Memories of Genocide: Guatemala

Guatemala Kaibil Unit

I have an uneasy fascination with the era of Guatemalan genocide.  I was there toward the end of this period (Guatemalan Civil War) in the 1990s.  I visited Santiago Atitlán in 1990 a week after the massacre of 13 indigenous by the Guatemalan Army.  I witnessed people being taken off the bus as I traveled through Guatemala by the army never to be seen again (by me).  I was a fly on the wall in Guate and have never forgotten the highlands and in the Petén near Poptun where Michael and Carol Devine had a small farm called Finca Ixobel open to the low budget tourist (http://www.fincaixobel.com/).  Michael was murdered in 1990 for discovering illicit activities and the Poptun cuartel and its commander, a Col Pires were implicated in the death.  I walked over to the cuartel and noticed the motto over the gate: “Bienvenidos al Infierno

Ex-Kaibil Officer Connected to Dos Erres Massacre Arrested in Alberta, Canada Declassified documents show that U.S. officials knew the Guatemalan Army was responsible for the 1982 mass murderNational Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 316Updated – January 20, 2011
Originally Posted – May 7, 2010By Kate Doyle, Jesse Franzblau, and Emily Willard

For more information contact:
Kate Doyle – kadoyle@gwu.edu
Jesse Franzblau –jfranzbl@umich.edu
Emily Willard – ewillard@gwu.edu

Washington, D.C. – January 20, 2011 – Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes was arrested in Alberta, Canada on January 18, 2011 on charges of naturalization fraud in the United States. Sosa Orantes, 52, is a former commanding officer of the Guatemalan Special Forces, or Kaibil unit, which brutally murdered more than 250 men, women and children during the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres, Guatemala.Sosa Orantes, a resident of Riverside County, California where he was a well known martial arts instructor, was arrested near the home of a relative in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. The charges for which he was arrested stem from an indictment by the United States District Court, Central District of California on charges of making false statements under oath on his citizenship application. Sosa Orantes will come before the Canadian court in Calgary to face possible extraditionto the United States.In an interviewwith the Calgary Sun, U.S. Justice Department prosecutor David Gates said that the extradition request was not a result of the allegations against Sosa Orantes for his involvement in the massacre; his extradition is being requested for alleged naturalization fraud. However, considering the similar case against Gilberto Jordan, it is possible that the precedence set with the ruling on that case may affect the outcome of Sosa Orantes’s case.On September 16, 2010 in a historic ruling, former Guatemalan special forces soldier Gilberto Jordán, who confessed to having participated in the 1982 massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in Dos Erres, Guatemala, was sentenced today by a judge in a south Florida courtroom to serve ten years in federal prison for lying on his citizenship application about his role in the crime. Calling the massacre, “reprehensible,” U.S. District Judge William Zloch handed down the maximum sentence allowed for naturalization fraud, stating he wanted the ruling to be a message to “those who commit egregious human rights violations abroad” that they will not find “safe haven from prosecution” in the United States.On May 5, 2010, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Gilberto Jordan, 54, in Palm Beach County, Florida, based on a criminal complaint charging Jordán with lying to U.S. authorities about his service in the Guatemalan Army and his role in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre.

The complaint alleged that Jordán, a naturalized American citizen, was part of the special counterinsurgency Kaibiles unit that carried out the massacre of hundreds of residents of the Dos Erres village located in the northwest Petén region. Jordán allegedly helped kill unarmed villagers with his own hands, including a baby he allegedly threw into the village well.

The massacre was part of the Guatemalan military’s “scorched earth campaign” and was carried out by the Kaibiles ranger unit. The Kaibiles were specially trained soldiers who became notorious for their use of torture and brutal killing tactics. According to witness testimony, and corroborated through U.S. declassified archives, the Kaibiles entered the town of Dos Erres on the morning of December 6, 1982, and separated the men from women and children.

They started torturing the men and raping the women and by the afternoon they had killed almost the entire community, including the children. Nearly the entire town was murdered, their bodies thrown into a well and left in nearby fields. The U.S. documents reveal that American officials deliberated over theories of how an entire town could just “disappear,” and concluded that the Army was the only force capable of such an organized atrocity. More than 250 people are believed to have died in the massacre.

The Global Post news organization conducted an investigative report into the investigation of the Guatemalan soldiers living in the United States and cited declassified documents released to the National Security Archive’s Guatemala Documentation Project under the Freedom of Information Act. These documents are part of a collection of files assembled by the Archive and turned over to Guatemala’s truth commission investigators, who used the files in the writing of their ground-breaking report,

Guatemala: Memory of Silence.” [see CEH section on Dos Erres]

The documents include U.S. Embassy cables that describe first-hand accounts by U.S. officials who traveled to the area of Dos Erres and witnessed the devastation left behind by the Kaibiles. Based on their observations and information obtained from sources during their trip, the American officials concluded “that the party most likely responsible for this incident is the Guatemalan Army.”

The Guatemalan National Police Archives

Drugs and The Guatemalan Military
A Report from the Texas Observer

The Guatemalan Military: What the U.S. Files Reveal

Colonel Byron Disrael Lima Estrada

U.S. Policy in Guatemala, 1963-1993

The CIA and Assassinations
The Guatemala 1954 Documents

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About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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