Guatemala in Food Crisis, Revolution is the Solution
Guatemala in Food Crisis, Revolution is the Solution
Guatemala is experiencing a food crisis. It has been so severe that the President announced a “state of public calamity” declared in order to tackle food shortages. President Álvaro Colom Caballeros said the nation’s food problems are the result of a major drought this year, global warming, and the international economic crisis, and he also citied the nation’s “history of unfairness that has made Guatemala live since long ago with high and shameful poverty levels, extreme poverty and undernutrition.”
This crisis is a major problem because of the extent of starvation affecting the country. The United Nations World Food Program states that nearly 50 percent of Guatemala’s children under 5 years of age suffer from chronic undernutrition, also known as stunting. Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the fourth highest rate in the world.
In an online journal on BBC, Lida Escobar, a field monitor for the WFP, gives a first-hand account of what she is experiencing:
“In the eastern city of Jalapa I was astonished by what I saw. There were many many children with severe malnutrition problems. We found 22 children with marasmus and kwashiorkor [two nutrient deficiency diseases] in the hospital. Kwashiorkor is a type of malnutrition in which the children swell because they retain liquids because of protein deficiency. Their hair can also become discoloured and they develop some skin lesions. Marasmus is another form of malnutrition in which the skin barely covers the bones because of a protein and calories deficiency. The children become very thin, lose hair and can become very irritable.”
The food crisis affects the majority of the country not for lack of food but due to the extent of poverty preventing people from obtaining food. As stated by President Colum, the crisis is more about a lack of monetary resources than food. “There is food, what is lacking is the money for the affected people to buy food,” Mr Colom said. “We are not going to wait until we’ve reached starvation levels to act.”
According to the World Bank, about 75 percent of Guatemalans live below the poverty level, and 58 percent of the population work for incomes below the extreme poverty level. The poverty level is defined as income below which to acquire basic goods and services, and extreme poverty is defined as that needed to purchase a basic basket of food. Income restrictions limit access to an adequate diet for many Guatemalans. The minimum wage covers about 75 percent of the basic food basket.
About 40 percent of the nation’s more than 13.2 million citizens are indigenous Mayans. Poverty is even more widespread among the indigenous populations, long exploited and oppressed by colonialism, and who live in more rural areas. In the highland areas of this mountainous country, where many indigenous people live, seven out of 10 children under age 5 are malnourished. The national health services only cover about 60 percent of the country; most rural areas lack water and sanitation systems.
The history of Guatemala is that of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and exploitation. First colonized by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado after defeating the indigenous Maya in 1524, it became independent from Spain in 1821 when it became part of the Mexican empire. Later Guatemala gained its own independence in 1839. It became ruled by a succession of conservative dictators who turned the country into a plantation for coffee and other food exports for rich nations at the expense of the majority Guatemalans. In 1951 social democrat Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán became president, implementing mild land reforms and other social programs, which angered US corporate interests and the Guatemalan elites. A CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953 overthrew Arbenz and led to a succession of right wing military governments that operated as a mafia state, engaged in death squad activity that massacred indigenous rebels. A civil war that ran for 36 years led to the deaths of over 200,000 civilians, which a UN-initiated truth commission blamed the military for 93 percent of the deaths. Most of those responsible for the genocide have not been brought to justice.
Class struggles continue in Guatemala. For example, the military was found out to have kidnapped hundreds of children for sale to adoption to First World families.
The crisis of Guatemala, like much of the Third World, is one of imperialism. While the First World “left” searches in vain for their First World, revolutionary proletariat, the real communists in the Maoist Third Worldist movement see the obvious: the real proletariat and its allies reside in the Third World. While First World social-democrats fret about First Worlders not getting enough health care, they ignore the real crisis in places like Guatemala.
Revolution is the only option for Guatemala to end centuries of exploitation. Currently, Guatemala’s resources benefit the populations of the First World. Only revolution can turn the tables and put the resources of Guatemala in the hands of Guatemalans. Revolution is the solution to end the starvation and easily preventable diseases that affect so many in the Third World. The answer for Guatemala and all of the Third World is an end to imperialism and the creation of a social system that truly serves the people. The principal contradiction of the world is between imperialism and exploited nations, and the food crisis in Guatemala is further proof of this.
1. “Guatemala declares calamity as food crisis grows.” CNN. September 9, 2009. http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/09/guatemala.calamity/index.html?eref=rss_world
2. “Guatemala declares hunger crisis” BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8246782.stm
3. “Hunger Situation Desperate In Guatemala.” World Food Program press release. http://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/wfp-executive-director-josette-sheeran-hunger-situation-desperate-guatemala
4. “Guatemalan Army Stole Children for Adoption, Report Says.” CNN.
5. “Diary: Guatemala food crisis.” BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8254841.stm