By Anonymous (not verified) on May 26, 2011

Now that the Guatemalan government is coming clean on the 1954 coup there, the Obama administration should follow suit.

Fifty-seven years ago, the United States ensured a legacy of military intervention, human rights abuses and economic instability in Guatemala when the CIA ousted Jacobo Arbenz, that country’s democratically elected president.

On May 19, the Guatemalan government acknowledged its own wrongdoing and agreed to pay reparations to Arbenz’s family. Now it is time for President Obama to make good on his promise of ushering in a new day for U.S.-Latin American relations by owning up to our responsibility for undermining Guatemalan democracy. And the U.S. corporations that instigated the coup ought to pay reparations not only to the Arbenz family but also to the entire country of Guatemala.

Arbenz wanted to bring democracy to Guatemala, modernize the state, expand and strengthen the middle class and implement land reform to alleviate deep inequality. A small, white landholding elite ruled over an impoverished, mostly indigenous population. When Arbenz was elected president, 2 percent of the population owned 70 percent of the country’s land.

United Fruit (today’s Del Monte) was Guatemala's largest landowner. U.S. companies also owned major electrical utilities, the only railroad and the banana industry, the country’s major source of revenue.

The U.S. government, at the urging of United Fruit and with the backing of the Guatemalan elite, instigated Arbenz’s ouster. The ensuing military government frustrated Guatemalans’ desire for democracy and economic development, setting the stage for a bloody, 36-year civil war in which more than 200,000 people were killed — the vast majority at the hands of the military. The U.S. government armed and trained that military, despite its rampant human rights abuses.

With its gesture toward the Arbenz family, the Guatemalan government has taken an important step toward setting the historical record straight. A similar gesture from the U.S. government and Del Monte is long overdue.

Ana Perez is the executive director of the Central American Resources Center (CARECEN) in San Francisco and the president of the Salvadoran American National Network (SANN). She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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