Former Guatemalan Soldier Charged With Massacring Civilians

A U.S. resident has been linked to a 1982 attack on the village of Dos Erres in Guatemala that led to the deaths of about 250 children, women and unarmed men.

Sebastian Rotella writes in ProPublica as part of an ongoing investigation on the massacre through the story of Oscar Ramírez Castañeda, who was raised by the family of one of the squad who killed his mother.

Jose Mardoqueo Ortiz Morales, 54, was arrested at his home in Hyattsville, Maryland, where he is a legal permanent resident of the United States. He faces charges in U.S. immigration court and potential deportation to Guatemala to stand trial for one of the worst massacres in Latin American history.

Ortiz becomes the fifth suspect arrested in the United States for the slaughter of men, women and children in the hamlet of Dos Erres in northern Guatemala more than three decades ago. Five veterans of an elite Guatemalan commando force known as the “kaibiles” have been convicted by courts in Guatemala on charges arising from massacre. But six others have eluded capture, some of them aided by Guatemalan security forces whose power has impeded the quest for justice, according to Guatemalan and U.S. investigators.

Two of the commandos previously arrested in the United States, Gilberto Jordan and Jorge Sosa, are U.S. citizens and were convicted of naturalization fraud because they concealed their roles in the massacre from U.S. immigration officials. They are serving ten-year prison sentences in the United States.

Two other fugitives who were not citizens were sent back to Guatemala. A Guatemalan court convicted Pedro Pimentel Rios in 2012 and sentenced him to 6,060 years in prison. A suspect named Santos Lopez Alonzo is awaiting trial.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for Ramírez, the survivor of the massacre, hailed the news of the arrest in Maryland. The ability of war-crimes suspects to live legally and peacefully in the United States for years contrasts with the experience of Ramírez and others who came to the country illegally, said lawyer R. Scott Greathead, who has worked on major Central American human-rights cases.

How do these guys who are known war criminals get papers and legalize themselves?And the victims don’t, said Greathead.

You can read the full article and learn more of the story of Oscar Ramírez Castañeda here on ProPublica. You can also find more on Dos Erres on our website here.

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Categories: Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Indigenous peoples, Justice, Land, Legal, Military, Violence

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