American Civil War and United Fruit Company

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In, “Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village,” Victor Montejo describes events surrounding the military régimes occurring throughout Guatemala. The book itself is an eyewitness account detailing one instance of violence between the indigenous peoples village's "civil patrol" and the army. This occurrence leads to the execution and imprisonment of many villagers. Even though the book is mainly a testimony by one person, in which he discusses the personal conflicts and struggle between himself and the army, the account is structured around the Guatemalan civil war and the conflict between the government and civilians. The Guatemalan Civil War occurred between the years 1960 to 1996. It was a battle between the government of Guatemala and the numerous leftist rebel groups who were supported by the Mayan indigenous, poor, and working class. This civil war began as the many poor realized that their government had little concern for them, as the elites in the country owned most of the land. Much of the land was also owned by multinational corporations, such as the U.S. owned “United Fruit Company” in the 1940s and 50s.

The result of this unequal land ownership, which also contributed to an unbalanced distribution of wealth, led to an oppressed population living in extreme poverty. These local hardships were ultimately the driving force behind the rebellious leftist groups As military leaders began to have control of the government by the 1960’s and through the 1970s, physical violence became a method used to overthrow political opposition. As other countries in Latin America had their own revolutions; Guatemalan citizens looked to them as a source of inspiration for their attempts to take control of their country. The example of Cuba became a stepping stone and a clear example for Guatemala as Fidel Castro was successful throughout the Cuban Revolution in Cuba and was able to overthrow the Batista family. Other examples included the Sandinista guerilla movement who successfully completed a revolution in Nicaragua in 1979, and in El Salvador where the FMLN guerillas also appeared to be having similar results. However, these regimes are appealing at first, but after having them continue for long periods, much conflict ensued which contributed to much loss for the poor rebels and their fight for sovereignty. Looking at Montejo’s testimony, Maria Lupe’s testimony, and the cold war in Guatemala; we will examine how these violent regimes appeared to the civilians, their effects on society, and their connection to the civil war.

Victor Montejo describes several political instances that have led to the people’s desire for a revolt against the acting government. He mentions that former president Lucas Garcia left many things “undone;” though not much information is given for background information of Garcia, we can conclude that he was responsible for the growth of the military’s power and an initial cause for the dissent of the poor. He also mentions Garcia’s successor, president Efrain Rios Montt and his lack on taking the government out of the hand of the military. Montejo states “no president would be able to control the situation because the military were the ones in charge.” Later on Montejo reveals that under Lucas Garcia’s administration’s military; “paramilitary, police, and priests, were kidnapped, tortured, and killed; or rather anyone who had influence in the town who spoke out against the government.” As the government paved ways to try to economically stabilize the state, many of its poor suffered, and regimes occurred to support the poor, leading many to suspect communistic or socialist identities, and a desire for government change. With the military being in control, with help and support coming from the U.S., the army was used to stamp out the leftist guerrillas who were pushing for a new government that would support the people. Looking at Montejo’s testimony, we see the creations of civil patrols,...
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