If the Guatemalans can send their war criminals to jail, why are ours still walking around?
It just so happened I was reading Greg Grandin’s new biography of Henry Kissinger while the news was breaking in Guatemala.
After thirty years of civil war, and many years in which killers have transitioned seamlessly from being murderers to making money – and staying in power, Guatemalans said no more.
For months, they held mass protests demanding prosecutions in a corruption scheme that rigged trade deals for kickbacks and robbed one of Latin America’s poorest nations of millions.
This August, hundreds of thousands of people from all sectors of Guatemala’s very divided society surrounded the National Palace and refused to leave until Congress voted to strip Molina of immunity from prosecution. Which the Congress did, on fear of being on the wrong side of an angry populace just weeks before a national election.
What sent President Perez Molina and a slew of his cronies to jail was a mountain of financial and banking evidence. But what kept people in the streets was Molina’s history in the military. As a young commander, he’d led an Army unit in a particularly brutal region that saw tens of thousands slaughtered – mostly by the military - in the civil war. Impunity corrodes democracy they said. We can’t call ourselves a functioning democracy when we let oligarchs evade the rule of law.
Molina was just settling into his jail cell this September as Chileans marked the 42nd anniversary of the Coup that Henry Kissinger helped to mastermind. Kissinger’s gotten away with murder there, as well as in Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia, Southern Africa, Indonesia, Iran. His shadow extends over today’s devastated Middle East, writes Grandin. And still, he’s walking around free and smug at 92.
As one columnist put it, “Guatemala finally lost its patience.” What the heck explains ours?
You can watch my interview with Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow this week on The Laura Flanders Show on KCET/LINKtv and TeleSUR and find all my interviews and reports at lauraflanders.org. To tell me what you think, write to: Laura@lauraflanders.org.