“Three and a half decades had to go by in order to achieve justice for a horrendous moment in the history of the country. At the time, television cameras recorded the burning of the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala and showed the agony the 37 people endured after being blocked from leaving. The official version offered by the State and other conservative actors was that a group of terrorists had committed suicide in an act of protest. [On January 19], a national court sentenced the police officer in charge of the operation; his goal was to guarantee that no one leave the diplomatic headquarters alive.”
So begins the introduction to a piece on the NISGUA blog entitled, ‘The answer to “Who knows who started the fire…” at the Spanish Embassy’, featuring a translation of an article by Rodrigo Véliz, from Nómada, posted on CMI-G. It is a powerful piece highlighting the recently ended court case against Pedro Garcia Arredondo, former head of “Command 6,” a special investigations unit of the now-defunct National Police, of homicide and crimes against humanity for his leadership of the 1980 siege of the Spanish embassy, which killed 37 indigenous and student activists and diplomats.
The court also found Arredondo guilty of the attempted murder of protester Gregorio Yuja Xona and former Spanish ambassador Maximo Cajal, the only survivors of the fire. (Xona was later tortured and executed.) In addition, he was found guilty of the murder of two students during a mass funeral organized to honour the victims of the siege.
Judge Jeannette Valdes, the president of the three-judge tribunal, acknowledged the long-unresolved case and expressed the court’s hope that the judgment would be “water that will extinguish the flames.”
You can read more on the conviction here, on the International Justice Monitor website, and the piece by Rodrigo Veliz Nómada here, on the NISGUA blogspot. There is more on the Spanish Embassy fire here on the GSN site.