Saul Elbin over at the New Republic pretty much sums up what we’ve been saying here all along: Guatemala never shook off the yoke of the oligarchy. They tried, in the 40s and 50s, but a CIA-supported coup in 1954 brought the oligarchy back to power and they even emerged victorious in the bloody civil war (1960-1996) that followed, resorting to increasingly brutal methods to get their way. As Elbin points out, the civil war
happened in living memory; the peace accords were signed in only 1996. After the war, Guatemala put on the trappings of a democratic government. The army returned to the barracks. But there was no accounting, and none of the structural things that had driven the conflict changed. Few soldiers were punished for what they had done in the war, and many were decorated—like the current president, Otto Perez Molina, who in the 1980s participated in the scorched earth campaigns against the Ixil Maya. In his 2012 campaign for president, he was supported by most of the feudal families, who still had a stranglehold of most of the land, wealth, and power in the country.
In other words, the oligarchs won and now Guatemala is made in their image: power is held through the barrel of a gun. Elbin actually compares Guate to the world of Game of Thrones, “a place of feudal relationships and family intrigues dominated by violence” where
A small handful of families control the vast majority of land, wealth, and power, dividing major monopolies between them. […] This Guatemala is not a failed state, in that it protects the interests of old families and the people who run it.
And that is why land grabbing is so easy and popular in Guate: you can always get what you want if you hire the right guns. Inspiring movements like La Puya are resisting, at great risk to life and liberty, and it is of paramount importance that we support them and denounce the land grabbing agribusiness conglomerates and (often Canadian) mining companies that pretend to bring “development” by siding with the oligarchy.