Cold Warrior Criticizes Cold War and Drug War, Hires Cold Warrior to Promote Drug War

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The Americas Blog/CEPR

Cold Warrior Criticizes Cold War and Drug War, Hires Cold Warrior to Promote Drug War

"Forum Debate: Winning the War on Drugs: Otto Perez Molina" (Photo: World Economic Forum)

After penning an op-ed which blames the U.S. backed cold war and drug war for leading to the recent surge in migration from Central America, the Guatemalan President has hired a cold warrior to lobby the U.S. for increasing drug war cooperation. Confused yet? Okay, let’s start over.

Last week, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina wrote an op-ed in the Guardian arguing that the U.S. shared responsibility for a legacy that has spurred the current migration crisis involving the surge of unaccompanied Central American children arriving at U.S. borders:

…the so-called cold war had one of its hot spots in Guatemala…Communist and anti-communist ideologies created in Guatemala one of the bloodiest conflicts in Latin America, with weapons and money mostly from countries outside the region. More damaging was that for decades governments diverted resources from social and economic programs to security and defense.

Nonetheless, after the curse of the cold war, we faced another war: the war on drugs. Again based on ideological motivations, this new war diverted scarce funding from policies to foster education, health and employment to programs to block the flow of drugs from producer countries in South America to the consumer countries in the north. The failure of the war on drugs is widely recognized today, both for its limited capacity to stop drug flow, and its terrible consequences, expanding violence, corrupting institutions and weakening the rule of law.

While Perez Molina makes some fine points in his op-ed, he also completely leaves out his own role in the exact policies he’s criticizing. During the Cold War, Molina was a Guatemalan military officer involved in a “scorched earth” campaign that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and he has even been personally linked to serious human rights violations from this time period. Pot, meet kettle.

The situation took a turn for the ironic this week when O’Dwyers reported that Guatemala had hired notorious and far-right cold-warrior Otto Reich to lobby on the government’s behalf in Washington. Reich, who’s also been pretty much at the center of every lousy U.S. policy in the region since the Cold War, will be paid over $100,000 to, among other things:

Design a strategy to move forward on the change of narrative from Guatemala to Washington, D.C., allowing representatives in the North American political parties that are willing to abandon the reference to Guatemala of the 1970’s and 1980’s, as well as the last century, and are eager to talk about the present and future of Guatemala of the 21st century.

Yeah, let’s forget that whole time period where the current president of Guatemala was out there (allegedly) committing human rights abuses. It’s all about the future, where Guatemala cares more about economic and social programs, right?

But then there’s this: according to the lobbying disclosure document, Reich will help, “[d]evelop a strategy that can advance military cooperation between the United States of America and Guatemala...” In other words, Reich will help bolster support for increasing military support for those failed drug war policies that, according to Molina, “diverted scarce funding from policies to foster education, health and employment...”

The lobbying contract between Guatemala and Reich was signed in mid-July, so when Molina wrote that Op-ed, Reich was already his lobbyist. Here’s the disclosure document so you can go see what other lovely things Reich will be doing on behalf of Guatemala.

Jake Johnston

Jake Johnston is an international researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He writes on Haiti related issues for the blog Relief and Reconstruction Watch.

Peter Hayakawa

Peter Hayakawa is an international intern with the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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