"Two survivors are among the witnesses in the trial of Héctor Mario López Fuentes, former Army Chief of Staff of the Defense, in the period of 1982 to 1983. The Human Rights Prosecutor accuses the former head of the Army of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The investigations accuse López Fuentes of responsibility for the assassination of 317 individuals from Nebaj, San Juan Cotzal and Chajul, which form part of the Ixil region of Quiché.
The evidence gathered by the Attorney General’s Office reveals that the former Army Chief of Staff developed and authorized the implementation of the counterinsurgency plans Sofía,
Victoria 82 and Firmeza 83, which were carried out in Quiché, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Sololá, Petén, Alta and Baja Verapaz.
Included in the prosecution’s evidence are witness testimonies recounting how elements of the Army detained, recruited and assassinated community members, killing men as well as women and children.”
So reads an English translation of an article by Gladys Galeano, from El Periódico, translated by NISGUA. Further on are testimonies from witnesses as part of the recovery of historic memory brought about by the trial of Héctor Mario López Fuentes on charges of genocide.
Witnesses from the Ixil region, Quiché
Francisco Chávez Raymundo, from Nebaj, was 6 years old when his father was murdered in 1982.
“They took away my childhood. I could have been a professional,” stated Francisco Chávez in telling how elements of the Army took away his father, who was a vendor in Nebaj, Quiché.
“The military pursued my father because he was a merchant and spoke three languages, Quiché, Ixil and Spanish. They thought he was passing information along to the communities.
He was forced to carry a military‐issued identification card in order to travel around,” the witness related.
Chávez continued his account and stated his father constantly received threats from the military, which led him to make the decision to remove them from their community. “I was a child. When my father spoke of the military, I imagined them with big eyes. I didn’t understand why they looked upon us differently.”
“I remember that the military arrived in the community and took away all the people. The women and the children, they left us alive. They killed the men, but first they would kick them and hit them with sticks, while they shouted: this guerrilla is going to die.
“They separated me from my mother and took me to a military base, along with about 50 other children, where they put us in military uniforms. I remember that many children were taken away in helicopters and I never saw them again,” he said.
He added that thanks to the intervention of a Catholic priest from Nebaj, the children who remained in the military base were rescued.
“I felt like an orphan because neither my father, nor my mother was there. I grew up in the Catholic Church, where they gave us food. Five years later, I was reunited with my mother,”
Francisco Chávez recounted. He added that he still is not able to understand why, if his father had committed some crime, he was not tried before a judge, as Héctor Mario López Fuentes currently is.
Gaspar Velasco, from the community San Francisco, whose 3 children were murdered in 1982
“I remember that on May 3rd, 1982 approximately nine helicopters landed in the community. We tried to run away because we knew that they were killing people. They took everything, even our houses and our domestic animals.”
“They hit the men in the head with axes or they hacked them with machetes to kill them. They cut out the babies from the pregnant women and threw them away,” the witness recounted.
The witness recalled that his three children were murdered, and he still has not been able to identify their bodies in order to bury them properly. “After we left the community, we took refuge in the mountains for 17 years, without clothing or food or shelter from the rain.”
“They captured my wife for 90 days, and she told me that the women were raped. We resisted for many years, and that is why we are ready to give our testimonies so that there can be justice,” he concluded.
The following testimonies are from two survivors of massacres attributed to López Fuentes, but they are not included in the case presented by the Attorney General’s Office for which the retired military officer was arrested.
Julia Cortez, Baja Verapaz
Julia Cortez, the only survivor from her family, indicated that her father and her sister were killed in 1982, in the community of Pichec, Baja Verapaz, when she was 17 years old.
“The Army persecuted my father because he was a leader in the Catholic Church. He was accused of being a guerrilla. We lived in the mountains, under the protection of the trees. Every three days we would see the presence of the military.
Being refugees, the Army pursued us and caught my father and sister, but I hid in a large hole in a tree and they didn’t see me,” the victim related.
In her testimony, she also disclosed that on February 25 of this year the remains of her father were exhumed. There was evidence that he had been hung, since he was found with a rope around his neck and with his feet tied. Meanwhile her sister had received gunshots in her heart and her legs.
Andrés Paiz, from Huehuetenango
Paiz was 10 years old when the helicopters landed in the farm where they were working in San Francisco, Huehuetenango, and took the men away.
“When they saw the helicopters, the people began to pray and the children ran away to a nearby community close to the border with Mexico. But when we arrived, we saw that there were no people left because they had taken refuge on the Mexican border,” the survivor explained.
He added: “I saw and heard when Mateo Paiz and Mateo Pérez Ramos arrived where we were in refuge and told how they had escaped from being killed. Mateo Paiz related that all the men on the farm were locked up in a house where they were killed with machetes, and that the women were burned alive inside the Catholic Church.
“The young children who were with the women were seized by the leg and smashed against the trees.
“I remember that we returned to the farm, but we couldn’t retrieve the bodies of the victims because the pigs and the dogs were eating them,” he added.