We Sponsored Central American Brutality for 60 Years — So Now the Refugee Children Come


What has been a trickle of unaccompanied children arriving on our Southern border over the last few years, has now turned into a flood. And it is causing distress to both liberals and conservatives, albeit for different reasons.

But it didn’t come from out of the blue, as the Right Wing wants us to believe. Nor is it some Obama conspiracy to bring in more brown people, as the Right is saying now. Solid facts on this refugee crisis can be found here.

It was caused by specific overt and covert policies of the political Right Wing in the U.S., starting all the way back in the early 1950s. Those policies have produced a Central America today that is ravaged by poverty and violent gang control.

How Did It All Come to This?

Guatemala especially has been devastated by policies of the U.S. that were meant to help big fruit farming corporations keep full control of that country. The United Fruit Company has a long history of making demands on the U.S. government, especially when it was controlled by Republicans.

This video shows the involvement of the CIA in Guatemala in the early 1950s well before the Castro revolutionaries took power in Cuba at the other end of that decade in 1959. The United Fruit Company of Boston is pointed out as the central player in the efforts of the U.S. to overthrow the non-radical Arbenz government over his intended land reforms.

Note that we are hearing from the Howard Hunt, the quintessential cold warrior, of later Watergate fame. His account shows just how obsessed the CIA was with even possible involvement of the Soviet Union in Central America even back in the late 1940s.

Note also at the end of this video (6:46) where it points out that the CIA orchestrated overthrow of the pro-communist Arbenz government — and the purges that followed — radicalized the young Doctor Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Like Arbenz and his followers, Guevara was initially in favor of using land reform to empower common people in Guatemala and improve their lives from the imposed poverty of large U.S. corporations that siphoned off profits to the U.S. After seeing this cynical and brutal CIA takeover in Guatemala, Guevara changed his views toward a more decidedly violent overthrow model that was successful as he joined with Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution.

The CIA and the military-industrial complex, both with their origins in WWII, created their own job security by identifying any revolution as a Soviet conspiracy.

After Harry Truman won a surprising second term in the 1948 elections, Republicans developed a clear goal of scaring the electorate into voting Republican in the 1952 elections, and it worked. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s famous “investigations” were a part of that orchestrated campaign.

Those gains made by big agriculture in Central America during the 1950s were solidified in the 1960s and the early 1970s.

Liberation Theology and Socialism vs. The Reagan Administration

As 1980 approached, the traditional connections were in place between the wealthy minority in Central American countries, U.S. fruit  and agriculture companies, and the Roman Catholic church.

But, the two decades following Vatican II reforms in the Roman Catholic Church were restless ones in all of Central and South America. The old ties between the small, wealthy right wing  and the Church in each of these countries was starting to fray.

Liberation theology questioned the traditional focus of the Church on preparing for eternal life and away from trying to change one’s current life. This new theology focused on the life and teachings of Jesus and the call to discipleship in the here and now. It made clear demands upon the existing powers in this world to treat all people with dignity and for all people to have the right to rise up against governments that mistreated them.

Simultaneous to this transition in the church, political thinkers in Latin America started to push for peasants to rise up and demand a better life — one not accepting of the extreme poverty that American corporations and the wealthy minority had imposed. Some of those revolutionaries were supported by Communist Cuba and some were not.

The wealthiest minorities and their servant military forces started to strike back against a growing unrest among a much larger peasant population.

Unlike in the 1950s, this time, the Roman Catholic Church and it’s priests were not solidly in favor of right-wing governments and their oppression of revolutionaries.

This time, some priests, and bishops were on the side of the poor, and pushed for peaceful routes to justice for all the people.

An Archbishop and 6 Priests are Assassinated

When Bishop Oscar Romero was first installed as Archbishop of San Salvador in the country of El Salvador he was reluctant to approve of the Liberation Theology that was openly promoted by some of his priests. Unlike his predecessor, he believed that the Church should stay neutral in the political struggles of the country. However, soon after he was installed he began to change as he struggled with the assassination of  one of his priests by members of the military.

He changed his views and began to openly advocate for a peaceful resolution to political differences in El Salvador where the military wanted to destroy revolutionaries and their supporters.

Then in 1980 he was assassinated as he celebrated the Mass in a small hospital chapel. Not long after, other priests were assassinated by right-wing death squads, many in the regular military and national guard.Romero_Shot

To read further in-depth about Romero’s assassination and what we now know from unclassified documents, visit this story from The National Security Archive. For a retrospective on the assassination published by The Guardian in 2000, visit this site.  For a Church sponsored biography of Archbishop Romero, visit this site.

For the next 12 years after Romero’s death, El Salvador engaged in an extraordinarily cruel and bloody civil war where death squads were used by both sides extensively. But under the support and direction of the CIA and openly by the Reagan Administration in the U.S., the right-wing junta used Vietnam-perfected search and destroy techniques using U.S. supplied helicopters. Whole villages were wiped out when they were expected of even supporting the revolutionaries.

The Assassination of Father Stanley Rother in Guatemala

Before, in the 1950s and 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church could be counted on by the CIA and the U.S. to support and promote the anti-communist agenda.

But by the 1980s the Mayan peasants began to demand inclusion in what had been a closely held U.S. and Spanish ancestry government. They were supported in this by a number of priests. What resulted was a civil war in Guatemala from 1980 to 1983 where the U.S. backed Army destroyed 626 villages and killed or “disappeared” over 200,000 of the poor of Mayan ancestry.

FrRotherFather Stanley Rother, from Okarche, Oklahoma was the leader of a mission in Guatemala among the Mayan poor at the mission in Santiago Atitlan starting in 1968 and until his death in 1981.

He advocated for the poor of that region and opposed the harsh treatment of the poor in that area by the Guatemalan Army.

Just one year after the assassination of El Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero, and after having been warned of being on a right-wing death squad list, Father Rother was shot twice at point-blank range in his rectory in the middle of the night. Those circumstances are explained in detail on the Oklahoma Archdiocese website.

Like the El Salvadoran Army, the Guatemalan Army was equipped and trained in U.S. military anti-insurgency techniques, using brutality, torture and death not only against the poor, but against anyone who would lead them in opposing the government. Those leaders were often the Roman Catholic priests who lived among them and witnessed the injustices of the government.

Central America Descends Into Raw Brutality

After the brutality of the civil wars in both El Salvador and Guatemala, those societies have descended into uncontrolled brutality.

There, the U.S. trained the military in techniques that used shadowy death squads to kill those with whom the government disagreed or saw as threats.

This process occurred not only in El Salvador and Guatemala, but to a lesser extent in neighboring Honduras. Operatives of the Reagan administration illegally sold arms to Iran and gave the money to the Honduran guerrillas — called Contras — to cross the border and fight the Socialist regime in neighboring Nicaragua.

This was the Iran-Contra Affair.

After 60 Years of Trained Brutality, Only One Big Result

The history of U.S.-promoted death squads and open brutality of the Armies of Central American countries in the name of anti-communism created the base for the intolerable gang-controlled countries of Central America today.

Added to that, some of those youth who successfully fled to the U.S. after the civil wars have become gang-involved in the U.S. and have returned to their home countries to further influence those societies.

The culture of death and brutality is now a hard thing to shake. Once people get a taste of the power of unpunished murder, it is hard to deprogram and reprogram them for a life of peace.

And so, after 60 years of brutality in the name of anti-communism and commerce, what is the most significant thing produced?

  • Thriving democracies?
  • Thriving economies?
  • Elimination of poverty through capitalism?


After 60 years of trained brutality, the only significant outcome is a flood of scared and emotionally scarred little children fleeing to our borders alone, begging to be arrested.