Thursday, January 31, 2013

Over 1,000 massacres in Guatemala

Writing in Plaza Publica today, Quique Godoy said that 40-45% of the Guatemalan population was born after the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords. That percentage goes much, much higher, obviously, if you use a mid-1980s cutoff. Most, but not all, large scale massacres ended by 1984. Given that one-fifth of the population also lives in the capital department, most Guatemalans don't really have a good idea of what is being discussed in Rios Montt's trial.
It's got to be even less in the US. What percentage of the US population knows about early 1980s Guatemala? 5-10%?
However, I wanted to add something to the massacres that isn't as well known. REMHI was published in 1998. It recorded 422 massacres. The Commission for Historical Clarification was published in 1999. It recorded 664 massacres. Even though the CEH recorded over 200 massacres more than REMHI, it didn't include every massacre that was included in the earlier publication.
Gonzalo Sichar Moneno wrote a book that was published in 2000 - Masacres en Guatemala: Los gritos de un pueblo entero. After speaking with victims who had lost relatives in massacres that did not appear in either report, he began to do his own investigating. He compared the massacres that appeared in the REMHI and the CEH reports with others that had been told to him and to those that appeared in books but not in the reports. Here is what he came up with:
As I mentioned the other day, we now know more about the violence that was carried out in Guatemala from the 1960s through the 1990s. I'm more convinced today than ten years ago about many things, including a policy of genocide. Just look at El Quiche.
Of the 1,112 massacres (more than four people but usually much more than four), government forces were responsible for 1,046 (94.06%). Government forces include the army, military commissions, PACs, death squads, and police. Some massacres involved more than one group.

The guerrillas were responsible for 46 (4.14%). By far, the EGP was responsible for the majority of massacres committed by the insurgents with 41. It was the EGP that the military was pursuing when they carried out the massacres for which Rios Montt is being tried.
He also found that 413 massacres were committed by state forces while Rios Montt was president. Another 507 were carried out under Lucas Garcia. Lucas Garcia served nearly four years as president while Rios Montt was only president for seventeen months.

And remember - it's not just the number of massacres. It's the truly horrific acts that were carried out before, during, and after the massacres.

(Sorry for the typos.)

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