For the Love of Money: The Guatemalan Far Right’s Dehumanization of Human Rights Defenders
Rachel Louise Hatcher
Rachel Hatcher is a researcher with the ‘S’ouvrir aux Amériques pour mieux protéger les droits humains et s’engager dans la réconciliation’ project, directed by Bernard Duhaime, law professor and member of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance. She holds a PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan. Her work has appeared in de Arte and the Public Historian, and ActiveHistory. ca. Her first book, The Power of Memory and Violence in Central America (Palgrave), was published in 2018.
This article draws on the literature on dehumanization to explore Guatemala’s Foundation against Terrorism (Fundación contra el Terrorismo) and its multi-faceted and intersectional dehumanization of human rights defenders, imagined as contemporary heirs to the ‘terrorists’ (that is, leftist guerrillas) to which the Fundación’s name refers. This research is based on the Fundación’s social media posts and those of its followers. I explore the ease with which the Fundación and its followers deny humanity to human rights defenders, especially in reaction to death. These posts go beyond the very clear dehumanization involved in labelling human rights defenders parasites, leeches, and rats to include denying them the ability to feel. That is, in addition to the animalistic dehumanization commonly seen as a precursor and contemporary to genocide and other gross human rights violations, including in Guatemala, human rights defenders suffer from what Nick Haslam describes as mechanistic dehumanization.