The Mayans, who constitute 65 percent of the Guatemalan population, live on the land. Like other indigenous people throughout the history of the Americas, they have been losing their land, their livelihood, and even their lives. The genocide that has been going on there has been well hidden.
From 1934 to 1954, the country was governed in a progressive way and promoted land reform, but in 1954 the CIA overthrew the regime and since that time government has been aggressively favorable to the interests of big landowners. The United States is known to be very influential in the ongoing affairs of Guatemala, though the relationship is often covert. The recent history in the country has involved so many brutal violations of human rights that the United States avoids the taint of association with the regime. In the fifties, the U.S. trained the Guatemalan military directly, but in recent years the support has been indirect-channeled through Israel. Most of the military advisors and weapons are Israeli. At present time, there is a democratically elected, right-wing civilian government, but it is extremely corrupt and does not control the army, which even in recent weeks has continued to repress the Mayans. There have been many death squad actions, in addition to the open counterinsurgency campaign. Like Rigoberta Menchu, many Mayans have fled to Mexico, living in a refugee camp in a dry river bed. Now they want to go home and repatriation will begin in January. What they face there remains to be seen. Negotiations are going on between the government and a coalition of guerrillas, but no agreements are likely to be forthcoming soon. The guerrillas still believe they can win if their movement becomes broader and more popular.
Canada cut off all aid to Guatemala until about three years ago. Now it offers direct, bilateral, government-to-government aid with no strings attached. Canadians who are familiar with the situation urge that the rest of us inform ourselves about Guatemala, demand additional information from the press, and ask the government to stop this bilateral aid. All Canadian aid should be administered through independent groups, such as the inter-church committee, an umbrella organization that has the capability to ensure that money reaches its intended destination instead of being diverted by the Guatemalan government.