kamala harris guatemala
Left: NBC News anchor Lester Holt. Right: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris (CNN photo)
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By Linda Allegro

One thing I learned from the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial is that apologies matter. Reparations matter for harm inflicted on communities of color and impoverished communities. It’s in this context that Kamala Harris’s words, “don’t come here”, were especially hurtful during her recent diplomatic mission to Guatemala.

She should’ve begun with an apology–an apology for the U.S backed coup that ousted the beloved president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. That coup led to the deepening of extractive economies often led by U.S. multinationals driving Indigenous people off their lands and into crushing poverty. There should have also been an apology for the U.S. backing of right-wing governments in the region in the purported war on communism that left millions dead and created refugees.

The war on communism was a direct attack on Indigenous people and their communal way of life. This instability paved the way for drug trafficking to flourish as the region became a trafficking route for the insatiable American appetite for cocaine and other drugs.

Apology and resources to impacted communities

After an apology, a goodwill effort should have been made (and I believe she did make this gesture) to bring much needed resources to impacted communities in terms of relief for housing development, sustainable agriculture, educational advancement etc. to help restore the dignity of nations.

Instead, her message of “don’t come here” was cold and condescending, the epitome of the ugly American or arrogant yanqui the region knows so well. Her directive appeared to be meant to appease opposition at home over the “border crisis.” Perhaps she should have spent more time listening to the concerns and suggestions of the people in the country hosting her.

The Guatemalan people have suffered a lot. Many have no desire to leave their homelands. They want nothing more than to prosper and to live in peace in their country. The K’iche, Kaqchikel, Mam and other Indigenous people are rooted in working their lands as they have for millennia. When people migrate, it is often because they have no other choice – because they have been forced to move, become displaced, and targeted.

They are in fear for their lives and seeking safety and refuge. All human beings have the right to seek asylum under international law. Let’s work towards messages of apology, reparation and reconciliation worldwide. If healing is to take place, it has to be this way. 

The office of the Vice Presidency missed an opportunity to showcase for the world how apologies and reparations are the cornerstones of healing.

Linda Allegro is the director of El Centro: New Sanctuary Empowerment Center in Tulsa, Okla.

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One reply on “Op-ed: Vice President should’ve used her position to apologize for coup in Guatemala”

  1. That is a great idea to demand an apology from our current government. Not that it would atone for the incredible damage and loss of life and livelihood this coup cost millions of innocent Guatemalan souls. This would also have the effect of righting the wrong reporting of history that leaves out all the US efforts to overshow democracies in favor of pliable oligarchs that would allow the economic plunder of their countries. Bring this story back to the consciousness of America. As so many Americans are becoming aware of the governments role in the economic subjugation of our black families through suppression of wealth building opportunities, they now need to become aware of the brutal oppression of brown families done in the name of “defeating Marxism”. That canard is coming again into popularity for use among the “by any means necessary” crowd of MAGA supporters. The Constitution must be set aside and means nothing .if the goal is to defeat Marxism. So much death and destruction has historically been waged with that rationale. We must not let them get away with using that rationale ever again to ignore basic human rights. Ii is coming and building momentum. The right calls their “new” version of the same tired old “threat”, American Marxism. Coming soon to a battle theatre near you. MAGA vs. the Marxists will be on the marquee but the actual fight will be between democracy and the MAGA juggernaut against peace and prosperity for all.

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