Glenn discussed the column on the nationally-syndicated The Lars Larson Show on 8/27/18:
Many LAUSD students are from the Northern Triangle of Central America, and I tell them something most Americans won’t want to hear, but which is a common view in Latin America — ”we owe you reparations.” Reparations to the people of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for the immense suffering caused by misguided U.S. policies. These policies caused deep and long-term damage to the civil society and economies of the “Northern Triangle” nations, and many of these children are in Los Angeles because of them.
That these countries today are violent and impoverished is hardly news. Nearly a quarter million people were murdered in Mexico between 2007 and 2017, but according to US State Department statistics, Mexico’s murder rate is only 1/5th of El Salvador’s and less than a third of that of Honduras. In the United Nations’ 2015 Human Development Index, among the 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations, Guatemala and Honduras rank above only Haiti, and El Salvador ranks 27th.
What many don’t know is that the roots of this disaster clearly lie with American policies. Guatemala’s nightmare began in 1954, when the U.S. overthrew democratically elected reformist president Jacobo Arbenz, ending Guatemala’s “10 Years of Spring” — its democracy.
These American actions set off the Guatemalan Civil War, fought from 1960-1996 by a succession of brutal military regimes against rebel groups supported by the rural poor. In 1982 president Ronald Reagan met Guatemalan military dictator Rios Montt, praised him as “a man of great integrity,” and lavished him with military aid. For his monumental crimes against indigenous Guatemalans and others, in 2013 Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. Guatemala’s Commission for Historical Clarification found that government forces and state-sponsored, CIA-trained paramilitaries were responsible for almost 95 percent of the wartime human rights violations.
The story in El Salvador is similar — from 1980 to 1992, the U.S. gave $6 billion in mostly military aid to a murderous regime fighting leftist rebels seeking land reform and workers’ rights. In 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, anguished over the bloodshed, wrote to President Carter begging him not to provide the regime more weaponry. The United Nations estimates that over 75,000 were killed during the Salvadoran Civil War, many murdered or “disappeared” by the military.
Honduran governments have been somewhat more moderate, but still generally under the thumb of the U.S. One Honduran leader who wasn’t — Manuel Zelaya, a liberal who raised the minimum wage and promoted other reforms — was overthrown by the Honduran military in 2009. The coup was condemned by the Organization of American States, the U.N., and the European Union. Despite this, and despite the Honduran military’s subsequent brutality against pro-Zelaya demonstrators, the Obama administration colluded behind the scenes to prevent Zelaya from returning to office.
UC Santa Cruz history professor Dana Frank says since the coup “a series of corrupt administrations has unleashed open criminal control of Honduras, from top to bottom of the government.” The U.S. has dictated terms in Honduras to varying degrees since at least 1903 — when the U.S. launched the first of its seven invasions of Honduras — and that country has little economic development and prosperity to show for over a century of American-backed rule.
The U.S. government acknowledged it was wrong to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, and offered reparations. Similarly, the U.S. should fully acknowledge its wrongdoing in the Northern Triangle and offer reparations.
In 1966 the U.S. sought to help those who had fled Castro’s Cuba by passing the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allowed Cuban refugees to become lawful U.S. permanent residents. Our reparations should be to offer today’s Northern Triangle refugees the same. We owe it to them.
- Los Angeles Daily News8/4/18
- Long Beach Press-Telegram8/4/18
- Daily Breeze [Los Angeles]8/4/18
- Pasadena Star-News & Affiliated Papers8/4/18
- Riverside Press-Enterprise8/4/18
- Orange County Register8/4/18