The Other Americans: The Republican Politics of Hatred Plays Out in Guatemala

Eduardo Galeano once wrote that Guatemala was the awkwardly masked face of American policy in Latin America. This continues to be true today, as Guatemala reflects the harmful and regressive policies of the American Republican Party.

On March 9, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei declared his country the “pro-life capital of Ibero-America” ​​in a ceremony attended by religious leaders in Guatemala City. Congress had previously dubbed it “a day to celebrate family and life.” Perhaps not by chance, the date is also Giammattei’s birthday. Declaration of Guatemala as a pro-life country was supported by US Senator Kevin Daines, Republican of Montana, and Congressman Chris Smith, Republican of New Jersey.

Guatemala has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in Latin America. But this law is part of a larger problem in the country.

The day before, the Guatemalan congress approved one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in Latin America. But this law is part of a larger problem in the country.

“It’s all part of a program, a rights restriction program.” Renzo Rosal, independent political analyst, tells The progressive.

“This same ultra-conservative narrative supposedly serves to strengthen the central government,” Rosal says. “[And it] serves to strengthen the alliance between businessmen, politicians and churches. [It] also serves as a way to limit and question anything that points in a seemingly different direction, women’s rights and LGBTQ+, which is seen as an attack on the ultra-conservative narrative.

The law, titled the Protection of life and family lawnot only increases penalties for abortions, it also allows criminal prosecution of doctors and those who help people obtain abortions, further bans marriage equality, labels the LGBTQ+ community as “abnormal” and bans completely all education on sexual diversity and gender equality. taught in schools.

But the general law did not stop there. It also legally established a family as the marriage between a man and a woman with children, essentially stating that any single-parent household or household with grandparents raising their grandchildren is not a family.

The law caused widespread outrage, which led to days of protests.

A week later, congress revisited the law after Giammattei threatens a veto. The controversial law has been shelved, but similar legislation still exists in other proposals, including a restrictive anti-trans law disguised as child protections.

This is all part of a broader campaign by the Guatemalan government to embrace hyper-conservative policies, a process that began when Jimmy Morales took power in 2016. This has also included moving the Guatemalan Embassy in Israel in Jerusalem just two days after the Trump administration did so, attacking anti-corruption efforts and forging closer alliances with American Republicans.

“The most conservative and fundamentalist [Christians] took over, and now they’re moving their pieces,” Sandra Moran, a former congresswoman who was the first openly lesbian member of the Guatemalan congress, recounts The progressive.

Other Latin American countries have embraced equality, with Mexico and Colombia taking steps to legalize abortion and Chile recognizing marriage equality.

“It generates a counterbalance of allies in these more conservative contexts,” Moran says. “The power struggle in the United States is transmitted here in Guatemala as well.”

The political arena in Guatemala has long been influenced by the conspiracy theories and scaremongering tactics of the neo-fascist movement. The legacy of the Cold War lives on in Guatemala; the “communist threat” continues to be the specter evoked to justify any political crisis.

“There are also those who talk about the ‘globalist agenda’ plan,” Rosal says. “And the ‘globalist agenda’ is the communist threat, spearheaded by gender ideology, or the LGTBQ+ community, and one of the main drivers of that is [U.S. Vice President] Kamala Harris.

Politics in Guatemala continues to be deeply influenced by the American Republican Party and the religious far right.

This conspiracy is found primarily in evangelical and Pentecostal communities, which have historically supported the Guatemalan military and dictatorships. These types of hateful conspiracy theories have found an ear in the Guatemalan congress.

In March 2021, the Guatemalan congress brought far-right author Agustín Laje Arrigoni to speak at congress within the framework of the conference “Impact of the globalist agenda on culture and politics in Guatemala”. The speech, which was also broadcast on a government TV channel, had anti-Semitic overtones and featured a policy of hatred towards women and the LGBTQ+ community, as the far-right author spoke about the effect of the ‘globalist agenda’ on culture and Guatemalan politics, including how feminism and the LGBTQ+ community pose a threat to society.

Politics in Guatemala continues to be deeply influenced by the American Republican Party and the religious far right. This relationship goes back to before the 1954 coup against Jacobo Arbenz, which was encouraged and organized by the Dulles brothers under the Eisenhower administration. The American business community, particularly the United Fruit Company, exercised great influence during the dictatorships of Manuel Cabrera Estrada and Jorge Ubico.

During the internal armed conflict from the 1960s to 1996, American Republicans were among the strongest supporters of the Guatemalan military. Ronald Reagan once rented dictator Efrain Riós Montt as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment” as the dictatorship massacred indigenous communities in the highlands.

“[They have] maintained this relationship through several generations of politicians,” says Rosal. “It’s a business relationship, it’s a strategic political relationship. It’s also a relationship of religious ties, but religion isn’t everything, it’s just part of it all.

In 2017, the far right mobilized to bring down the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, commonly known as CICIG. President Jimmy Morales officially terminated the agreement with the anti-corruption body on September 3, 2019. Since then, corruption has skyrocketed as the state and elite have attempted to erase the history of anti-corruption efforts.

The American Progressive Political Commentary Web Series Young Turks exposed the relationship between the Morales administration and the funders of the US-based evangelical group behind the National Prayer Breakfast, commonly referred to as The Family. It showed that the relationship between Morales’ ally Manuel Espina opened the door to gaining support from the Trump administration to scrap the anti-corruption body.

These powers formed a lobby in the United States to seek additional influence within Republican circles. They have sought, since the closure of the CICIG, to eliminate any history of anti-corruption efforts. In July 2021, Juan Francisco Sandoval, the former head of the special tax prosecution against impunity, was forced into exileand Judge Erika Aifán resigned in March 2022 and leak the country.

This lobby has sought to portray justice as having been co-opted by radicals and communists who attack the right on an ideological basis. Rosal disputes this: “The question of impunity is not an ideological question; the question of human rights is not an ideological question; the question of the independence of the judiciary [is not an ideological issue.]”

But as these attacks continue, the Biden administration has done little to address co-optation of the state by far-right groups.

“President Joe Biden’s government only mentions its issues in Guatemala through Twitter and purely diplomatic messaging,” Rosal said. “These are symbolic messages that threaten [politicians] with the abolition of visas, things that are seen here as absolutely inconsequential measures. It’s a powerful indicator that this lobby in Washington is working.

Guatemala’s conservative movement aspires to see Republicans regain control of the US House of Representatives, Senate and eventually the presidency.

“The center point [for conservatives in Guatemala] is to get along well with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, assuming that the Republican Party is going to return to the presidency,” Rosal said. “Although they are not in power, they continue to be a determining force.”

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