup of the Soviet Union as the "end of history." "Unlike at Pearl Harbor, this enemy is not a state but rather a complex organized network of terrorists ready to commit suicide. The attack could not have been prepared, however, without the financial and logistical support of some state. States that support terrorist groups expose themselves to systematic, brutal and continuing retaliation. The concept of absolute national sovereignty, weakened by the humanitarian interventions in the Balkans, is a thing of the past. US territory has been attacked for the first time and the United States has lost some of its ‘innocence.’ The ephemeral optimism of the post-cold war period is inevitably over."
In a separate essay, Garavini di Turno examined the characteristics of this historical moment more closely: "We are in a new cycle, but in all cycles the past makes something of a comeback. We are seeing a return to international Politics (with a capital P), silenced in the last decade by economics and trade. The issues of security and intelligence are again priorities. The 007 agents will recover their lost ‘license to kill’ and the CIA will no longer be the ‘bad guys’ in the film. The challenge for Western and North American society is how to increase security without excessively reducing the freedoms that characterize an "open society." In the war against terrorism, the United States and the rest of the civilized world need each other. The civilized world includes the Arab world, a fundamental ally in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, a true heresy of Islam. The rulers, theologians and students of the law of Islam must begin a courageous but essential ideological campaign to unmask this irrational, savage heresy, which does Islam enormous damage and helps create the conditions to bring about the kind of apocalyptic "War of Civilizations" prophesied by Samuel Huntington. Fanatical Islamic terrorists must learn before it’s too late that they are not martyrs on the path to paradise but rather suicides and mass killers, destined to burn in the worst cauldrons of hell."

The challenge to Arab leaders

The Jesuit rector of the Rafael Landívar University, Gonzalo de Villa, wrote that "the security problems are infinitely greater when those who carry out the attacks aim to immolate themselves in the act they commit. It would seem that coldly suicidal terrorists are being produced today only in the sphere of Islamic fundamentalism. Thus no one is more interested than the Arabs in helping to quarantine these radicals who terrorize the world and hold the rest of Islam, who they pervertedly purport to represent, hostage."
In an editorial that draws on a false stereotype of cowardice—a suicide terrorist is anything but a coward—Prensa Libre also raised the challenge to Arab leaders posed by the attack: "A new irony of history: Tuesday’s cowardly, fanatical act is not a victory but a defeat. The Arab world is on the defensive. Many if not all of its positions in the Middle East have been weakened. The Muslim countries are not nests of assassins or fanatics. Now it is up to their leaders to prove this."

Temporarily relinquish
some freedoms?

Gustavo Berganza wrote, "Terrorism is such an effective and easily used tactic that it is hard to counter its destructive power. Those responsible can be captured after the act, but preventing it or eradicating it is very difficult save granting governments greater surveillance power over people and the right to presume that we are all guilty until proven otherwise. The enemy could be anyone and, as a result, the zeal to eradicate this vile tactic may well become a threat to freedom."
Prensa Libre published an editorial on this same topic from the opposite angle: "The international community must understand the need and be willing to temporarily relinquish some of the freedoms we take as established."
Some analysts, so far off the record, have emphasized uncertainty about the repercussions of the international situation on human rights and civil freedoms in countries like Guatemala. For example, it seems likely that military intelligence institutions could be strengthened, but it seems unlikely that the United States will tolerate governments linked to organized crime, which is in turn globally linked to terrorist groups.

Time of the hawks?

Gustavo Berganza recalled more pedestrian but no less threatening events evoked in Central Americans from past times of state terrorism: "The warmongers who sought in the 1980s to resolve Central America’s internal conflicts through armed intervention have been finding new homes in the State Department and the National Security Council. Elliot Abrams, Under Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs under Reagan, is now the National Security Council’s human rights specialist. Otto Reich, a Cuban-American once in charge of human rights for the State Department, is now Under Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Roger Noriega, one of Jesse Helms’ former assistants, is now the US representative to the OAS. To top it off, John Dimitri Negroponte, ambassador to Honduras in 1981-85, is now the US ambassador to the UN."

The arrogance of infallibility

Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú sent an open letter to President Bush that included these thoughts: "Those of us who are proud representatives of other civilizations, who live every day in the hope of changing discrimination and dispossession into recognition and respect, who carry in our souls the pain of the genocide that has been carried out against our people, who, in short, are tired of seeing our people killed in other people’s wars, cannot share the arrogance of your infallibility or the univocal path you want us to take when you insist that ‘Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Before you give the command to ‘fire,’ I would like to invite you to think of a different kind of world leadership, in which you do not need to defeat but rather to convince, in which the human species can demonstrate that over the last 1,000 years we have overcome the urge behind "an eye for an eye," which represented justice to the barbarians who submerged humanity into medieval obscurantism, in which there is no shortage of new crusades to learn to respect those who have a different idea of God and the work of creation."

War among men: A cockfight

Margarita Carrera looked at another issue, the relationship between gender and violence: "What is dreadful about terrorism is that the victimizer, unable to direct his anger against those responsible, takes pleasure in killing innocents. This is a vile, infamous and cowardly way to vent rage. We should also recognize that men are more likely than women to commit these acts of uncommon evil. The same is true of serial killers, who seek their victims among the innocent. Is it that the heart of a man contains more wickedness than the heart of a woman? And if this is so, what is the socio-biological reason?"
Ana María Cofiño titled her article on this same issue "Cockfight." "Some men, especially when they face others who challenge their virility, feel puffed up and hot-headed like fighting cocks; they make a great deal of noise and threaten all within hearing distance to make themselves feel invincible. They justify mass killings and massacres by insisting that those who are not with them are against them. On the other side, groups crazed by the hatred and bitterness that this domination feeds attack all flanks in order to weaken and kill those who have unfeelingly subjugated and humiliated them. Eliminating the other is the only guarantee of their own survival. And thus the circle of death keeps turning. Many people in the world, especially women, oppose war, violence, injustice, impunity. Their demonstrations are downplayed, ridiculed or manipulated. Perhaps this is why they organize in networks, communicate through other means, seek creative ways and other routes to change the world."

God on whose side?

Several writers reflected on the relationship between people and their God in the service of war and peace. Marco Augusto Quiroa, a writer and philosopher, recalled another tragedy, the 1973 coup in Chile that also took place on September 11: "My solidarity goes to the North American, Israeli and Palestinian people and their defenseless, injured communities. It was nearly midnight when I went to bed on Monday September 10, thinking that the next day would mark the 28th anniversary of the martyrdom of [Chilean President] Salvador Allende. I was thinking that I wanted to sleep ‘on the same side as your name,’ as Miguelón Asturias said, and wake up with the sun high in a world of new men and women that is not a copy of this one, in a new day of peace, love and justice. Amen." It was not to be such a day.

Conrado Alonso spoke not to God but rather of God: "Thanks to God, history is dyed with blood. I cannot refrain from mentioning the irremediable paradox of seeing the emblematic slogan ‘In God we trust’ on all US bills. I am not debating the US government’s right to respond to the provocation. But will it do so in the name of God? It seems nothing like a possible star wars but rather a war between gods, provoked and sustained—and this is what is wrong—by men who invoke a different God."
Jorge Palmieri writes, "I wish that all Muslims followed Allah’s teachings on love, that all Buddhists remembered that Buddha said hatred only generates hatred and should be fought with love, and that all Christians fulfilled the commandment to "love one another." I wish, in short, that humanity were different than it is. But it is absurd to pretend that Hitler, Stalin, Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden and others like them can be fought with love."

Awakening the conscience

Edmundo Urrutia is perhaps seeking to express an essential condition for getting out of this predicament when he suggests that we consider "questions not only about the attacks but also about the nature of our species and of our history on this planet. When something happens that goes beyond our frames of reference, there is usually an awakening of the conscience and a tireless search to give meaning to the incomprehensible. But dichotic oppositions—like the fight between the forces of right and the forces of injustice, civilization against savagery, good against evil—do not help in the least in clearing up the great questions. We must look at recent history and recognize the complexity of the events to avoid reactions such as a show of force to ensure that the ‘representatives of evil’ do not see the world’s most powerful power as weak."

Looking at Latin America

Sociologist Héctor Rosada-Granados, a negotiator in the Peace Accords for Ramiro de León Carpio’s government, considered the attacks in the light of current events in Latin America. He wrote that the United States "emphasizes that the Inter-American Reciprocal Treaty is still in effect; laments the move of the Southern Command to Miami because the Panama Canal is a geo-strategic element in US national security; gives Colombia and the FARC the priority it once gave to Nicaragua, the FMLN and Cuba; proposes a plan to fight drug trafficking that could lead to direct military intervention in Colombia, a neighbor of Venezuela, while fiercely attacking Venezuela’s President for his links to Fidel Castro and the FARC and his aspiration to reunite Great Colombia as a purported socialist republic. Most analyses on the responsibility of Islamic fundamentalism leave out the possibility that this terrorist action was financed by the big drug cartels or—more worrying still—a combination of both groups. It may be that Armageddon will come to Latin America."

Economic repercussions

Many other commentators tried to decipher the consequences of this monstrous act for Guatemala and the rest of Central America. For example, the September 12 editorial in El Periódico said, "Regulations for air navigation and migration policy will now have to be considered from another, inevitably more restrictive point of view. What’s more, the weakened US economy has received this blow at an unfortunate moment. None of this can be considered good news for a country like Guatemala on the periphery of the great giant."
Pablo Rodas Martini, an economist from the London School of Economics, goes into concrete details. "What impact will this have on Central America? In the short run there will be a considerable drop in tourism, but more worrying is the moderate but permanent decline we can expect in the weeks and months ahead. The panic over getting on a plane, the security measures in the airports, the need to arrive three or four hours ahead of time and have all your bags opened—all of this will discourage travel. Bilateral cooperation will also be reduced, along with US aid channeled through the IDB, World Bank and IMF, as resources are reassigned to military spending. We will fall lower on the list of priorities. With the reprisals in the Middle East, we will feel the effects of the country’s increased oil bill in the prices of fuel and electricity."
Several days later, Rodas Martini continued this analysis in an article titled, "Tourism will collapse." "Airlines are suffering multi-million dollar losses for the days they have to stay on the ground; there will be increased security costs and delays in departure. But this will be nothing compared to the reduction in demand, which will be slashed by some 30-50%, according to The Financial Times. Nothing like this happened during the Gulf War."

Worse than the coffee crisis

Rodas Martini looked at other sectors of the economy as well: "There will not only be fewer tourists but also fewer business executives. The impact could go beyond the recent effects of the fall in coffee prices. The maquila industry will also be affected by the contraction in the US economy, and the loss of confidence among US consumers could affect it even more. With respect to exports, the only sector that may have growth potential is nontraditional agriculture. The demand for food could increase because of the fear created by the reprisals in Asia. Returning to tourism, it would be no surprise if some hotels had to be turned into apartment buildings. In addition, unemployment is likely to rise sharply in development poles like the municipalities around Lake Atitlán, the Mayan ruins at Chichicastenango and Tical."
In his comments on tourism, Rodas Martini also raised the public lack of confidence in the ruling party’s choice of tourism secretary. This is yet another example of the discontent with President Portillo’s government, which is likely to magnify the looming economic crisis. Another immediate result worth mentioning here is the devaluation of the quetzal, which has fallen to over 8 per dollar after holding steady around 7.8 because of the run on dollars.

The world won’t be the same,
but Guatemala will

Sam Colop, an indigenous journalist, wrote about how these events could be twisted in the service of a racist agenda in Guatemala. "Some will make analogies between Islamic fundamentalism and supposed Mayan fundamentalism, to inflame ethnic hatreds."
The most pessimistic voice was Oscar Clemente Marroquín’s in an article titled, "The world won’t be the same, but Guatemala will." "When it comes down to it, we are so insignificant in the global context that our opinion scarcely matters; neither for good nor for ill do they look to us. This means that we will return to our daily drama, to the eternal, suffocating poverty that flourishes in a system that lacks the capacity to assign opportunities to all in a more equitable manner. In Guatemala, we know a great deal about how repression is used to control terrorism. And though we know that basic values are lost when the state becomes brutal to wage its supposed war for freedom, we continue to scorn human rights as mere propaganda."

Let’s hope the attack
makes them wiser

Finally, the Guatemalan Conference of Priests and Nuns offered its opinions in a statement titled, "War is no answer." "We reiterate that these crimes are inexcusable. We understand that it is an insult to the ethical conscience of humanity to search for any kind of excuse for them in the current US policy towards Israel and Palestine, or in its role as a superpower, which it has sometimes exercised in a way that, in our opinion, is ethically very questionable, from Hiroshima to Guatemala and Panama, Rwanda and the Balkans, Vietnam…. We firmly hope that the government of the United States does not respond to this enormous provocation with strategies and actions that sink the world into a global war…. On September 14, the day of prayer and mourning in New York, several people raised signs that read, ‘War is no answer.’ We agree…. We hope that the United States, the European Union, Japan, the IMF and the World Bank will look critically into an economic system that dominates the world but is not able to bring prosperity or even well-being to the vast majority of humanity. We hope the global need for information does not make the United States again prioritize obtaining this information over respect for human rights, and again support the military intelligence apparatuses in the countries of America and the rest of the Third World that are responsible for so many past atrocities and even state terrorism, as the Pinochet case exemplifies in Chile and the Catholic Church’s REMHI and Historical Clarification Commission reports have denounced in our country…. In the last century, almost every country in the world has known the devastation of outside aggression in its own territory. This heart-rending experience has made almost all of them wiser and more respectful of peace. We hope that this brutal, inexcusable attack in its own territory against defenseless people from so many countries also makes the people and government of the United States wiser and more respectful of peace. We hope they react to these attacks in keeping with the golden rule inscribed in the codes of so many civilizations in the history of humanity, including the gospels: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’"


From Auschwitz to Hiroshima and Siberia, the death camps of Cambodia, the 400 villages massacred and destroyed in Guatemala, the demolished World Trade Center and so many other vast human cemeteries under the sun, the voices of our predecessors are demanding a different present that can prepare a hopeful future for humanity.

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The Armageddon Effect: The Final Test

Who Are the Undecided and the Abstainers?

Fundamentalism, Exclusion, Identity and Annihilation

El Salvador
Dollarization, Two Earthquakes and Now War

Pain and questions in the Guatemalan Press

How Wide Will the War on Terrorism Cast its Net?

Dual Societies: A Ticking Bomb

The World on the Ropes


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