The Spectre of Militarism

Dr. Rafael Cuevas del Cid was Chancellor of the National University of San Carlos of Guatemala, between 1970 and 1974 during extremely turbulent times.

Maria Ruth del Rosario Cuevas Molina and Ana Lucía Cuevas Molina have penned a moving piece on the website, The Echo of the Pain of the Many (El Eco del Dolor de Mucha Gente) both in memory to their father but also as a warning against any return to militarism in Guatemala.

This was was written before Jimmy Morales was elected President of Guatemala at the weekend in a run-off against Sandra Torres but is highly relevant.

It is also very moving.

I am reproducing the introduction in full and the entire piece, also in Spanish, can be found here.

“Militarism: The abusive interference of the armed forces as an institution, or its individual members, in the political leadership of a state. It is also the system of privileges that in some countries, is awarded to military personnel”.

At the end of 1979, after years of political persecution and constant harassment by death squads, the army and the dark extremist forces that still govern our country Guatemala, our father, Dr. Rafael Cuevas del Cid, died in exile in Mexico.  He was an honest man, a loving father, and an incorruptible academic who, still today, people remember as the ‘Chancellor of Dignity’.

After his death, the harassment by the military state did not end. As members of his family, sons and daughters, his wife and grandchildren, we suffered the same persecution: murder, enforced disappearance, exile and torture at the hands of those who, still today, enjoy impunity and refuse to admit to their criminal acts.  The most striking of these became the destiny of our brother, Carlos, arrested and disappeared in 1984, and the murder of his wife, Rosario,  and their son the following year.
We were forced into exile and to unwillingly leave behind what was rightfully ours, what was most precious and most dear: our loved ones, our culture, the love from and for our country.  Nothing was left, just the resistance to sadness and uprooting.

And so began our search for survival in new places, and the continuing struggle to defend our rights. The exodus marked the end of a long cycle of political participation and persecution, and the beginning of estrangement .
A long time has passed since our Dad died, and we still miss his physical presence, particularly in the simple, everyday family moments, the discussions around the dinner table.  However, it comforts us to think that he did not have to suffer through the harrowing experiences that we lived following his death.
We also miss our father when we witness that cruel emptiness left in Guatemala stripped, after so many years of war, of its best sons and daughters, those who struggled and died in the pursuit of justice and the defense of a more equal society.

Guatemala, our country that, unfortunately, has remained in the bloodied hands of the “winners” of the conflict.

Although it has been more than 30 years since our departure to exile, the “umbilical cord” that links us to the place where we were born has never been broken.

We follow with interest the political developments in Guatemala: we rejoice with its tiny steps ‘forward’; we grieve at its big steps ‘backwards’.

That was why, in time, our hearts fell back into dark places when a military man, the now ex-President Otto Perez, took ‘control’ of the country in 2011. How was it possible that in a country like ours, the military had again invaded the political landscape?

On the other hand, with the ‘unveiling’ of the crimes committed by him and his ‘colleagues’, and their recent incarceration, we’ve been given renewed hope.

There is no doubt that this year, Guatemala has lived some very special moments, where we’ve witnessed the birth of arduous and necessary discussions and debates as to the kind of change that Guatemala requires.

Although according to social indicators Guatemala continues to be a country where the majority remain in poverty, those of us who lived the horrific years of war can distinguish changes, perhaps too small for our dreams, but real changes arising from new and different social movements.

What is significant, however, and according to a study by the UNDP in 2012, 70% of Guatemala’s population, those who are suffering directly from the situation of national political corruption and economic collapse, are 30 years of age or younger. 

It is likely then, that many of those who are now preparing to elect new ‘rulers’ have not lived the nightmares of the years of the dirty war.

And yet, there are those of us, both of the older and younger generations, who are alert to, and astonished by the re-emergence of the military presence in groups aspiring to political power.  It is no joke the men behind the candidacy of ‘comedian’ Jimmy Morales.

In a sincere desire to contribute to the debates which seek to ‘help history progress by better roads’,  we publish below an intimate ‘family account’ which addresses the character of those who would seek to re-establish their power over our national destiny.

The full piece, in English and Spanish, can be read here.

Categories: Justice, Military

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