Alex Hamasaki, Student Intern
Last Modified: 14:04 DST, 10 April 2013
GUATEMALA CITY – During the trial of the former U.S.-backed military president Efrain Rios Montt, a former soldier implicated the former army general and current Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina in civil war atrocities.
Hugo Reyes, a soldier who was a mechanic in part of the engineering brigade in the area where atrocities were carried out, told the court that Molina ordered soldiers to burn and pillage during Guatemala’s civil war with leftist guerillas in the 1980s, reports Latino Fox News.
Molina was elected president for the conservative Patriotic party and assumed office on January 14, 2012.
Reyes said that “the people who were to executed arrived at the camp beaten, tortured, their tongues cut out, their fingernails pulled out.”
Montt is also being held on trial for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, with connection of the deaths of 1,771 Mayan Indians during his military dictatorship that lasted from March 1982 to August 1983, backed by the U.S. in his counterinsurgency against guerillas.
Victims of the Guatemalan massacres also gave testimonies. Julio Velasco Raymundo told the court that he witnessed the Guatemalan army shelling villages full of civilians.
The Guatemalan civil war lasted between 1960 and 1996, with heightened violence and terror during the reign of Montt in the 1980s. Several guerilla groups were rebelled against the government in a response to state repression and lack of representation.
Two guerrilla groups emerged in the early 1980s: the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and the Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA). The geographical areas of activity of both guerilla groups corresponded with zones of high indigenous presence. The EGP and ORPA drew large numbers of members from the indigenous population, and they had bases of support among the poor and ladino middle classes of the capital city.
The government viewed the indigenous population as a threat and began the systematic killing of indigenous Mayan Indians assumed to be associated with the guerilla groups. The “kill list” of indigenous Mayans continued to grow, including non-violent leaders. From the start, the Guatemalan government was not fond of the indigenous Mayans, and were especially brutal toward them.
The Guatemalan Truth Commission estimated during the 36-year conflict, 200,000 people were murdered, 85 percent of whom were indigenous.
The Guatemalan government could not have performed these atrocities without outside assistance from their allies, Israel and the United States. From the U.S. assistance in a coup d’etat in 1954 to the Carter Administration, the U.S. provided the Guatemalan government military aid and troop training to assist with the combat of guerilla groups. When the U.S. decreased their aid to Guatemala, Israel stepped up in the 1970s and created an intelligence network within Guatemala, providing Guatemala with military intelligence, weapons, and military training.
Throughout the trials, Latino Fox News reports that Montt has remained silent, his lawyers saying that there was a lack of clear evidence that proved Montt is responsible for the crimes committed by Guatemalan troops.