The new year began with plenty of unpleasant news. Two major events, similar in theme, demanded attention worldwide.
The judicial process against Guatemala’s General Efraín Ríos Montt and José Rodríguez Sánchez, both accused of genocide, restarted on January 5. Then, two days later on January 7 in Paris, three gunmen affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked the office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, previously unknown to most of the world’s population, and a Jewish shop in the suburbs of the French capital. Seventeen people were killed, including the journalists, policemen and the hostages of the store.
What do these two events have in common? The answer: terrorism. Everyone has expressed solidarity with France. The few public figures who have mocked the victims of the Paris attacks, or have shown support for murderers, are being criminally prosecuted — although not worldwide.
There is little difference between the jihadis who went on the rampage in Paris, and those former guerrilla in Guatemala who currently cast themselves as victims.
We saw the massive march against terrorism in Paris, attended by several world leaders. Yet the march, in the end, became another dog and pony show for the media. Many of the attendees, such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have themselves been accused of sponsoring terrorism.
Even if Charlie Hebdo‘s satire was broad and often crude, taking freedom of speech to libertine-like extremes, nothing can justify the slaughter that occurred in their facilities. All clear-thinking people, regardless of their ideology, religion, politics, and social status, should condemn and disapprove terrorist brutality. Or so it would seem.
Yet the two emblematic court cases in Guatemala have exposed a double standard. The first is the ongoing case to prosecute a genocide that never took place. Former guerrilla — once members of the terrorist organizations URNG, ORPA, FAR, CUC, and others — now dressed as “defenders of human rights” have recruited the financial interests of NGOs (owned by several North American and European governments) in their thirst for personal revenge. Their joint work is a new form of terrorism, this time in the media, citing the National Reconciliation Act — which prohibits the amnesty that followed Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war from being applied to possible cases of genocide.
Yet what happened in Guatemala in the years of the armed conflict cannot be described as genocide. In addition, the National Reconciliation Act, does not provide amnesty for crimes against humanity (kidnapping, murder, and torture), events for which most of the current crop of “human-rights defenders” are being sued by their victims. These cases are now postponed until the dubious genocide trial is over.
The second case is the final phase of the trial for the burning of the Spanish Embassy in 1980, an event which began on Monday, January 19. The only defendant is former National Police chief Pedro García Arredondo; and his accusers are — what a coincidence! — the actual culprits who burned alive 37 people in that same terrorist act.
Where are the politicians, activists, and journalists in Guatemala who have shown their support for the victims of terrorism in France? Why have those who gun-toting guerrilla who perpetrated slaughter in the embassy with molotov cocktails, including the killing of several national politicians who were present, not been widely condemned?
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we have to concede that there is little difference between the jihadis who went on the rampage in Paris, and those former guerrilla who currently cast themselves as victims.
Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Laurie Blair and Fergus Hodgson.