Thousands of labour activists were disappeared during the Guatemalan civil war. As a trial of 12 alleged death squad members begins, Canadians with links to the missing hope for justice.
Erin Ellis writes movingly and, in some cases graphically, on CBC News, about the horrors inflicted by the Guatemalan state and the hope of survivors in finding out the truth of what happened to their loved ones and the continuing fight for justice as evidenced in the Death Squad Diary. Her piece focuses on the cases of three women living in Canada.
As the Cold War lurched toward its demise in the mid-1980s, leftists and union organizers in Guatemala started to vanish ― students, professors, a doctor, a poet.
No charges were ever laid against these purported “enemies of the state,” as the government of this Central American country called them. No arrest warrants were ever issued. But people in the labour movement came to fear the windowless white vans driven by death squads with links to military and police forces — and the young men and women forced into them at gunpoint were rarely seen again.
Fearing for their lives, members of many targeted families fled to other countries, including Canada.
According to the 2016 Canadian census, 17,275 people listed Guatemala as their birthplace, with 6,665 saying they arrived in the 1980s, a higher number than any decade since.
The civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996, resulted in the deaths of about 200,000 citizens — mostly Mayan people in mountainous villages accused of harbouring guerrillas — including some 40,000 disappeared activists.
In 1999, families of the disappeared received the first evidence their loved ones had been captured, likely tortured and then killed, when the so-called Military Diary was leaked to researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based National Security Archive, a repository of declassified government documents from around the world.
The Military Diary is a disturbing catalogue of 183 entries containing photos, political party and labour connections of mostly young activists, along with the date and location of their capture. The code “300” at the end of entries is understood to mean they were executed, although the location of their remains is unknown.
You can read the full piece, with links and photos, here, Still Missing.
PBI Canada have provided some excerpts, here, Family members of #CasoDiarioMiitar victims who now live in Canada tell their stories.