An Apology, But No Compensation?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary From 1946 to 1948, the U.S. government conducted secret medical experiments on unsuspecting people in Guatemala. An estimated 1,300 were infected with venereal diseases in an effort to test penicillin. These people were purposefully infected by American doctors and not told what happened to them. These people either died from complications due to venereal disease or they still suffer horrible complications from these experiments. It was only in 2010 that a researcher found the original documentation of what happened during that period and brought the whole atrocious chapter to light. Immediately U.S. President Barack Obama apologized for this crime against humanity, and the Guatemalan government has since opened up an investigation into this. Despite the official apology, the U.S. government is offering no compensation to those who were experimented on, and has claimed “sovereign immunity.” Because the U.S. government has claimed sovereign immunity, it means that it and those who were accomplices in this crime against humanity cannot be held accountable because this was done in another country with the “permission” of the government of the time. Also, those American government officials of today cannot be held accountable for what happened 64 years ago.

Excuse me, but all of this sounds like lame excuses for not owing up to the fact that this did happen. The U.S. government can apologize for committing a crime against humanity, but it will not pay up? Those who committed this atrocity were American doctors, and they operated on a secret American government program. They were experimenting on innocent people who did not know they were being used as guinea pigs in a horrendous experiment. They have suffered for decades of horrendous medical conditions that they and their families have had to pay for because of what the U.S. government did! Many went to an early grave for this, and this put a horrible burden on their families to cope without their loved ones. Surely, these people should be compensated for the losses they have suffered. Alas, a federal judge rejected any lawsuit brought by attorneys for these people because this all happened in another country. The attorneys will appeal the case to a higher court. Whether this lawsuit ever succeeds or not, it has to make me wonder why the U.S. government has not offered compensation to these people?

This is beginning to put America in the same context as Japan. The Japanese government will not compensate any of those who suffered during World War II, and the Japanese courts have rarely ruled in favor of those who suffered from Japanese aggression during that time. This is one of the main reasons why Japan is still at odds with its neighbors. Is this what the American people want? Apologies are great and fine, but to truly try and heal these wounds it would be best if the U.S. government offered some compensation to try and help those Guatemalans who suffered for all those years. It is the least the U.S. government should do.

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