George Black with Milton Jamail and Norma Stoltz Chincilla, Garrison Guatemala (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984).


A Chicana from California on a recent political study trip to Guatemala elicited a special tour from guards at Guatemala’s seat of government, the National Palace, by putting on a convincing “I’m just a curious tourist” act. Inside an assembly hall she was startled to find an Israeli flag prominently displayed next to those of Guatemala and the US. Why that Israeli flag should be there is explained in a short section, “The Israeli Connection—Not Just Guns” in this excellent book on Guatemala.

In this short section, Black and his colleagues catalogue Israel’s deep involvement in this terror-filled nation where for three decades the army’s “four-yearly ritual of fraud”—presidential elections—has brought to power a series of dictators. They have been so unpopular that they must “murder large numbers of their own citizens simply in order to survive.” (pp. 1-2)

As Black implies, the Israeli-Guatemala tie goes beyond the supply of military hardware—Uzi sub-machine guns, Galil assault rifles and Arava counterinsurgency aircraft. Relations are broader and deeper. An Israeli computer system combined with sophisticated Argentinian computer analysis techniques helped detect 27 guerrilla safe-houses in Guatemala City in the summer of 1981. (154) The camaraderie one might expect between two members of the “pariah international” extends to trade relations and joint tourist promotion campaigns. Israel’s agriculture-based settlements in the occupied territories inspired one part of Guatemala’s rural counterinsurgency campaign. And Israel intervened directly in 1982 when 300 Israeli advisors helped execute General Efrain Rios Montt’s seizure of power. The general told ABC News that Israeli training for his soldiers had helped the coup go offsmoothly. (156)

MERIP readers will certainly find this section of Black’s book important. But they should not miss the rest of this account of the struggle of Guatemala’s peasant/Indian-based revolutionary movement. In the minds of Guatemala’s rightists, at least, similarities between the conflict at home and the Palestine-Israel conflict bear watching. In the wake of Israel’s 1982 Lebanon invasion, which they greatly admired, they spoke openly in favor of the “Palestinianization” of their nation’s rebellious Mayan Indians. (154)

How to cite this article:

Martha Wenger "Black, Garrison Guatemala," Middle East Report 141 (July/August 1986).

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