• Live
    • Audio Only
  • Share on Google +
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on twitter
  • Guatemalans Continue to Dignify Victims of Genocide

    | Photo: James Rodríguez

teleSUR
Newsletter
Get our newsletter delivered directly to your inbox
In the 1980s, U.S.-backed military forces in Guatemala massacred Indigenous communities. Today, Guatemalans continue to search for the victims.

The brutal Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996) left over 200,000 civilian victims. According to the United Nations Truth Commission, the Armed Forces carried out over 600 massacres against unarmed communities - mostly rural indigenous Mayans - as part of a counterinsurgency strategy that resulted in genocide.

The Ixil Mayan region, located in the highlands of Quiché and composed of the municipalities of Nebaj, Cotzal and Chajul, suffered the brunt of counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s. Dozens of massacres ravaged the local population, thousands fled seeking refuge in the deep mountain forests or lowland jungles, while many were forced to serve as Self-Defense Civil Patrolmen – makeshift paramilitary forces controlled by the Army and made up of local villagers conscripted by force.

Achieving some sort of inner peace for those alive by finding, exhuming and eventually burying family members who were killed or forcibly disappeared has been an ongoing and exhaustive process.

Since 2011, however, the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) has been using sophisticated DNA technology along with software developed after the 9/11 attacks in the United States to speed up the recognition of thousands of victims exhumed from clandestine graves.

Since the early 2000s, human rights activists and war victims have focused on one principal strategy as a foundation for moving Guatemalan society forward: through judicial justice against the perpetrators and masterminds.

On May 10, 2013, for the first time in world history, a former head of state was not only tried for genocide and crimes against humanity in a national court, but also found guilty of these charges. Former Guatemalan de facto head of state Jose Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, was sentenced to 80 years of jail for ordering the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Mayans through the development and implementation of military plans aimed at killing unarmed civilians.

RELATED: Rios Montt Case Symbolic of Impunity Guatemalans Must Overcome

Even though the sentence was voided 10 days later by the highest court in the nation due to technicalities, the case has already transcended numerous legal and mental barriers that have shook the country and the region as a whole. The trial is slated to once again take place in early 2016.

Meanwhile, the search, exhumation, identification, and proper burial of the victims are part of a continuous process. Here the story of Francisco Lopez, who after witnessing the execution of his father in 1982, finally got a chance to bury him and say a proper goodbye 33 years later.

 

Francisco Lopez, 52, helps fill an exploratory trench during the exhumation at the former military garrison of Cotzal. On February 3rd, 1982, Lopez witnessed in this same location the execution by firing squad of his father, Pedro Lopez Cordoba, who was accused of being a guerrilla sympathizer. Lopez volunteered his time to dig up trenches in hope of finding wartime victims, including his father. Members of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) exhumed the remains of Lopez Cordoba from grave 9 and eventually identified him via DNA analysis. Xolosinay, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 6, 2014.

Grave 23 at the former military garrison of Cotzal contains the human remains of three men wearing civilian clothing with their hands bound and tied. The exhumation, carried out by the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG), took place from August 28th until November 8th, 2014, and rendered the skeletal remains of 74 wartime victims from 24 different graves. Xolosinay, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 7, 2014.

Local Ixil Mayan people watch as members of the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) carry out the exhumation of three skeletal remains from grave 23 at the former military garrison of San Juan Cotzal. Xolosinay, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 7, 2014.

A forensic anthropologist analyses and records the skull of a child exhumed from a clandestine grave in the Ixil Mayan village of Vipecbalam, Nebaj, The Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) focuses on exhuming, identifying and properly burying the thousands of missing wartime victims from Guatemala's internal armed conflict. FAFG’s own Forensic Genetics Laboratory in Guatemala City – the only one of it’s kind in the region - has been operating since late 2010 and has rendered positive identification of dozens of wartime victims from numerous regions via DNA analysis. Guatemala City, Guatemala. September 29, 2015.

Francisco Lopez carries the remains of his father Pedro Lopez Cordoba as members from the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala (FAFG) return them to his family after positive DNA identification. La Bendicion, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 3, 2015.

Friends and family pray over the remains of Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba at the home of his son Francisco Lopez (back right). La Bendicion, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 3, 2015.

Family members of Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba sit in the kitchen during his wake. La Bendicion, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 3, 2015.

Maps and paintings decorate the room during the wake for Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba. La Bendicion, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 3, 2015.

Friends and family mourn Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba. La Bendicion, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 4, 2015.

Francisco Lopez (right) travels on the back of a pickup truck along with massacre survivor and community organizer Nicolas Corio (center) on their way to bury Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba. San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 4, 2015.

Catarina Lopez, 88, (front right, with red scarf over head) watches along with friends and family as the remains of her husband Pedro Lopez Cordoba are buried over 33 years after his execution. Santa Avelina, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 4, 2015.

A cross telling the fate of Ixil Mayan wartime victim Pedro Lopez Cordoba is placed on the grave. Santa Avelina, San Juan Cotzal, Quiche, Guatemala. November 4, 2015.

Francisco Lopez takes a moment to contemplate during the burial of his father Pedro Lopez Cordoba at the Santa Avelina cemetery in Cotzal. He states: “I am sad but happy at the same time because he is finally close to home. Before, not knowing where he was, well, it was very difficult. Now at least I can come visit him on November 1st."

Loading...

Comment
0
Comments
Post with no comments.