To begin this post here's George Bush getting some practice in at being contrite- this could have served him well before his Latin American trip. The Mayan cleansing to be carried out in Iximche has ran and ran, as have the crosses held aloft by students in Guatemala City. Bush as sinner or 'el Diablo', has captured the public's imagination.
On the day that George Bush will touch down in Guatemala- the agenda for that one hour meeting and dinner with Oscar Berger is doubtless rather full- though no surprises if it turns out to be empty on contrition. Foreign Minister, Gert Rosenthal, hinted they might be discussing ethanol production- but if this interview in Siglo XXI is anything to go by- sounds like policy on the fly:
Es tener una buena visita bilateral y pasar revista a todos los temas. Ellos traen una iniciativa que nos interesa, que es diversificar el mercado energÃ©tico para elevar la participaciÃ³n de los biocombustibles, llÃ¡mese etanol. El paÃs tiene posibilidad de ser un importante proveedor, con base en la caÃ±a de azÃºcar. Es una iniciativa conjunta entre Estados Unidos y Brasil.
¿Ellos quÃ© ofrecen?
Brasil tiene tecnologÃa, y Estados Unidos estÃ¡ dispuesto a comprarnos etanol.
¿CuÃ¡nta capacidad de producciÃ³n tendrÃa Guatemala?
No tengo idea.
Here's a better idea from the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (Nisgua) just in case both are prepared to bear their soul a little: they could make a joint declaration to advance the legal cases against General Efrain Rios Montt and members of his military high command. They can't say there's a shortage of information on this one.
Nisgua points out:
While international arrest warrants for Rios Montt and his military high command have been in effect in the U.S. since last year, the Bush Administration has yet to publicly acknowledge the warrants or show support for legal initiatives in Guatemala. Given the strategic importance of Guatemala's relationship with the U.S., any message from President Bush supporting anti-impunity efforts and the prosecution of Rios Montt would have a strong impact on the ground in Guatemala.”
But hey, the onus doesn't rest solely with Berger to make a move here. What are the odds of a contrite Bush making a Clinton-style apology for US involvement in these crimes? It's worth reminding ourselves today of what Clinton said in 1999:
This report from Robert Parry at the time- tracks the journey that led up to that moment the last time a sitting US President visited Guatemala. The Clinton administration had declassified scores of the secret U.S. documents in the late 1990s- the Peace Accords had not long been signed and the Historical Clarification Commission had just reported. It feels a world away now.
Apologizing of course is not with out controversy, William Blum pointed out that: “the word “sorry” did not cross the president's [Clinton's] lips, nor did the word “apologize”, nor the word “compensation”. For other views on the significance of this moment see:
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 11 – U.S. POLICY IN GUATEMALA, 1966-1996 – declassified during Clinton's time in office.
Then there's this on Bush's track record on apologizing from Robert Parry's report on that V-E Day speech on May 7 2005:
Finally, for family precedents, Dubya's dad is quoted as saying the following in 1988 as Vice President: