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Murder and complicity in Guatemala; U.S., Israel allegedly continue furtive roles in military, politics.

GUATEMALA CITY -- Recent reports of the alleged complicity of a Guatemalan army colonel who was a CIA contract employee in the deaths of a U.S. citizen and a Guatemalan rebel leader have added another chapter to the history of U.S. involvement with Guatemala's brutal armed forces.

According to reports revealed last month by Robert G. Torricelli, D-N.J., of the House Intelligence Committee, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez ordered the 1990 murder of inkeeper Michael DeVine. Alpirez also ordered the killing of guerrilla commander Efrain Bamaca, husband of Harvard-educated lawyer Jennifer Harbury, the reports allege. Bamaca was reported "disappeared" after he was captured in March 1992 by the army.

Alpirez's alleged involvement in DeVine's murder came six months after the colonel completed a 48-week Command and General Staff Officers Course at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The CIA knew about Alpirez's alleged hand in the murders but concealed the information, according to Torricelli.

The murder prompted Congress to suspend military aid to Guatemala.

But U.S. military involvement in that country, which dates back to the 1954 CIA-led coup that ousted elected President Jacobo Arbenz, initiating more than 30 years of control by military regimes, continues to date. Bush and Clinton administration officials have admitted that the CIA continued to funnel between $5 million and $7 million annually to the Guatemalan military and to CIA sources even after the aid cutoff. That slush fund may still exist today.

Moreover, through a campaign calledd Strong Roads '95, thousands of U.S. army reserves will rotate in and out of Guatemala in groups of 300 this year for training organized by the U.S. Southern Command in Panama.

U.S. government sources say this is a "lesson on democratic interaction and military-civilian community relations" as well as "realistic training for (National) Guard reserves." The reserves are operating in the departments of Jutiapa and Jalapa and are working side by side with Guatemalan security forces.

Guatemalan journalist Armando Cu, who runs the Bartolome de las Casas Center for media, said the U.S. troops are doing more than building roads.

"Strong Roads hides under a camouflage of social and humanitarian assistance. Do they think they can fool us with this today like they fooled us with mirrors 500 years ago?" Cu asked.

"This program has logistic goals: One, the United States wants to build a buffer so the (Mexican) Zapatistas won't go any farther. And the gringos, they are helping out with psychological warfare techniques, which are the backbone of low-intensity warfare," he added.

Cu said, because of the international political scandal surrounding the Guatemalan army's human rights record, U.S. training of officers and troops can not be carried out "openly." So, he said, "help comes in the name of Strong Roads, of democracy, of human rights, of ecology and of anti-narcotics assistance."

While there was no direct military aid to Guatemala in 1994, economic aid reached $30 million and anti-narcotics aid was at least $40 million, according to U.S. government sources. The Clinton administration has also proposed the renewal of International Military Education Training for the Guatemalan army, but Congress denied the request.

Moreover, Guatemalan security forces continue to receive weapons and, according to human rights advocates in the country, training from one of the United States' closest military allies -- Israel.

An international expert on political-military relations in Guatemala City who asked to remain anonymous said Israel has "filled a market" for guns in Guatemala that the United States was not filling "for political reasons." He said Guatemala security forces get Israeli training and weapons under the rubric of "training for presidential security."

According to statements from Interior Minister Carlos Enrique Reynoso Gil, published Feb. 13 in the Guatemalan daily Siglo 21, Guatemala was to receive a shipment of "extremely sophisticated" weapons in February from an Israeli merchant for the national police force.

Another report, published Feb. 11, announced the sale of Israeli semiautomatic weapons to Guatemalan civilians. NCR visited the company that claimed in a Yellow Pages advertisement to be the exclusive retailer of Israeli Uzi submachine guns. An Uzi, which can be purchased with a permit requiring a psychological exam, costs approximately $2,000, a company representative said. A Visa or Diners card may be used.

The gun shop was located approximately six blocks from the Guatemalan police academy, a few blocks from the residence of the Minister of Defense -- and across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City.

Cooperation between Guatemala and Israel in security matters has been occurring since the 1960s, according to Dangerous Liaison, a book published in 1991 about the connection between the CIA and Israel's Mosaad intelligence agency, written by investigative journalists Alexander and Leslie Cockburn.

The Cockburns assert that Israel has repeatedly propped up Guatemala's military and intelligence services. The Cockburns claim, Israeli provided such services when, for political reasons, the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense and CIA could not.

Moreover, the Cockburns offer documentation that Israeli intelligence agencies have provided support to repressive forces in Central America on cue from the CIA, allowing U.S. agencies "deniability" of involvement at politically delicate moments.

According to the book, for example, "Secretary of State Alexander Haig made a direct request for Israel to assist the unappealing Guatemalan regime in 1981," when the U.S. Congress was blocking aid.

And, the authors claim, "One former senior Reagan administration official recounted how a delegation of Democrats had come to him to ensure that Israel was getting enough military contracts from Guatemala. The U.S., they thought, should guarantee that Israel had a monopoly on the business." Israeli advisers "were prominent participants" in scorched-earth campaigns under the Efrain Rios Montt regime, the authors claim, and they supplied the military with the computerized intelligence system it needed to "track potential subversives, thus improving the efficiency of the counterinsurgency offensive."

And, the Cockburns contend, the designs for forces like the rural civilian patrols in Guatemala today (see main story) originally came from the Israeli military.

In the 1960s, the book states, "(Israeli) advisers roamed Central and South America fighting cotton pests in El Salvador and opening vegetable cooperatives in Guatemala. `Mobile teams' created `model settlements' in the region, while experts were dispatched from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to train paramilitary youth groups along the lines of similar organizations in Israel."

At the time, training of high-ranking Guatemalan military officers by the Israelis, the authors claim, was subsidized by the U.S. Treasury.

The Cockburns quote a prominent Guatemalan politician as saying, "The Israeli's do not let this human rights thing get in the way of business. You pay, they deliver. No questions asked. Unlike the gringos."

Fray Bartolome Center director Cu said tactics used recently by Guatemalan security forces denote a new level of sophistication. Individuals who repeatedly raided his office last year, he said, "are specialists. They are not the same thugs of yesteryear." He said they once put the organization's secretary to sleep using pressure points on her neck.

The members of the security force who conduct such raids, Cu said, "don't ransack anything, they just take a lot of pictures and we think they plant microphones."
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Title Annotation:Michael DeVine murder
Author:Wirpsa, Leslie
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Apr 7, 1995
Previous Article:Mayan pride lives as patrols harass, displace, destroy.
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