A 54-year-old resident of Santa Ana, Calif. suspected of taking part in the Guatemalan army’s December 1982 massacre of at least 162 villagers was deported to that country July 12, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced. Pedro Pimentel Rios was arrested last July by ICE agents for allegedly participating in the massacre at Las Dos Erres, in the northern jungle department of Petén. The bodies of 162 people, including children, have been recovered at Dos Erres, but another 100 people are unaccounted for, so the death toll from the massacre could be much higher. Rios was among 20 members of an elite Guatemalan army unit, the Kaibiles, accused in the massacre.
Soldiers reportedly went to the village looking for guerillas accused of ambushing an army convoy nearby that led to the theft of more than 20 military rifles. As the soldiers questioned the villagers about the stolen guns, which were never found, they began killing them one by one with sledgehammers, starting with the children, later dumping the bodies into a well. Some victims were shot or strangled and many of the women were raped during the two-day assault, ICE said, citing Guatemalan investigations.
“For the families who lost loved ones at Dos Erres, justice has been a long time coming, but they can take consolation in the fact that those responsible for this tragedy are now being held accountable for their crimes,” said ICE director John Morton. “We will not allow our country to serve as a safe haven for those who commit human rights abuses and war crimes.”
Pimentel Ríos is one of four Guatemalan ex-soliders known to have taken refuge in the US. Gilberto Jordán was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for not informing US authorities of his role in the massacre when applying for citizenship. Santos López Alonzo was charged by ICE last year for having returned to the US after being deported, and Jorge Vinicio Sosa is currently awaiting extradition. Another, Jorge Vincio Sosa Orantes is awaiting extradition from Canada. ICE set up a Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in 2009 to pursue rights violators. (La Prensa, Guatemala City, July 13; City News Service, Los Angeles, CA, July 12)
See our last post on Guatemala.