Special Report: A newly discovered document reveals that President Reagan and his national security team in 1981 approved Guatemala’s extermination of both leftist guerrillas and their “civilian support mechanisms,” a green light that opened a path to genocide against hundreds of Mayan villages, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Soon after taking office in 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s national security team agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but their “civilian support mechanisms,” according to a newly disclosed document from the National Archives.
Over the next several years, the military assistance from the Reagan administration helped the Guatemalan army do just that, engaging in the slaughter of some 100,000 people, including what a truth commission deemed genocide against the Mayan Indians in the northern highlands.
Recently discovered documents at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, also reveal that Reagan’s White House was reaching out to Israel in a scheme to circumvent congressional restrictions on military equipment for the Guatemalan military.
In 1983, national security aide Oliver North (who later became a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal) reported in a memo that Reagan’s Deputy National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane (another key Iran-Contra figure) was approaching Israel over how to deliver 10 UH-1H helicopters to Guatemala to give the army greater mobility in its counterinsurgency war.
According to these documents that I found at the Reagan library – and other records declassified in the late 1990s – it’s also clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.
The relaxed attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House “Situation Room Checklist” dated April 8, 1981.