The Dark Powers That Feed Guatemala's Violence

Gray skies in Guatemala City
Gray skies in Guatemala City
Zaira Lainez


GUATEMALA CITY – In Guatemala, we know about the damage done by gangs and drug traffickers. We see them paraded across the national and international media as the embodiement of "evil," with their steely glares and tattooed arms.

But too often, simply blaming the gangs and drug trade ignores the complex set of elements that feed the cycle of violence that has driven too much of Guatemala’s history. It’s not just about who the media showcases as “evil”:

Of course, gangs and drug trafficking are responsible for horrific events that lead to the dehumanization of society. But that should be measured against the dehumanization of an employer who barely pays minimum wage and exploits his workers; or the landowner, who with the help of the authorities, forcibly evicts dozens of families; or even of those who sell the land where indigenous people had lived for generations to foreigners who came to suck the blood out of the soil, leaving it devastated.

Gray areas, long histories

Here in Guatemala there are many white collar workers who will eliminate anyone who gets in the way of their interests. They won’t dirty their own hands; they need someone else to do the dirty work, someone else to blame.

In the same way as in the 1990s when the legendary chupacabras (goat suckers) served to explain the mysterious deaths of livestock, the audience cheered on the show for entertainment value while the media minimized the human toll of the violence among drug traffickers and gangs. Every day we see the results of violence in the high death counts, without looking for any explanation or logic behind it. This is not just today's news, this violence has been going on for hundreds of years.

We can see the formula the media prefers in the first statements that came from the Interior Minister, after the Sept. 7 killings of members of the indigenous Kaqchikel community, which was attributed to gangs.

It’s a gray area; here and in other places where Guatemalans are defending their lives and land against officials and businesses who want to set up their own projects and drain everything -- in the name of productivity, competitiveness and entrepreneurship. Regardless, the blood that must flow has already been calculated into all the environmental impact assessments.

The big businesses don't always get to where they are on their enterprising spirit alone. They also rely on violence, whether direct or indirect, but yes; you’ll never see the business magazines or people of the year with dirty hands. There are others who will do the job for them.

I have no doubt that there are those who benefit from violence. More than gangs and drug traffickers, those who profit the most wear suits and ties. These are the so-called dark powers, which someday we may hopefully bring into the light.

This column was first published in

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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