Guatemala to open genocide archives

Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom has ordered the release of military archives from the country’s brutal 1962-1996 civil war. “We are going to make public all military archives…so the truth can be known, and so that once and for all we can build on truth and justice,” Colom said. The move was praised by victims’ survivors, who had urged the move to help determine the whereabouts of killed or “disappeared” kin. The documents will be reviewed by a panel to decide which should be declassified under a constitutional requirement that state material be made public unless release would compromise national security.

Some 80 to 90 percent of the killings committed during the war were carried out by the army and security forces, a UN-backed truth commission found. Many of the victims were indigenous Maya. Colom himself lost his uncle, politician Manuel Colom Argueta, in a 1979 army ambush. However, the truth commission, which compiled thousands of interviews with victims, did not have access to the military files and named no army officials. Lawyers for the army have attempted to block release of the archives. (AlJazeera, Feb. 26)

German Chupina, a former Guatemalan national police director wanted in Spain for crimes against humanity, died Feb. 17 at the age of 86. Chupina, police director from 1978 to 1982, was arrested in November 2006 after Guatemalan Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú levied charges of genocide, torture and state terror in a Spanish court against him and seven other ex-military and ex-government officials. Human rights groups said Chupina was behind a 1980 fire at the protester-occupied Spanish embassy that killed more than 30 people, including Menchú’s father. After his arrest, Chupina was held for more than a year at a medical clinic. He was released after Guatemala’s constitutional court ruled in December that Spain had no jurisdiction in the case. (AP, Feb. 17)

Guatemala has established a National Reparations Program (PNR) to indemnify victims and survivors of the armed conflict, as recommended by the truth commission. But Raúl Nágera of the National Union of Communities for Integral Human Rights (UNACODI) protests that the PNR’s budget has been administered by other agencies, and “reparations for the victims have not been made.” (IPS, Feb. 25)

Meanwhile, nearly 8,000 pages of documents covering the tenure of Allen Dulles, the CIA’s longest-serving director, are now available online through the Princeton University website. The documents, declassified last year, were turned over to the university, where Dulles graduated in 1914, by the CIA. Some of the documents concern the CIA-sponsored 1954 coup in Guatemala, which ushered in more than 30 years of military rule. (Daily Princetonian, Feb. 5)

See our last post on Guatemala.