Crime & Justice

Mayan women in Guatemala demand justice for 1982 massacre

Guatemala City, Aug 8 (EFE).- A group of Mayan women from northern Guatemala were in this capital Tuesday to demand convictions in the trial of nine ex-military and paramilitary officers charged with slaughtering 25 of their loved ones in 1982.

“I don’t come here to lie, they killed my sister and my nephews who didn’t know anything. That’s why I have fought for more than 25 years so the crimes committed don’t go unpunished,” Paulina Ixpata told EFE outside the courthouse in Guatemala City.

The killings in the hamlet of Rancho Bejuco, some 80 km (50 mi) north of the capital, took place in July 1982 during the rule of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt (1926-2018), who presided over the bloodiest phase of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.

Ixpata, 60, came to the courthouse with a black and white portrait of her sister, Sofia Ixpata Alvarado, one of the 25 people who perished when troops locked them up inside a residence and hurled grenades at the structure.

The bodies were buried in a mass grave.

The nine defendants currently on trial face charges of crimes against humanity for a massacre that prosecutors say was carried out to punish the community because the men refused to join the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols (PAC), which functioned as an adjunct of the army.

What happened in Rancho Bejuco exemplifies “the systematic persecution of the state to eliminate the Maya population of the region,” according to a post-conflict truth commission.

Ixpata told EFE that while she filed a criminal complaint about the massacre in 1997, the defendants were not arrested until last year.

“The day of the massacre I went to the market with my parents. When we returned to our home the door was and open and everything was burned,” she recalled.

On trial for the massacre are retired army Lt. Col. Juan Ovalle Salazar and two ex-officers of the PAC, Mario Cordova and Santiago Cojon, along with six former PAC enlisted men.

Rios Montt was convicted of mass murder in 2013 for the slaughter of 1,500 indigenous people in northern Guatemala. But the Constitutional Court overturned the verdict days later.

More than 250,000 people died in the civil war, most of them indigenous peasants. EFE dte/dr

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