Posts tagged: United Fruit Company

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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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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