Published on North American Congress on
Landmark Developments in Guatemalan Human Rights
May 14 2009
Human rights activist in
The recent arrest of two police officers in
In the weeks following the arrests, the Guatemalan government made public millions of documents from a police archive haphazardly discovered in 2005 by human rights officials at police compound. The archive’s documents shed light on years of violent repression, abductions, assassinations, and torture by
Despite fear of a violent backlash against these efforts to bring war criminals to justice, the families of victims and human rights activists are hopeful that these moves will begin untangling the web of impunity that continues to hinder
Authorities arrested Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos, who was serving as the chief of the National Civil Police (PNC) for Quetzaltenango, on March 5. The next day, the government also detained retired officer Abraham Lancerio Gómez. Both men were members of the National Police at the time of Edgar Fernando García’s disappearance – two other policemen remain at large. The government disbanded the National Police – replacing it with the PNC – as part of the 1996 peace accords that ended
At the time of his disappearance, 26-year-old García was a student at the school of engineering at the
Human Rights Prosecutor Sergio Morales used eyewitness accounts collected by the GAM and documents uncovered at the police archives to file the charges against the two men. Police officials had long denied the existence of any such archives throughout the peace process. In 2005, a judge issued an order permitting the Ombudsman and staff to inspect the records. The entire police archives project has hung on that slender thread ever since.
The arrests of the police officers involved in García's disappearance marks an emotional high-point for Montenegro and other human rights activists, but the victory was somewhat bitter-sweet. Brutal violence against human rights activists in
In September 2007, the Guatemalan government and the UN established the independent Commission Against Impunity in
Chaos broke out in
The capital was paralyzed. Former general Otto Pérez Molina, an opposition leader, and other public figures that openly sympathize with the military demanded that the government declare a state of emergency, which suspends constitutional civil liberties.
The next day, March 25, Morales’ wife was kidnapped and tortured by gunmen suspected of being part of these clandestine groups. Several other people involved in the case have also been beaten and threatened.
Part of the problem lies in that many of
U.S.-based advocacy groups highlight
The declassified documents  show that in addition to knowledge of specific disappearances, including García's, Embassy officials were also aware that these abuses were part of an ongoing, systematic government effort to attack labor leaders – and other peaceful activists deemed subversive.
Five days after García was abducted an Embassy cable  flatly noted that 28 labor leaders were “disappeared in 1980 in one fell swoop. It is believed that GOG [government of
Human rights advocates in
Lisa Skeen is a NACLA Research Associate.
Source URL: https://nacla.org/node/5818
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs