By Anarcho Babe, submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 17/03/2005 - 19:11
Guatemala has seen over 36 years of military dictatorship, initiated and supported by the US with technical advisors, equipment and funding, and 250 000 civilians, particularly children and women, were massacred by the paramilitaries during the civil war. Thousands of clandestine mass graves are still all over the country. 1996 the peace accords were signed, before only the armed struggle was an alternative to oppose the military dictatorship. Today atrocities are still not talked about, the paramilitary forces and the intellectual authors of massacres not convicted nor do they stand in court, and many mass graves have not yet been exhuminated. Jesus Tecu Osorio is one of the few human rights activists in Guatemala who has been able to give evidence against and the only one to thereby convict three paramilitary perpetrators of some of their crimes - linking them directly to at least one of the five massacres occuring to his community during 1981 and 1982. He spoke at an event hosted by Amnesty International in Edinburgh, on Thursday, 17th of march 2005. Jesus Tecu Osorio is a Maya of the Achi speaking people, he is one of the few survivors of the Rio Negro massacre, at which 70 women and 107 boys and girls were killed on the 13th of March 1982. In 1975 INDE, the state elecricity company planned to build an hydroelectric dam on the Rio Negro River over the next 5 years, supported by the World Bank and the Inter American Development Bank. The communities there were then subject to general state repression as they opposed the construction of the dam due to the fact that their land was taken from them without any compensation. In March 1980 the first massacre took place. The community leaders were kidnapped for a meeting with the electricity company NDE, and their bodies were found on a road site some days later with marks of torture. On the 4th of March 1981 the army arrived in Rio Negro, and started to raid houses and arrest people. 75 village leaders were massacred on the 13th of february 1982. On the 13th of march 1982 the army and the PACV massacred 70 widows and 107 orphans. The survivors took refuge in Los Encuentros, but the army followed them and captured 90 people. 40 women and children were taken away -never to be seen again, and 40 people were tortured and killed on the spot. On the 14th of september 1982 a neighbouring community, in which the survivors of previous massacres took refugee, was attacked and 90 more people massacred including children who were originally from the Rio Negro community. At the beginning of 1990 skeletons were still lieing all over the place. Jesus Tecu Osorio then started the legal process to begin the exhumination of the remains of the Rio negro massacre. "EL ALMA NO MUERTE" - My soul will not die Many survivors were and are still scared about the legal proceedings against the army and fearing consequenses. Then international journalists arrived during the exhumation and though Jesus Tecu Osorio was at this point not yet ready to talk to them about his experiences, he later valuated the possibilites the international media intrests provided to press for legal proceedings. The exhumation was not only a possibility to gather evidence, but also for the survivors to organise a christian burial, which took place on the 24th of april 1994. "This tragedy drove me to fight on, to speak to people sharing with them everything I lived through during the massacres." On the 14th of june 1994 an arrest warrant was issued against 3 ex-paramilitary officers. The death threats increased with the fight against those responsible for the massacre, including the intellectual authors of the massacrs. Research was started on who adopted the orphans of the massacres, to which families they were handed over and some subsequently lived with paramilitaries. The state fiscal wanted to close the case, because of the death threats he received. Support fro, the Human Rights Ombudsman and MINUGUA (UN) helped to put pressure to proceed. After 5 years the hearing began 9th of november 1998, and from the 13th onwards evidence was heared. Survivors and ex paramilitaries all attended the hearing. 15 victims, 18 paramilitaries and 5 experts were heard, and the 3 accused paramilitaries were sentenced to death, and army captain was accused of being the intellectual author of the massacres. On the 25th of february 1999 the Appeal Court overturned the judgements. On the 7th of septembre 1999 the case was heared again. After 35 days the ex military commanders and paramilitaries put pressure on the court. On the 1st of february 2000 The Appeal Court changed the sentence to 30 years without parole for each murder, 60 year for each prisoner. Now others are brought to justice. The arrest of the Colonel who is conbsidered to be the intellectual author of the massacrs has been issued, the adopted orphaned children in the US, Sweden, Italy and Germany are tracked down. From the 177 massacred, only the remains of 143 people have been found, and only 3 could be positively identified, becuase of missing teeth pattern, pregnancy or ID papers. The massacred were killed by hangings, gunshot or machete. The video "Rainmakers", director Robbie Hart, 20 min, documents the story of Jesus Tecu Osario in Rabinal, who then founded a human rights organisation, liasing with the Guatemala Solidarity network and the Legal Aid and Advice Centre in Rabinal. Today the main tasks worked on are to dennounce the hidden graves, help people to get back their land and resolve land issues following the massacres and trying to defy the culture of violence against women by challenging the legal impunity and supporting victims of violence.