Most recently, this hornet’s nest was shaken by the United States through obscure restrictions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This legislation conditions, not only the direct support that the United States provides Guatemala but also its votes at the boards of the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, upon the evaluation of progress that the country makes in the compensation of the affected communities of Chixoy by the Secretary of Treasury. And, to add insult to injury, the law also includes a provision that requires the government to resolve the adoption cases of Guatemalan children by North American parents. Without a doubt, this is a “double-whammy” with immediate liquidity restrictions to the Guatemalan Government.
Guatemala’s President and Vice-president have publicly expressed that the proposed Chixoy compensation package is “impossible” as it amounts to Q1.2 billion per year, roughly $150 million or 2.3% of all fiscal revenues, over a period of 10 years; resources which are are not available given the country’s budgetary constraints. Meanwhile, some voices within the United States Government have disapproved the President’s posture, who has griped about the “systemic pressure” which the United States Congress is applying “against Guatemala to restrict the economic and military aid since 1977”.
The United States’ standpoint is absurd if we take in consideration the fact that a legal agreement for this remediation was never signed. The draft of the agreement was presented to President Alvaro Colom during his tenure, even though it never became a Presidential initiative because the aforesaid compensation would have led to a ten-year liability in the millions. In addition, for the initiative to be enacted, the Guatemalan Congress would have had to approve it, and this one was never signed by the President nor did not get submitted for consideration of the legislative branch.
I will not deny that I agree that a reparation process must exist when the State has committed harm on its citizens, especially with regards to basic human rights. At the time, and maybe even to this day, Chixoy has been a scenario of scarcity and suffering. It is undeniable that the Guatemalans must show solidarity with those who were affected. Nevertheless this compensation must be commensurate to the damage suffered and it must not imply that the excesses have to be shouldered by this and future generations. In a context of scarce resources and fiscal deficit, this burden competes with other priorities such as education and chronic malnutrition, basic citizen needs that impact our entire nation.
It is important to emphasize that, pole-to-pole, the world continues to witness an endless amount of human rights violations. Now, in the 21st century, we see from “modern” slavery in Mauritania (4% of its population), to female genital mutilation in 28 countries of Africa and several groups in Asia. However, the United States does not apply the same severe sanctions to these countries that CURRENTLY abuse human rights, in the manner that they have decided to impose in Guatemala for a series of events that happened more than 30 years ago. I ask myself: is the United States conscious of the damage that it is inflicting on Guatemala?
The size of the “fault” and the severity of the punitive measures seem to be absolutely incoherent, especially if we take into account the fact that the Republic of Guatemala never acquired a formal commitment to compensate and the fact that, between 1980 and 1995, the National Institute of Electrification (INDE) paid more that Q55million to those affected. Are the politics of the United States consistent when it does not apply this type of sanction to countries whose faults, today, are bigger? To the people who manage the economic and diplomatic relations between these two nations that have been friends, are you conscious that these actions might distance Guatemala as an ally? In this matter, I believe that President Otto Pérez Molina is right by being firm in defending the national sovereignty and independence of Guatemala. Our country has its own rights, its own legislation and must be capable of dealing with its own potholes.
Apparently this subject is very important for our friends up north. To repair that pothole is also something that should concern all Guatemalans. I contend that the path to solve this problem is teamwork instead of questionable political pressures and bullying.