10/15/2013 01:31 pm ET

The Myth Of The Squeaky-Clean United States


Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, a former second lieutenant in the Guatemalan military, was recently convicted in the US of making false statements while seeking to obtain US citizenship. Because he failed to disclose his involvement in the Guatemalan army, Orantes could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Orantes' story would not have made national news had it not been for the fact that he is also accused of having led a massacre in Guatemala. In 1982, more than 200 men, women, and children were killed during the attack at Dos Erres. The soldiers were allegedly looking for stolen weapons when they entered the village but, after not finding any, proceeded to rape the women and kill all the witnesses, including many young children. All the soldiers were forced to participate in the massacre, so that they would all be equally guilty.

Unfortunately, US media coverage of the Orantes case has been severely lacking. Most media stories failed to mention the US' intimate involvement in the Guatemalan civil war, which is unforgivable. In articles that do mention that the US backed the Guatemalan military, the wording is often not strong enough. While it is difficult to uncover the exact contours of US support, there is no doubt that the US provided military, economic, and political assistance to the Guatemalan government during its 1960-1996 civil war.

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