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Guatemala has regrettable, sloppy hookup with United States

By J. DeVoy

And all it got to show for it was Syphilis and Gonorrhea!

No, this isn’t some tribute to Larry Flynt and Hustler’s famous ad about Jerry Falwell; we actually did this.  Consistent with the CIA’s penchant for involuntary testing of chemicals – such as LSD on Americans and the French, and extreme plutocratic capitalism throughout Central America – this time an unnamed branch of researchers infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge. (source.)

Naturally, Hillary Clinton and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fell over themselves to over-apologize.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to the joint statement from Clinton and Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

This is an unfortunate development, even if its roots are more than a generation old.  But, as with most failed social service programs, the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

The researchers were trying to determine whether the antibiotic penicillin could prevent syphilis infection, not just cure it, Reverby writes. After the subjects were infected with the syphilis bacteria — through visits with prostitutes who had the disease and direct inoculations — it is unclear whether they were later cured or given proper treatment, Reverby notes.

Many of the test subjects were prisoners and patients in Guatemala’s National Mental Health Hospital.  Even if they wanted to refuse the study, they could not.  The United States isn’t solely to blame in this situation, though, as it had the Guatemalan government’s cooperation.

The STD experiments were conducted with the cooperation of the Guatemalan government. During that time, the U.S. — which had a long association with the Guatemalan military — exerted a powerful influence in the Latin American country, largely in order to protect the interests of the American-based United Fruit Company. In 1954 the U.S. CIA helped overthrow Guatemala’s democratically elected president because of land reforms that opposed the multinational corporation.

Many countries have had bad hookups with the United States, including Iraq and Afghanistan (and those were in the 1980s, before shaving and waxing came into vogue – yikes!).  This is one of the first times, though, that regrettable diplomatic relations have carried the same consequences of similarly ill-planned sexual experiences.

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