by Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU
Below, read the preface from The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse by Marjorie Cohn, available directly from Truthout:
Experience, we are told, is a great teacher. If this is so, then my classroom was a clandestine prison and my teachers, experts in the commission of crimes against humanity. There were others on this cruel faculty as well, drawn from two governments, the Guatemalan and my own.
It was in the fall of 1987 that my dream was realized. I had come to my new home in the highlands of Guatemala to live and work alongside the Mayan people as a Catholic missionary.
My ministry was teaching children how to read and write in their native language, and with them, to celebrate their culture—a culture devalued by that country’s oligarchy. There I hoped to live the rest of my life.
That dream was short lived, as had been the dream of democracy for the Guatemalan people. In 1954 the United States had overthrown the democratically-elected government of Guatemala, whose land reform program had incurred the wrath of the United Fruit Company. During the ensuing decades Guatemala was the scene of torture, disappearance, massacres and death. Some 200,000 Guatemalans suffered this fate. As a long, cruel civil war raged, the government, the military and the oligarchy committed genocide against the Mayan people. All of this occurred with the support of the U.S. government.
It was in this setting that on November 2, 1989, I was abducted by members of the Guatemalan security forces, put into a police car, blindfolded and taken to a clandestine prison, where I encountered a world I never could have imagined…