capitalism doesn’t come much more savage than this

Rigoberta Menchu addresses the crowds in Managua flanked by Daniel Ortega, Tomas Borge and Rosario Murillo. Photo: David McKnight

Also at the rally on Tuesday was Guatemalan writer and indigenous rights activist, Rigoberta Menchú. She spoke to the hundreds of thousands gathered. She paid homage to “the inspiration that the Nicaraguan Revolution had given to the peoples of Latin America”. The Nobel Prize winner said that the Revolution and the Nicaraguan people’s struggle “is also our revolution, it is also our struggle”.

Photo: David McKnight

Highlighting the progressive social and political changes in Latin America over the past ten years she called upon Nicaraguans and Latin Americans to continue constructing a ‘new world’ and declared, “we want to acheive freedom for the poor, the illiterate, for all the world’s people still living under oppression, injustice and inequality”.

Photo: David McKnight

The contrast with other Central American countries is stark. For El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the US funded hell of the 1980s conflict has never gone away. Indeed, in El Salvador and Guatemala, the yearly murder rate is comparable with that endured by the populations during the Civil Wars, the cost of which Rigoberta knows from personal experience. These countries are caught up in a conflict fuelled by drug trafficking, something analysed recently on UpsideDown World.

The conflicts, though, run to the heart of the socieites. Whilst on the surface they appear to be about the control of drug trafficking, in reality they are about the issues highlighted by Rigoberta in her Managua speech – oppression, injustice and inequality. Last week Monica Baltodano condemned the Sandinista government for promoting ‘savage capitalism’. Whilst no one would claim that Nicaragua is a workers heaven, their condition is a world away from Guatamala. In Rigoberta’s homeland capitalism is red in tooth and claw. The litany of trade unionists slaughtered in Guatemala has been detailed by the ITUC (see here). Even the US State Department sees Guatemala out of control. Without addressing the regular assassinations of trade unionists, environmentalists and community leaders, it still manages to paint a picture of rampant killings and torture of individuals, many carried out by officers or former officers of the police and security forces (see here).

Over the past couple of months SITRABI (the banana workers’ trade union in the Izabal region) has once again been hard hit by the armed repression of which male and female defenders of union rights in Guatemala are regular victims. Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy, treasurer of the central executive committee of SITRABI, was gunned down in cold blood on May 26, less than two months after the murder of another of his comrades, Oscar González Vázquez. SITRABI is calling for international solidarity as they demand justice. You can add your name to those taking actions here.

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