Friday, January 07, 2022

...mention ze vor

As we know, the international media will not publish any story about Guatemala unless there is a cut and dried opportunity to mention the "decades long" civil war. 

These have been thinning out a bit recently, so a consensus has apparently been reached that migrant caravans, corruption and sometimes even pandemic-related problems should be allowed as consequences of this increasingly distant conflict. 

The start of the trial this week of five 'former paramilitaries' for the rape of 36 Achi women between '81 and '85 has however allowed the foreign hacks to peddle a new batch of the more or less uncut stuff. 

My own only direct, up close and personal encounter with the PACs (Civil Defence Patrols) back in the 80s suggests to me that 'paramilitary' might be a slight misnomer. 

Along with a very close friend I had taken a bus from Flores to El Naranjo, Petén up on the north west border largely out of bloodyminded determination to show up someone who had advised us not to. 

Back then the road was extremely rough and the ride long and arduous to say the least. Our destination was little more than a small military outpost on the Rio San Pedro and our fellow passengers almost entirely a collection of prostitutes and members of the PACs heading that way for semi-professional reasons. 

The 'paramilitary' recruits were a would-be platoon of notably ill-groomed campesinos, mostly over 50. Each of them was handed a rifle — considerably older than any of them — as they descended from the bus. The soldiers made a gesture to equip both of us with the same which generated much mirth. 

Observing this inebriated rabble, it struck me that they would inevitably lose a straight fight with the American minutemen of 1776. 

Arming the dirt poor in this way always struck me as a seriously bad idea and I believe it was one of Ríos Montt's masterplans. 

That it resulted in serious human rights abuses should surprise absolutely noone.


norm said...

El Naranjo, is on my Maya ruin bucket list. I'm jealous.
The UN blue helmet crew was still soaking up the sights in Antigua the first time I visited Guatemala. The place was pretty calm at that time-I think it was about 02. I got some strange looks from some of the county people along RT. 5, it was still in the process of being paved-tourists with kids and a minivan were kind of a new sight for the village people. They were still holding market day in the middle of the road at that time.

Inner Diablog said...

I think you mean Naranjo, also in Peten, but east of Flores and quite close to Melchor on the Belizean border. I have never been either. Yaxha is on that route and is definitely worth the trouble.

El Naranjo is not somewhere you would ever want to visit.

In the 80s the CA13 from Melchor to Santa Elena/Flores was not much different to now, a few more pot holes perhaps, but the danger on that stretch was the Kaibiles' base camp around half way. The first time I did the journey I was stopped twice, once by the Kaibiles and once by another group I assumed were guerrillas not PACs as it contained several child soldiers with AKs.

The most interesting part of the country then was the lake. Pana was a tiny settlement with only a couple of hotels and all the other villages around the lake were connected only by boat and were really proper Mayan communities with no new age dickheads to be seen. The other side of the lake, Santiago etc, was proper guerrilla territory.