Guatemala’s UN Truth Commission report not only attributes 93% of all human rights violations and acts of violence to the Guatemalan State, which included over 600 massacres, it also finds the US responsible for playing a large role in providing military assistance and training to the Guatemalan army during the conflict. It was not until 1990, seven years after the most violent years of Guatemala’s internal armed conflict, that the US enacted a full ban on Department of State aid to the Guatemalan Army. Over the past two decades, restrictions on the ban have been weakened. Now, we face the possibility of seeing the restrictions lifted completely.
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Currently, State Department funds may only go to the Guatemalan Army if the Secretary of State certifies that the Army:
1. Has a narrowly defined mission focused on border security and external threats, and a credible plan to end the army’s involvement in internal law enforcement.
2. Cooperates with civilian investigations and prosecutions of human rights cases involving current and retired military officers.
3. Publicly discloses all military archival documents related to the internal armed conflict in a timely manner in response to requests by civilian judicial authorities.
In addition, this year, the US Congress approved special conditions for reinstatement of aid, contingent upon the Guatemalan government taking credible steps toward implementing the 2010 reparations plan for the communities affected by the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam. Over 3,000 people were affected by the dam, including 444 people massacred and several communities completely inundated when the dam was built in the early 1980s.
Why should the US maintain restrictions on military aid?
• Survivors have not seen justice for the atrocities carried out by the military. This neglect has been demonstrated by survivors of the Guatemalan genocide who have filed a complaint in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Guatemalan State for the denial of justice to witnesses involved in the genocide trial
• Peaceful communities have suffered military repression, and leaders are increasingly criminalized for their work defending human rights, territory and natural resources.
• Guatemala clearly does not meet conditions necessary to receive military aid defined by the US Department of State, as the Guatemalan Army expands its role in law enforcement, and refuses to disclose some documents related to the internal armed conflict.