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Abusing the Cause of Human Rights By: Michael Radu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 26, 2003


Communism may have collapsed over a decade ago, but its adherents have not gone quietly into the good night. Rather, the intellectual remnants of the Marxist Utopia have reinvented themselves as staunch defenders of "human rights." In Argentina, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, South Africa, and even Spain, radical Marxists are attempting, with great success, to rewrite the history of the violent Left's defeat at the hands of anti-communist forces. The major root cause of these reassessment campaigns are their promoters: embittered die-hards still clinging to the destructive credos of the defeated totalitarian Left.

In Latin America, leftist-dominated public universities such as San Carlos in Guatemala, San Marcos in Lima, and UNAM (The Autonomous National University of Mexico, the world's largest) have shrunk over the past two decades as government expenditures have shriveled and higher education has been privatized. As a result, public schools now compete with private universities such as the Guatemalan Francisco Marroquin University, where educating rather than radicalizing students is the goal. Consequently, many Progressive intellectuals have been forced to leave their traditional university refuges and seek employment elsewhere.

"Elsewhere," increasingly, is the growing constellation of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), largely funded—directly or indirectly—by the European Union (EU), through its rich and usually leftist member governments. Marxists formerly employed by Latin American taxpayers are now active as human rights militants, their salaries underwritten by the EU, the Ford Foundation or radical factions of the Catholic Church and assorted Protestant congregations in the U.S.

In some cases, this recasting of the hard Left as "human rights advocates" and pacifists has even led to unrepentant Marxists receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Guatemala's Indian and leftist activist Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992), and Argentine writer Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980) have both received Nobel prizes. Here is a sample of Esquivel’s award-winning "thinking," from a letter to President Bush, dated April 10, 2003:

"The greatest of your defeats is that you will lose the respect of the people of the world, and win rejection in humanity’s conscience for all the crimes committed. In this flight to rush onward, you are accompanied by your allies of death: Tony Blair, José María Aznar and John Howard. You hide the true motives of the Iraq invasion and seek to justify massacres in order to seize the oil resources of Iraq, and to dominate the Mideast, and to impose your plans of world hegemony and global dictatorship…You have transformed the United States into a terrorist State."

Equally disturbing is the mainstream acceptance of groups like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo of Argentina (openly and unashamedly Stalinist) as noble human rights defenders, even after the Mothers’ leader, Hebe de Bonafini, publicly applauded the 9/11 attacks. Incidentally, Bonafini’s anti-U.S. vitriol did not prevent her from receiving numerous European "human rights" prizes.

But the most confusing, dangerous and ultimately pernicious campaign of this transmogrified Left is its attempt to rewrite the histories of countries where Marxist totalitarianism failed. Members of Salvador Allende's regime in Chile engaged in acts of murder and terrorism even before Allende's election in 1970. But the dinosaurs of the Communist Party insist upon judging the crimes of the Pinochet era (1973-90), as if that military regime had overthrown mere liberal democrats rather than professional Marxist terrorists when it ousted Allende from power.

It is the same story in Argentina: those who took part in the various military juntas (1976-80) that destroyed the Montoneros and ERP (People's Revolutionary Army)—both of which were supported, armed, and trained by Castro—were and are being pursued by law enforcement officials, while the defeated Marxist terrorists are not. Yes, some members of the military engaged in real crimes, such as kidnapping infants, for which they should be punished. But not only are the middle-class Montonero and ERP terrorists—the real authors of the Argentinian civil war—seen as victims, their supporters are now the judges of the past.

In Spain, the establishment Left in the media has managed to frame the Spanish Civil War as a victimization of the Left at the hands of Franco. Franco's victims among the Spanish totalitarian Left (most of which was controlled by Stalin from Moscow) are now lionized, while the thousands of priests, nationalists and conservatives and dozens of bishops and nuns, as well as anarchists and Catalan or Basque separatists, murdered by the Communist-controlled Republican regime are largely forgotten.

In Guatemala and El Salvador, where Marxist guerrillas lost civil wars and then entered politics (so far with little success), their fellow travelers in justice and human rights want to put on trial the military and the large majority who supported them during the 1980s. Thus, Menchú’s campaign against Efraim Rios Montt, a Guatemalan junta leader in 1983 who had been popularly elected (and defrauded by the military) in 1976, and was also a military victor against the Left in 1970 and again in 1983. The accusation? "Genocide," despite the fact that the victorious military of Rios Montt, his predecessors and successors were mostly Indian, fighting mostly terrorist groups led by Marxist white intellectuals.

In Peru, where the Communist Party (better known as Shining Path) was responsible for some 30,000 dead between 1980-92, a democratic Commission for Truth and Reconciliation led by leftist intellectuals has managed to place equal blame for the long-running violence on the Communist terrorists and their legitimate adversaries. They even persuaded Peru’s President Toledo to apologize for his elected predecessors’ crackdown on Shining Path militants. Worse still, the relatives of thousands of murdered Peruvian civilians are being encouraged by left-wing voices to "reconcile" with their Maoist killers. Reconciliation is the last thing that should happen.

In South Africa, the apartheid intelligence and military apparatus was put in the same defendants' box as civil servants, mob murderers and practitioners of "necklacing." Perhaps there is no moral difference between these factions, except that the latter were promoted into the South African security forces after the fall of apartheid.

The common thread running through all these developments is that the very same Left that failed, and was defeated, in its violent campaigns is now trying, with considerable success, to win in the eyes of "justice" and "law" what it lost in the military and public opinion fields. When an entire generation is being taught a false version of the recent past, under the noble rubric of "human rights," an entire future generation of leaders will be unprepared to deal with threats to freedom; when the initiators of the civil wars of the 1970 and 80s—the spoiled sons and daughters of dysfunctional middle classes in most cases—are seen as innocent victims of uniformed guerillas, rather than terrorist totalitarians, morality and truth are the true victims.

Would Chile be better off now if Allende and his minority clique, rather than Pinochet's free marketers, succeeded in their goals? Would a Marxist El Salvador be better off than the present model? Would a Moscow-controlled Spain, likely a member of the Warsaw Pact, be the thriving European Union member and democracy it is today? The answer to all these questions should be obvious, but instead, the very notions of justice and human rights are being distorted to further an alternative totalitarian history.


Michael Radu is Senior Fellow and Co - Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.


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