Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Guatemala Chamber of Commerce says genocide conviction "will will discourage foreign investment"

Forensic anthropologist, 
remains of genocide victim, 
possible relatives of victim

Democracy Now has been covering the genocide trial of U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, but more damning than any details of any atrocity are the reactions of the business community and what it reveals about how they use governments like Montt's, not just in the past but today.

Most macabre is the recent quote by security guards at a mine who said protesters didn't realize that the mine "generates jobs" (a Republican talking point) before they opened fire on the protesters.

Most people don't care  or even know about communism, socialism, free market fundamentalism, or whatever. They just want decent working conditions, to be able to take care of their family, and have their employer subject to the rule of law if they don't provide the other two.

That is obviously intolerable to corporations in their dealings in the Third World--and increasingly in America and the developed world.

Eventually Americans are going to realize that the companies they work for see us the same way they do Bangladeshi garment workers and Indian miners in Guatemala, and we will change things.

If not, look forward to being buried in rubble during of sixteen hour shift or being shot for not respecting "job creators" in the near future.

democracy nowOne of the remarks that Pérez Molina made in response to the verdict against Ríos Montt—he was echoing the comments of the American Chamber of Commerce, which represents the U.S. corporations in Guatemala—was to say that this verdict will discourage foreign investment in Guatemala. It’s a very revealing comment, because foreign companies, when they come into a country and are looking to invest, they want some laws to be enforced, like the laws on contracts, and they want other laws not to be enforced, like the labor laws and the laws which stop them from murdering their employees if they try to organize unions. In the ’80s, the leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce described to me how they would sometimes turn over names of troublesome workers to the security forces, and they would then disappear or be assassinated. Fred Sherwood was one of the Chamber of Commerce leaders who described that. And now, with this verdict, it seems that Pérez Molina and the corporate leaders and the elites in Guatemala, in general, are worried that they may have a harder time killing off workers and organizers when they need to.
And it’s especially relevant right now because there’s a huge conflict in Guatemala about mining. American and Canadian mining companies are being brought in by the Pérez Molina government to exploit silver and other minerals. The local communities are resisting. Community organizers have been killed. There was a clash in which a police officer was killed. So Pérez Molina has imposed a state of siege in various parts of the country. And just the other day, the local press printed a wiretap transcript of the head of security at one of these mines, in this case the San Rafael mining operation, where the security chief says to his men, regarding demonstrators who were outside the mine, he says, "Goddamn dogs, they do not—they do not understand that the mine generates jobs. We must eliminate these animal pieces of . We cannot allow people to establish resistance. Kill those sons of ." And the security people later opened fire. This is the way foreign companies operate, not just in Guatemala, but around the world. I mean, it’s this kind of non-enforcement of law that made possible the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed over a hundred workers. And now they’re worried in Guatemala—