Crime & Justice

9 Ex-soldiers go on trial in Guatemala for 1982 massacre

By David Toro Escobar

Guatemala City, Jun 7 (EFE).- Nine former members of the Guatemalan army went on trial here Wednesday for the killings of 25 indigenous Achi Maya people in 1982 during the dictatorship of Efrain Rios Montt (1926-2018).

“It is an impactful case because there were 17 children among the victims,” Lucia Xiloj, an attorney representing families of the dead, told reporters, noting that the youngest fatality was 8 months old.

The mass killing took place on July 29, 1982, in Rancho Bejuco, a hamlet some 80 km (50 mi) north of Guatemala City, and followed the refusal of the community’s male residents to join a rural militia established by the military to fight leftist rebels, the public prosecutor said at the start of Wednesday’s session.

A contingent of troops locked 25 people inside a residence and then launched explosives at the structure.

The bodies were subsequently dumped in a mass grave.

Facing charges of crimes against humanity are retired officers Juan Ovalle Salazar, Mario Cordova, and Santiago Cojon, along with six former enlisted men.

The slaughter in Rancho Bejuco exemplified “the state’s systematic persecution to eliminate the Maya population of the region,” according to the findings of the Commission for Historical Clarification.

Rios Montt, who presided over the bloodiest phase of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, was convicted of genocide in 2013 for the killings of 1,500 indigenous people, but the verdict was overturned within days by the Constitutional Court.

The late strongman’s daughter, Zury Rios, is a candidate for president in the June 25 election.

More than 250,000 died in the internal conflict, the majority of them indigenous peasants.



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