Guatemala: arrests in peasant massacre

Guatemalan authorities on Oct. 11 arrested a colonel and eight soldiers over the extrajudicial killings of eight indigenous protestors  in the department of Totonicapan last week. Prosecutor General Claudia Paz y Paz told reporters that her office considers Col. Juan Chiroy to be “primarily responsible” for the fatalities, as he was in command of the troops at the Oct. 4 demonstration. Those detained, including two women, are being held in barracks in the country’s capital on the order of President Otto Pérez. According to the preliminary findings, Col. Chiroy did not coordinate the actions of the military support unit on the scene with the Guatemalan National Police at the protest. Paz y Paz noted that this case constitutes the first time military figures have been arrested for deadly repression since the 1996 Peace Accords. (AFP, Guatemala Times, Siglo21, Guatemala, Oct. 11)

  1. Guatemala community radio raided
    On Oct. 11, the community radio station Radio Doble Via of San Mateo, Quetzaltenango, was raided by police and equipment confiscated. Four agents of the Public Prosecutors Office and six members of the National Police forced entry into the station.  Due to an alarm system established by station founder Alberto Recinos, the community of San Mateo arrived in numbers to defend the station, its personnel, and equipment. Fearing the anger of a crowd, the officials fled the scene, taking with them one computer, one radio console, two microphones, and an audio recorder, valued at a total of $1,400. “The console they took is invaluable for us,” lamented Recinos. “We had used that same console since 1982, to broadcast Voz Popular, the radio program of the guerrilla movement, from the top of the Tajamulco Volcano.” (Cultural Survival, Oct. 16)

  2. Life is cheap in Guatemala: foreign minister
    In response to the Totonicapán massacre, Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros said: “With sadness, I recognize that in some parts of the world eight deaths is a very big deal, but, although it sounds bad to say this, …every day we have double that number of deaths [from violence]. So, it’s not something that we should make a big deal about.” (AFP, Oct. 9)