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Four Kaibiles Sentenced to 6,060 Years Each for Dos Erres Massacre

August 4, 2011

By Emily Willard and Laura Perkins
[Updated]

This past Tuesday marked a landmark event for human rights in Guatemala with the sentencing of Daniel Martínez Hernández, Manuel Pop Sun, Reyes Collin Gualip, and Carlos Antonio Carías to a total of 24,246 years in prison, for their roles in the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres, El Petén, Guatemala. Each defendant faces 30 years in prison for the murder of each of the 201 victims identified in the trial, with an additional 30 year sentence for crimes against humanity, bringing the total to 6,060 years each. Carlos Antonio Carías faces an additional six years for committing grand theft.

The massacre, which occurred in December 1982, was perpetrated by a company of 40 Kaibiles, Guatemala’s elite Special Forces unit. The group, including the four defendants, entered the village in search of 21 rifles lost in a previous ambush by guerrillas, and proceeded to methodically kill more than 250 men, women, and children. The villagers were beaten, raped, and thrown into the community’s well.

While the immediate response of those in the court room was of relief that justice had finally been served, critics point out that justice was only acknowledged for 201of the more than 250 victims.

Ana Lucia Cuevas*, sister of disappeared student activist Carlos Ernesto Cuevas who appeared in the Death Squad Diary, commented on the news of the Dos Erres Conviction, (and the recent success in the court case of the people of Choatulun, and Fernando Garcia):

“… these are evidence that some small cracks are appearing in this wall of impunity that has plagued the democratic process in our country for so long like some an endemic disease.”

The National Security Archive has a number of declassified U.S. documents relating to the Dos Erres case. You can access this electronic briefing book on the Archive’s website to see the documents and analysis, “Ex-Kaibil Officer Connected to Dos Erres Massacre Arrested in Alberta, Canada.”

For more information about other Kaibiles that have been arrested, see Kate Doyle’s two previous blogs here and here.

*Ana Lucia Cuevas is in the process of creating a documentary, “To Echo the Pain of Many”. The documentary is about the story of searching for evidence to find out what happened to her brother Carlos Ernesto Cuevas who was disappeared by Guatemalan security Forces in 1984. The Spanish-language version of the film is expected to be released this fall, see the trailer here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. alc permalink
    August 5, 2011 7:55 am

    Small Cracks in the Wall of Impunity

    As have hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, I have lived for 25-30 years with the pain of loved ones abducted, tortured and murdered by representatives of the Guatemalan State.

    All of this has been endured against a backdrop of foreign intervention, war, State-organised terror, and subsequent impunity for those directly responsible, either as the intellectual authors of these policies, or those who themselves carried out the torture or murders. So how does one respond when, after more than a quarter of a century, members of the police and army who served the various dictatorships, are finally being brought to trial, and convicted?

    Last night, when hearing the results of the trial in respect to the horrific genocide perpetrated on the people of Dos Erres, yes, we did raise a glass. Not so much in celebration, but in recognition of the tenacity of the survivors, and the fight for justice they have waged. And also in recognition of the work of those human rights activists like Aura Elena Farfan (Famdegua), and the human rights lawyers who have supported not only the Dos Erres community but various other cases over the past two decades.

    It is perhaps difficult for those who have not directly suffered the disappearance and murder of a loved one, to understand how difficult it is for us to put into words the incredibly mixed and often confusing emotions we experience, whether it be whilst attending an exhumation of a clandestine grave, or sitting in a courtroom during a trial. Yes, there is an understandable feeling of hope that the remains of a loved might finally be discovered, that justice might finally be served.

    And with the recent successes in respect to the court cases fought on behalf of the people of Choatulun (which I witnessed first-hand), and those of Fernando Garcia and the people of Dos Erres, these are evidence that some small cracks are appearing in this wall of impunity that has plagued the democratic process in our country for so long like some an endemic disease.

    However, when I heard, for example, of the arrest of Hector Bol de la Cruz, who as a military intelligence officer put in charge of the National Police would have had responsibility for the orders for the disappearance of Fernando Garcia, as well as for my brother Carlos Ernesto Cuevas and hundreds of others; Did I experience a feeling of joy?
    Certainly not the joy of holding my little nephew, Augusto Rafael at his baptism (just 15 months prior to he and his mum being tortured and murdered), or that of the birth of my daughter.

    When the judge’s hammer rings out the notice of a guilty verdict, what is stirred up in the excitement of a victory is the incredibly profound sadness of the personal and national tragedy that we have had to bear, in our hearts, our minds and our souls for so long. When we celebrate, if that is the word, alongside those families who have finally found some justice and (perhaps) closure, we are even more sensitive to the fact that there are still over one hundred thousand families for whom the effects of this disease, called impunity, prevails.

    The task at hand is to continue to devote our energies to work for justice. Each new victory widens the cracks, and bring new challenges.

    Those forces in our society who have benefitted from our loss, they will not give up their privileges without further threats or intimidation.

    Our fight goes on, and we salute all those who join our ranks in this struggle.

    Ana Lucia Cuevas
    2 August 2011

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