Early this spring, almost 1,000 representatives of popular organi- zations gathered in Guatemala City to found the Democratic Front Against Repression (FDCR) whose single objective is to build a unified resistance against the campaign of terror raging in Guatemala. Fifteen people have been mur- dered each day since the begin- ning of the year; in the capital city, few people venture out after dark and visitors report almost nightly gunfire. While such violence and terror have been chronic in Guate- mala since the CIA-backed estab- lishment of a military dictatorship in 1954, the present campaign has a particular significance: it is aimed at crushing, not only peasant and guerrilla insurgency as in the past, but a rapidly growing mass move- ment, organized, shaped and in- spired by working-class leader- ship. The advance of the popular movement is associated with the creation of the National Commit- tee for Trade Union Unity (CNUS), formed in the wake of the 1976 Coca Cola workers' strike. Under the leadership of the CNUS, which has sought to build ties between the labor, peasant and student movements, the working class has conducted a series of militant ac- tions, culminating last October in a four-day general strike aimed at blocking an attempted hike in bus- fares (See Update, Nov-Dec 1978 Report). The concerted action of workers, students and shanty-town 38 dwellers bore unmistakable testi- mony to the intense polarization of classes that has taken place in Guatemala over the last three years. In response to the "threat" posed by the popular movement, terrorist "hit squads"-the Secret Anti-Communist Army (ESAO) and the Armed Action Force (FADA)-- have circulated death lists and undertaken the assassination of unionists, student leaders and university officials. While govern- ment spokespersons place blame for these murders on the "fight between extreme right and ex- treme left," the materials and methods employed by the squads, as well as the impunity with which they act, point unequivocally to collusion between police and army intelligence units and the ter- rorists. THE COMPLICITY OF PRIVATE CAPITAL On April 5, Manuel Lopez Balam, the new Secretary General of the Coca Cola workers' union, was knifed to death while on his delivery route. The leadership of this union, perhaps the strongest union in Guatemala and a principal force in the CNUS, has been a prime target of the hit squads. Lopez Balam was the second union leader at Coca Cola killed in the space of a few months; the former Secretary General, Israel Marquez, fled the country after several attempts on his life. GUATEMALA THE POPULAR RESPONSE Charging company complicity in the assassination of their leader- ship, workers at Coca Cola pointed out that only Coke officials had ac- cess to the addresses and delivery routes of the slain unionists. There is also evidence of com- plicity on the part of both govern- ment and business in the assassi- nation of Manuel Colom Argueta, the mayor of Guatemala City from 1970-1974, the leader of the moderate United Front of the Revolution (FUR) and a likely 1982 presidential candidate. His brother Gustavo has charged that at a meeting with private business leaders in March, senior army of- ficers decided to assassinate Colom Argueta. The latter was ap- parently organizing opposition to the government's economic devel- opment plans for Guatemala's "Northern Transversal Strip." THE DEMOCRATIC FRONT AGAINST REPRESSION The essential task of the FDCR, formed on the initiative of the CNUS, is "to defend our organiza- tions to enable them to continue pushing forward the struggle for popular and democratic rights." The problem of "self-defense for organizations, groups or individu- als threatened by repression" is recognized by the FDCR as a vital aspect of its struggle. Accordingly, security measures for meetings, demonstrations or threatened in- dividuals are gradually being developed. But the principal significance of the FDCR consists in the unity it has forged between formerly op- posing forces. Traditionally, the petty-bourgeoisie-shopkeepers, civil servants and intellectuals- formed the ranks of the democrat- ic, nationalist parties, Colom NACLA Reportupdate * update * update * update Argueta's FUR and Fuentes Mohr's Democratic Socialist Party (PSD), and, hence, were engaged in the very electoral politics so deeply suspected by the CNUS and other popular organizations. However, with the murders of Colom Argueta and Fuentes Mohr and the spread of repression to its own ranks, much of the petty- bourgeoisie has begun to despair of electoral politics and to look in- stead to the popular movement or revolutionary organizations. Their participation in the FDCR ex- presses their recognition that only a structure completely indepen- dent of traditional political institu- tions can insure their survival. REVOLUTIONARY SUPPORT The formation of the FDCR has received expressions of support from both the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) and the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP). Moreover, the EGP has conducted a series of armed propaganda actions throughout the country in an effort to build a united struggle against the enemy offensive. Its most successful mass meeting was held in Nebaj where 4,000 Indian peasants and workers met for a full day with armed peasant guerrilla units of the EGP. Following the 12-hour meeting, the newly painted walls of businesses and municipal buildings proclaimed: "Let no one give information or any kind of help to the repressive forces! "; "Every- one organize to combat repres- sion together!"; "Our objective is the Revolution, the Popular War is the only road!"
Tags: Guatemala, resistance, popular movement, repression