“For General Otto Pérez Molina’s alleged murder of Efraín Bámaca, see New York Times, March 24, 1996, ‘Guatemalans Covered Up Killing of an American, U.S. Aides Say,’ by Tim Weiner. The article discusses the deaths of Michael DeVine in 1990 and of Bámaca after his capture by the Guatemalan Army in 1992. General Pérez Molina was also linked by human rights organizations to another notorious murder, the 1994 assassination of Judge Edgar Romero Elías. For that and more on Pérez Molina, see Washington Office on Latin America, Hidden Powers in Post-Conflict Guatemala, December 2003.”
– pg. 385, THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER, Francisco Goldman, Grove Press, New York, 2007.
“Journalist Allan Nairn, who’s covered Guatemala since the 1980s, describes how the court’s decision, while just related to corruption, paves the way for a fuller reckoning.
“Speaking to Democracy Now! Wednesday from Guatemala City, Nairn said, ‘Corruption has kicked open the door. Now, what could follow is mass murder, a prosecution for mass murder. Just about everyone I talk to on the street raises that issue. And under Guatemalan law, an ordinary citizen can go to a court and file a criminal case. And now that Pérez Molina has been stripped of immunity, anyone can step forward and file criminal charges against him for the slaughter in the Ixil zone in December of ’82, when that slaughter occurred, and I was there talking to Pérez Molina and talking to his troops. So that now becomes a possibility.
“And if that does happen, Nairn said that prosecution should follow the ‘trail of blood’ – all the way to Washington.”
– pg. 43, Amandala, Sunday, September 6, 2015, from an article by Andrea Germanos published on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 (Common Dreams).
“The macabre trials the Guatemalan Army contrives to test recruits, especially in elite combat battalions and intelligence units, are notorious. Over the years the same horrific anecdotes have repeatedly emerged, including one about recruits’ being given a puppy to care for through basic training, then having to slash its throat.
“Rubén Chanax, in Mexico City, had told Mario Domingo a much more disturbing story about his G-2 (Military Intelligence) training course. At the end of the intelligence course, he said, as a kind of final exam, the trainees had to commit a murder. Considering that it was a course for the Guatemalan Army’s most murderous entity, this was not incredible. Chanax described an incident he said had occurred in May 1992 on the Incienso Bridge, spanning a deep ravine outside Guatemala City, resulting in the double homicide of a young couple selected at random. The weapon was a pistol, he said. ‘And then,’ said Chanax, ‘we graduated, if you want to put it that way.’ Later Mario Domingo found brief newspaper reports from May 10, 1992, of a couple found dead at the bottom of the ravine underneath the Incienso Bridge.”
– pg. 291, THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER, Francisco Goldman.
As I write this Sunday afternoon, September 6, 2015, Guatemalans are going to the polls to elect a new government. Extraordinary events have taken place in that Central American republic over the last ten days. Under the pressure of several months of mass demonstrations in the capital city, the Guatemalan Congress had voted on Tuesday to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of immunity from criminal prosecution. With his Vice President, Roxana Baldetti, already in jail for several weeks, Pérez Molina resigned on Wednesday this week, whereupon he was imprisoned. Pérez Molina was supposed to stay in office until the new government was sworn in next year January. His new Vice-President, Alejandro Maldonado, was sworn in as President on Thursday afternoon.
As the noose tightened around Pérez Molina’s neck last weekend, I had telephoned Clinton Canul Luna in the Finca Solana section of Corozal Town to get his read. At that point, Pérez Molina was still in power and he was holding on to presidential immunity. Canul Luna suggested that Pérez Molina might try to run for asylum to Mexico. He said that it appeared to him that powerful people in Washington must have turned against him for some reason or the other. If that was not the case, if Washington had remained supportive of Pérez Molina, Canul Luna surmised, then the leaders of the street protests which had begun in April would have already been “disappeared.” That is to say, such leaders and organizers would have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered.
I then turned to another source for analysis. My second source suggested Panama as a possible flight option, and said he found Canul Luna’s Washington displeasure read to be interesting and solid. The following day, my second source located for me an article by Patricia Davis which had originally been published online on Friday, April 24, 2014. This article revealed that Pérez Molina had presided in 2013 over the sharpest escalation in targeted attacks on human rights defenders since Guatemala’s civil war ended in 1996. (“Human rights defenders” is a term encompassing journalists, judicial workers, unionists, indigenous leaders, and others.) In retaliation for U.S. restrictions on military aid, and pressured by accusations of genocidal atrocities against him by a former soldier testifying during the trial of former dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt, Pérez Molina had “unleashed a disinformation and character assassination campaign” against one Tim Rieser, an aide to United States Senator Patrick Leahy and the majority clerk on the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Committee.
Patricia Davis’ April 2014 article, unfortunately, did not make it into our Tuesday, September 1 issue of Amandala. When we did get it into print on Friday, September 4, on page 30 of that issue, we did not emphasize that this was an article from last year. Apart from the fact that the Davis article required explanation in light of Pérez Molina’s Presidential crisis, it was a very long article – three pages long. Articles of such length intimidate a lot of readers, but this was a critical article.
Since last year, this newspaper has been focusing on the Pérez Molina presidency, not only because of his alleged participation in the Ixil zone slaughter of December 1982, but also because of his alleged involvement in the murder of Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi in April of 1998. Francisco Goldman, the author of the definitive work which deals with the Bishop Gerardi murder, THE ART OF POLITICAL MURDER (Grove Press, 2007), happens to have published a lengthy article in the September 4, 2015 issue of The New Yorker which links some of Pérez Molina’s recent problems to the visible links he has maintained with Captain Byron Lima Oliva, one of those convicted and imprisoned for Bishop Gerardi’s murder. Goldman’s New Yorker article is entitled “From president to prison: Otto Pérez Molina and a day for hope in Guatemala.” You should try to read it.
The following paragraph is basically taken from Goldman’s New Yorker article. The relationship between Byron Lima Oliva and Pérez Molina, in fact, played a central role in the President’s downfall. In September, 2014, in the midst of an increasingly vitriolic campaign by the Pérez Molina government and its allies to drive CICIG (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) out of the country by not renewing its mandate, CICIG brought charges against Byron Lima for some of the crimes related to the criminal mafia he has allegedly built in prison, and which, according to CICIG, had brought the prisoner considerable wealth and power. It was revealed that, during the Otto Pérez Molina Presidency, Lima had become the de-facto head of the prison system, responsible for naming thirty-six of his civilian allies to Guatemalan penitentiary-system posts. When Lima was captured on one of his apparently routine comings and goings from prison in a caravan of S.U.V.s and bodyguards, some of these turned out to be vehicles used by President Pérez Molina’s political party for campaign events. It was revealed that a factory Lima ran inside the prison even had a contract to produce T-shirts for Pérez Molina’s political party. In Guatemala, the ties between Pérez Molina and Lima were an open secret.
On April 8 of 2013, José Rubén Zamora of el Periódico, one of the Guatemalan journalists mentioned by Patricia Davis in her April 24, 2014 article as having been targeted by Pérez Molina and Baldetti, had co-authored, with Ana Arana of Fundación MEPI, an article which one of our consultants has now described as “prophetic and illuminating.” The article is entitled, “A fairy tale without a happy ending,” and it focuses on the political relationship between Pérez Molina and Baldetti, a relationship which began with their founding of the Patriotic Party in 2000, and documents the massive corruption in their administration, which took office in January of 2012.
Arana and Zamora suggest that the relationship between the President and the Vice-President at some point became more than political. Otto Pérez Molina’s wife, Rosita Pérez Leal, comes from one of Guatemala’s ranking military families. If, in fact Pérez Molina and Baldetti, a former Miss Guatemala contestant, became intimate, this would have created domestic and social problems for the President which would help to explain the aforementioned “extraordinary events.” Why did the omnipotent Guatemalan military not intervene to crush the demonstrators? Why did Pérez Molina not flee to political asylum in Mexico or Panama? As the saying goes, there must be wheels inside of wheels.
From my personal standpoint, it is always about seeking to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize by exposing the precise nature of the Guatemalan situation. Belize achieved its political independence because our leaders were able to show the rest of the world that we deserved a chance at nationhood, while at the same time we and other humanitarian interests exposed the fact that Guatemala was a place where terrible atrocities against the people were being committed. It was not Guatemala, then, that was supposed to be taking over Belize: it was and is Belize that should show Guatemala how to build a just and humane society.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.