New York Times: Guatemala Arrests Former Military Officers in Connection With Massacres

January 12, 2016 12:30 pm In the News


New York Times: 

The Guatemalan authorities on Wednesday arrested 18 former military officers on charges related to massacres and disappearances during the 1980s, the bloodiest period of the country’s 36-year civil war.

The arrests pose a direct challenge to the president-elect, Jimmy Morales, a political neophyte who ran as the candidate of a party dominated by former officers.

Among the men who were arrested was retired Gen. Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, 83, who was the army chief of staff during the dictatorship of his brother, Gen. Romeo Lucas García. A former military intelligence chief, Manuel Antonio Callejas y Callejas, was also detained, as was one of the generals who ousted General Lucas García in a 1982 coup.

“These are the big fish,” said Victoria Sanford, an anthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York who has studied human rights violations committed during the 1960-96 war, when security forces razed whole villages as they pursued leftist guerrillas.

Over the years, prosecutors have struggled to put officers on trial for human rights atrocities committed during the war. In 2013, a former military dictator, Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt, was convicted of genocide, but the verdict was overturned. A retrial is scheduled to begin next week, although his health is too frail for him to attend the court sessions.