UNDER the Communistdominated regime in Guatemala, where insurgent armies are fighting to seize power from the Reds, the Church, deprived of many civil liberties under military dictatorships in the past, has now no legal status at all, and is prohibited from owning property.
And the parishes are shouldering a heavy burden of relief for hundreds of families suffering from unemployment and other disabilities through political terrorism because they opposed the Red government.
The Clergy are forbidden to associate themselves with labour unions or to engage in any other kind of social work. Native priests arc insufficient for the needs of the Catholic population, but the entry of foreign priests is strictly limited.
The government has been considering whether to exile Archbishop Arellann who recently issued a stern pastoral calling on his people for a crusade of praiser, justice and social reform "against Communism. in the name of God and with God." The people of Guatemala, he said, must "rise as one man against the enemy of God and the country." And a Bishop must fulfil his mission as a shepherd "even if persecution, or worst of all martyrdom. awaits him."
Juan Rosales, director of the leading Catholic paper, Action Social Cristiana." has disappeared. and nothing is known of his fate.
Much propaganda has heen levelled against the Church and the Hierarchy by the Communist party (known as the Guatemalan Workers' Party). which exists, oddly enough, in defiance of the national constitution, and since many government posts have come into Communist hands. the party has been able steadily to intensify its attacks in practical form.
Mr. Dulles, U.S. Secretary of State, had alleged, before the insurgent rising, that the Communists had imposed a reign of terror on the country, and Colonel Castillo Armes, the insurgents' leader, has accused the Reds of instituting a police state. torturing and killing its critics, unjust deportations, suppressing the Press and freedom of speech, and generally making any sort of normal life impossible, Night arrests and the finding of bodies of vanished opposition leaders are said to he common.
The U.S.A. has for some time been gravely concerned with the Communists' efforts to establish themselves in Latin America. redoubled as a result of the setbacks they have met with in Europe. When 2,0181 tons of armaments were recently supplied to Guatemala from behind the Iron Curtain. the United States retorted by sending similar supplies to Nicaragua and Honduras.
The Reds have been working cm the long-standing fear and distrust of the U.S.A. prevalent among the people of Guatemala. Chile, British Guiana. Cuba and Brazil in particular, Economically. Guatemala is in beneficial thrall to the United States. but resents it.
The population of the country is about 3,000.000. Half the Guatemalans arc of pure Indian blond.