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Guatemala 2000
A photo journal by David Booth

Day 9 Part 1 - Meeting with Jack McCarthy of USAID

Monday, March 6, 2000

Back in Guatemala City for our last day, we met with Jack McCarthy of USAID to learn about the US role in Guatemala's economic reconstruction.   

Jack McCarthy of USAID
March 6, 2000
(Transcribed by Roberta Borgonovo)

Jack McCarthy of USAID (5 Kb)
Jack McCarthy of USAID.

Guatemala is now facing an interesting situation with the FRG in power. The FRG was excluded (or excluded itself) from the Peace Accords while the PAN, which has always been unaware of the rural Guatemala needs, participated in all the negotiations. This can be a problem since much of the government work should go towards the implementation of the Peace Accords. The FRG has always been very radical and now the Guatemalan ťlite is worrying and fears that its interests will not be represented. The reality is that many government positions are held by a rare mix of people: leftist and not, conservative and not, so the result should be very interesting.

Land was a huge source of conflict within communities and with the state even prior to the war, and it is still an unresolved issue, even with the Peace Accords. The money that was supposed to go a Land Fund was pocketed and used for other purposes. This money was simply given by other countries to the Guatemalan government, which was not even held responsible for its use, and considering the level of corruption in the political system, it makes it impossible for problems to be solved at the structural level.

Lisa with Jack McCarthy (1606.05 Kb)
Lisa with Jack McCarthy. 

Besides how the money was used, there is a conceptual problem with the land issue: there simply isnít enough land for everybody, even if it were distributed equitably. The real problem is figuring out how to optimize the use of the land and make it sustainable and eventually prosperous. This can happen not by having farmers over farmers, but by investing more in education and having more engineers and doctors who can give back to the community. Unfortunately from the indigenous campesinosí point of view itís very hard: they speak little Spanish and many of them are not yet organized in cooperatives or other organizations, so they worry primarily about sustaining themselves and their children. The Green Book published over fifteen years ago by USAID actually talks about this issue.

As for the returned refugees, they were given relatively many benefits -- more than to those who never left the country but who suffered nonetheless. For example, so far 18,000 returned families benefited from the Land Fund CONTIERRA that was created after the Peace Accords, a fund that has been extremely helpful and that with representatives speaking many indigenous languages has been able to reach many communities. The surrounding communities, those who are not returned refugees, feel left out: not only did they stay and endure the violence of the army and the guerrillas during the war, but now they donít get any help or benefit compared to those who left.

[End of meeting notes]

USAID Peace Program
March 6, 2000
by Lisa

IR 1 - Assistance:

IR 2 - Education:

IR 3 - Productive Activities:

IR 4 - Development Strengthening:

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