Posts tagged: Guatemala

They May Get Him Yet, Father Bill

By , April 18, 2014 5:51 am

I graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in May of 1949. One of my classmates was a wonderful young kid named Bill Woods. For a private boy’s school, it was a large class – 155 students. Bill and I lived on opposite ends of the town and I never really got to know him very well before we graduated. After graduation, we both entered the seminary. Bill went off to Maryknoll to become a foreign missioner and I went to the seminary of the Galveston-Houston Diocese. After our ordination, although we were in very different ministries in the Church, we became very fast friends and in a very real sense brothers.

Bill was helping to develop my interest in foreign mission work and in about 1962 or ’63 he got me to return with him to Guatemala in an open jeep! After that I was hooked. For the next several years, I made it a practice of buying jeeps in Houston for the Maryknoll Missioners. I would drive them down there for them and then spend two weeks riding in the mountains with Father Bill. I would then return home by plane. It took four days to get down there and three hours to get back!

After a while, the tragic intervention of the United States into the political affairs of Guatemala began to produce horrible results. The United Fruit Company and the CIA worked together to overthrow an elected leftist government. War was on. In those terrible years the United States saw Communists behind every bush and any corrupt government that declared itself to be anti-Communist was immediately a friend of ours and we would help them. That means that we would help them kill their own people.

My friend, Father Bill Woods, would be assassinated. His plane was shot down mysteriously in 1976. Then the reign of terror would begin. Villages would be wiped out, the archbishop of San Salvador would be assassinated, four American nuns would be raped and murdered, Jesuit professors would be slaughtered, etc., etc. For the most part, nothing would be done about it.

Now, however, a U.S. immigration court in Miami is seeking to expel General Jose Guillermo Garcia from the U.S. The American Ambassador at that time, Robert White, is wonderful and testified against Garcia and congratulated the court that “this is the first court that has ever found General Garcia linked so directly to these massacres and these killings.” The court stated that General Garcia held “the greatest power and authority in El Salvador.” The judge wrote, “He rebuffed reform, protected death squad plotters, denied the existence of massacres, failed to adequately investigate assassinations and massacres, and failed to hold officers accountable for the killing of their fellow countrymen.” The general also, “failed to adequately investigate Archbishop Romero’s assassination and encouraged “sham investigations” in the killings of the four churchwomen.”

Guatemala is far from a perfect country today. With the expulsion of Garcia back to his home country it may create the situation where that government will move against him for his countless heinous crimes.

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Disease and Illness in the Third World

By , October 30, 2013 7:03 am

Doctors Without Borders

Citizens of Europe, North America, Japan and much of the Asian rim for the most part enjoy excellent health care provided by their highly developed economies. The same cannot be said for Africa and much of South America where tragically impoverished rural areas simply cannot provide the resources to deliver modern health care.

This is a tragedy but it has some bright spots and there are many wonderful programs where generous and talented people give not just of their resources but of their very lives in order to lessen this disparity.
One of the best known is called Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). Then there are two wonderful hospital ships that plod up and down the coast of Africa pulling into ports and making health care available to the tens of thousands who otherwise would never be able to receive it.

I am proud of the fact that right here in the Diocese of Austin there is a long established, generous tradition of reaching out to our neighbors in the south, whether it be Mexico, Guatemala or even the South American continent itself. The average medical mission from our Diocese usually lasts about eight days – one day going down, five days of providing health care in a particular city or rural center, one day of relaxation in that area and then home. When I used to work with these groups, I would say that on the average the Austin Medical Mission would deliver services to about 2,500 patients. In all honesty, it was not the greatest medical aid in the world but it was better than anything available in the area in which we visited. May God bless the generosity and faith of the hundreds of Central Texans who have done this over the last 25 years.

Without exception, volunteers have all expressed that this week of generous service to others is a profoundly moving experience. The day begins with Mass and breakfast, and when the work begins there are usually about 200 people already waiting in line. The medical team works vigorously until the end of the day and the cooks have cold beer and drinks waiting for them. I was a pill counter at first but then not being too good at counting, I was cut back to the job of icing down the beer.

The leading force behind this ministry is Mr. Tino Hernandez whose address is 110 Raley Road, Cedar Park, Texas 78613, telephone (512) 259-5746. If you want to help on the next one, you need to know that you don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse. We need cooks, drivers and pill counters.

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Guatemala- Land of Eternal Spring

By , July 18, 2013 4:02 am

Trial of the Dictator

Land of Eternal Spring! Yes, that is how the Guatemalan government advertises itself to potential tourists and it is that. So beautiful, the weather is so perfect, its lakes and volcanoes so attractive. However, I have seen it through the last forty years as a land of unnecessary pain, suffering and injustice. That suffering began a special way in 1954 when the United Fruit Company was threatened about the election of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, a leftist. Although he had been chosen of a peaceful and legitimate election, the Company felt that he had to go and the CIA saw to his downfall. That coup unleashed a period of tragic, bloody warfare and conflict that would last for almost half a century.
I had a high school classmate, Father Bill Woods, who went to Guatemala as a Maryknoll Missioner and did magnificent work. I also got to know a diocesan priest from Oklahoma. His name was Father Stanley Rother. Both were murdered in that long going war. Guatemala had a cruel government through most of these years but the worst was that of a cruel general named Ephrain Rios Montt. I was very happy to see last month that a Guatemalan court had sentenced Rios Montt to life in prison after convicting him of the heinous crime of genocide. The country’s Supreme Court has intervened and asked that the trial begin again. Regretfully, it is not yet a clear victory on behalf of the oppressed peasants of that sad country but the country is moving in the right direction. During this sad period we saw that the United States of America, born in freedom, supported cruel dictatorships.
What was true of Guatemala was true also of Salvador and Honduras. In Salvador following the assassination of Archbishop Romero, I went with a group from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to show support for the Salvadoran hierarchy. We interviewed 20 people in-depth during a one week visit in November of 1980. However, by spring of the following year, four of the 20 had been murdered. It was certainly a tough time. Things are better now but they are a long way from clean and open democracy.

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As Usual, It Is the Poor Who Suffer!

By , January 22, 2013 4:18 am

Heads no longer turn when someone refers to a one-world economy or a globalized economy and there are many aspects of this new economic situation that will be helpful to the whole world’s population in the long run. However, on the short run, it is often the poor that suffer by changes in the system.
The expansion of the biofuels industry has contributed to spikes in food prices and a shortage of land for food based agriculture in poor corners of the Third World because raw materials are grown wherever it is cheapest. Back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I had many opportunities to drive all over Mexico and through much of Central America. One thing that I clearly remember as I cruised those thousands of miles was that corn was everywhere – corn in the plains, corn in the valley, corn very high up the sides of steep mountains. Scattered over this enormous area you would always see the small houses, huts really, of the people who were growing that corn. It not only provided them a livelihood, but it provided them with life itself. A simple life, yes, but at least they did not starve.
Today?? Well, the corn is still there but a great deal of it is not making its way to the table. Many developed nations have enacted laws mandating the increasing use of biofuel in cars and the policy is having a ripple affect across the planet. Land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel. Timothy Wise is a top university development director and an expert on development aid. His studies reflect that the United States is purchasing 40% of Guatemala’s corn to make biofuel. I am sure you can well imagine the affect that this is having on the cost of tortillas in that poor, rural country. Parts of Guatemala that were covered with corn five or ten years ago is now be utilized to produce sugar cane and African palms. Fifty percent of Guatemala’s children are chronically undernourished, the fourth highest rate in the world according to the United Nations.
Biofuel. We try to solve a problem and create another one! 

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Guatemala Still Suffers

By , September 27, 2011 4:24 am

I have had a strong interest in the Republic of Guatemala for over half a century. A close friend and high school classmate was a Maryknoll Missioner down there until he was murdered in 1976 courtesy of the Guatemalan generals. The CIA overthrew an elected government in the early ‘50’s and the country suffered unending conflict from that date until 1996 when peace accords were finally achieved. Since then, however, the country has suffered from constant internal strife and a tragic increase in crime.

A runoff election is currently underway between a wealthy businessman and a general whose political symbol is the clinched fist. The current election is less marred than the last one in 2007. Nevertheless, dozens of local and legislative candidates and party leaders have been killed during the campaign. Spending on the campaigns have soared because Mexican drug cartels have moved in and are now financing candidates. So much of Guatemala has been suffering over the last half century and at least partially caused by actions and policies emanating from the United States.

I try to pray for Guatemala everyday, praying that this battered little country will at last achieve peace and prosperity.

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