The Frightful Abuse of Human Rights
Violence or education as forms of oppression carried out by political groups in Latin America is a reoccurring theme as seen in Argentina and Cuba from earlier essays. Government sponsored “cloaks of fear” take over the nation and keep the common citizen subdued as seen in Argentina. The process of educating the common person so that he/she would not only understand, but be able to participate in political affairs was a major force in the Cuban revolution. In the 1980’s, Central America saw both violence and education used as political devices to promote or prevent political change.
The most common and horrific form of oppression in Central America is violence. Violence can be used to eliminate political competition as seen in El. Salvador “In November 1980 Alvarez and five top associates were killed by government forces, an act hat eliminated an entire cadre of reformist politicians” (Skidmore & Smith: 350). Another example of eliminating a potential threat to the government can be seen in the movie “Men With Guns”. In this movie a religious leader (Bishop Romero) with some control of people and their political thoughts was considered dangerous by the El. Salvadorian government. Therefore he was assassinated by the military in an attempt to silence his voice and maybe even spread fear throughout the country as others feared what would become of them if they spoke out against the government.
This imposement of fear, was another method of using violence to prevent political change. Argentina is the most dominant example of government created ‘fear’ as a weapon against the voice of the people. The acting government or Junta, randomly kidnapped citizens and offered no reason for their actions. In many cases the kidnapped (disappeared) were tortured and killed, their bodies and explanations for what happened never found. The actions of the Guatemalan government during its politically unstable period are a clear example of using violence and fear to repress change as seen in Skidmore and Smith (1997: 357)
“One feature of this entire period… was the frightful abuse of human rights. Paramilitary death squads most notoriously Mano Blanca and Ojo por Ojo, carried on a murderous campaign against political dissenters. No fewer then 80,000 people were killed or “disappeared between the 1960’s and 1990”.
Because people feared that if they spoke out against the government they would face death/torture, many would-be activists sat quietly as the government did whatever it wanted.
The only weapon against this ‘cloak of fear’ was to bring in the help of outside nations and expose the atrocities being committed. For example this is what the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo were famous for. They petitioned at a time nobody else would leave their house and they brought the attention of the United Nations and other human rights groups to the current situation in Argentina. However in the case of Guatemala, the government continues their oppression until they see fit to stop it themselves as illustrated by Skidmore & Smith (1997: 357-358):
“The government bore at least indirect responsibility for these killings, but world wide protests did not bring much respite…By the mid-1980s the Guatemalan military judged their campaign against the Marxist Guerrillas successful enough to allow the election of a civilian president… Under a patina of electoral democracy, the military force continues to predominate in Guatemala”.
Violence does not have to be only used as a form of oppression. Violence is sometimes used as a form of combating represent by groups of revolutionary solders. These groups of indigenous (local) solders combine to fight for their political and social rights are called Guerillas. Guerillas and guerilla tactics are spattered all throughout the history of Central America. They live in the mountains or jungles and rely on the locals for food, recruits, and information. Guerillas typically share the same ethnic background and social class, these are the chains that link them together. They use violence and military strategy to combat the unjustness or oppressing governments.
Another form of oppression in Central America is education and lack of it. Much of Central America is poverty-stricken and underdeveloped (Skidmore & Smith: 1997), this leads to a lack of literacy. By not having the ability to read and understand what is going on politically in their country, the common citizen lacks the knowledge necessary to participate in political affairs. Domineering governments do little to educate the common citizen because doing so would/could make them a dangerous adversary as seen in Hammond (1998: 15)
“To acquire knowledge is to acquire power, or at least it is a necessary first step. Popular education fosters specific skills, personal growth, and critical consciousness among the poor and oppressed. Learning empowers poor people because they prove they can do something they were always told was beyond them”.
Education can also be used as a weapon against oppression, as discussed in the book Fighting to Learn. Hammond (1998: 61) describes meetings between solders and their leaders where they discussed political issues and current events. Another issue often stressed in these meetings was the need to spread propaganda and knowledge into civilian communities. Educating the common people can produce many effects, all useful in combating an oppressive government regime.
Knowledge and education expose people to multiple views of common issues, therefore allowing them to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. This creates a sense of political and social awareness that combined with the desire for change and the willingness to use violence can be an explosive combination in the fight against oppression.