Guatemala: convictions in Río Negro massacre

On May 28, a court in Salamá, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, sentenced five former members of the Civil Patrols, a paramilitary network established by the army during the counter-insurgency war, each to 780 years in prison for the killing of 26 indigenous Maya villagers in the 1982 Río Negro massacre, in which 177 women and children lost their lives. The five, former Civil Patrol members from the hamlet of Xococ, will serve 30 years, the maximum allowed by law, and will have to pay damages to the families of the victims. Arrest orders have also been issued for army captain José Antonio Solares, who oversaw the patrol and remains at large.

According to the official Report on the Recovery of Historical Memory (REMHI), on March 13, 1982, 12 army troops and 15 Civil Patrol members from Xococ entered the neighboring community of Río Negro, Rabinal municipality, and conducted house-to-house searches for the hamlet’s men—who were in hiding, accused of non-cooperation with the patrols. The hamlet’s women and children were then rounded up and forced to march three kilometers into the mountains—where the women were raped, strangled and shot, and the children thrown against the rocks. Findings count the dead as 70 women and 107 children.

The community of Xococ was at that time resisting forced relocation to make way for the planned Chixoy hydroelectric dam. The project, financed by the World Bank and Inter–American Development Bank, was completed after the massacre, displacing more than 3,500 Maya residents. (BBC, Cerigua, May 29; Guatemala Solidarity Network, March 10; International Rivers Network)

See our last posts on Guatemala, Central America and regional struggles for control of water.