Tuesday 19 January 2021

Long Road To Justice: CIA’s Allies In Guatemala On Trial For Indigenous Tribes Genocide

During the Cold War the CIA was obsessed with keeping communism out of Latin America. In the 1970s and 1980s, the agency backed right-wing regimes in Guatemala which carried out genocidal attacks in indigenous groups that supported left-wing rebels.

Three retired officers in the Guatemalan army are awaiting trial accused of carrying out genocide against the Maya Ixil people almost 40 years ago.

- Advertisement -

General Benedicto Lucas García, General Manuel Callejas y Callejas and Colonel César Octavio Noguera Argueta were high up in the CIA-backed Guatemalan regime when it clamped down on leftist rebels and civilian sympathisers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

CIA Backed Dictators and Military Juntas

Washington’s policy in Central America was defined by the Cold War, the growing influence of Cuba in the region and a neurotic fear that communism would take over and threaten the US’s southern border.

In 1979 the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza was ousted by the Sandinistas and next door, in El Salvador, the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front was fighting to unseat a military junta which deployed death squads against suspected guerrillas and their supporters.

- Advertisement -

Guatemala occupied a vital strategic position straddling the Central American isthmus just south of Mexico and President Jimmy Carter and his successor Ronald Reagan were determined not to let it fall into communist hands.

So when several leftist rebel armies, most notably the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), began an insurgency the CIA was quick to support the government of President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, a former army general.

The Guatemalan government was also supported by Argentina – then run by a military junta committing savage human rights abuses against leftists – and got logistical support from Israel, Taiwan and apartheid-era South Africa.

Lucas Garcia’s army carried out brutal massacres against indigenous groups in the Maya highlands, who were largely supportive of the EGP and other rebel armies.

Over the next four years around 200,000 people were killed and the violence did not improve when Lucas Garcia was ousted in a military coup by General Efrain Rios Montt.

The guerrillas gradually lost ground during the 1980s and eventually the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG), an umbrella group representing the rebels, signed a peace agreement in 1996 in which they were reintegrated into democratic politics.

- Advertisement -

But despite the peace agreement there was still a long wait for justice for the victims of the government atrocities.

The Center for Justice and Accountability said: “Due to the extent to which Guatemala’s judicial, police, and military institutions have historically been infiltrated by organised crime…the country is often ranked as one of the most corrupt and impunity-riddled states in the world.”

In many cases judges wore masks to hide their identities when presiding over cases in which the defendants were powerful individuals.

In 2009, under international pressure, the Guatemalan government set up the Courts for High Risk Crimes, which introduced higher security for judges and lawyers involved in the process.

In 2013 Rios Montt, by then aged 86, was finally convicted by the Courts for High Risk Crimes of his involvement in the Maya Ixil genocide, but he immediately appealed and died five years later during his retrial.

Benedicto Lucas García – the former chief of the General Staff and brother of former President Lucas Garcia – and Callejas, a former chief of military intelligence, were jailed for 58 years for detaining, torturing and raping a teenager, Emma Molina Theissen and killing her 14-year-old brother Marco.

The pair, along with Noguera Argueta, a former chief of military operations, are now facing trial for their role in the Maya Ixil genocide.

Earlier this month Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez suspended a pre-trial hearing after defence lawyers claimed the genocide charges should be heard by an ordinary court, rather than the Courts for High Risk Crimes.

It remains unclear whether the Maya Ixil people will ever get justice.

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q24N
Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

Related Articles

Protesters set fire to the Guatemalan Congress

Q24N - Hundreds of Guatemalans burned Congress headquarters on Saturday in...

Hurricane Iota moves towards a devastated Central America

QCOSTARICA - Hurricane Iota strengthened this Monday and rose to category...

MOST READ

At 11 months to delivery, the road to Limón missing 440 expropriations

QCOSTARICA - Road construction, more to the point, delivery of finish projects, has been a low point for Costa Rica's Ministerio de Obras Publicas...

Tourist arrivals to Costa Rica fell 68% last year compared to 2019

QCOSTARICA - Arrivals of foreign tourists to Costa Rica by all routes fell 67.7% last year, compared to 2019 figures, although that third is...

Australian doctor’s at-home Covid test approved by FDA

(AFP) An Australian doctor who began inventing virus detection tools as a "hobby" is now helming a mammoth effort to ship the first non-prescription...

“It is foreseeable that 2021 will be like an extension of 2020”: UNA epidemiologist

QCOSTARICA - Despite the arrival of the vaccine against Covid-19 in Costa Rica, 2021 will be like “an extension of 2020”, according to Juan...

Covid-19 in Costa Rica: 181,093 cases and 2,367 deaths

RICO'S COVID19 DIGEST - Costa Rica has accumulated 181,093 cases of Covid-19 since the first cases last March, the Ministry of Health reported this...

Couple created a mobile mini-supermarket on wheels to bring back the shopping experience to the elderly

QCOSTARICA - Taking their inspiration from the traditional fruit carts that still make their way through many neighborhoods in Costa Rica and their affection...

New criteria for calculating VAT in outsourcing services could raise costs

Businesses that outsource services must collect the VAT (Value Added Tax) from their clients on the total amount of the service and not only...

Ticos lose respect for the new coronavirus, lower their guard

QCOSTARICA - Costa Ricans (Ticos) went from not knowing a single suspected or confirmed case of covid-19 in April to learning of four or...

Residency for People with Fixed Income (Rentistas)

QCOSTARICA -  If you, or your spouse, receive an income of at least US$2,500 USD per month (US$30,000 per year), individually, you could qualify...

Want to stay up to date with the latest?

We would love to hear from you! Please fill in your details and get updates daily in your mailbox. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.