• Costa Rica Real Estate

Guatemalan police ordered to remove Spanish Embassy protesters ‘dead or alive,’ witness testifies

October 2, 2014

GUATEMALA CITY – In a second day of trial on Thursday, witnesses told the harrowing details of a Jan. 31, 1980 massacre by Guatemalan police that killed 37 people in a fire at the Spanish Embassy in the capital. The attack was in retaliation of a group of indigenous protesters, farmers and students who had taken over the embassy to demand an end to wartime atrocities committed in their communities.

Among the four witnesses slated to testify on Thursday was César Escalante, who at the time served as a chauffeur for then-Spanish Ambassador Máximo Cajal.

On trial is former police chief Pedro García Arrenondo, 70, who allegedly ordered the attack and now faces charges of murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity.

“Police officers called another officer who was in the street and told him to dump [fuel] inside the building, and another said that no one should be left alive,” Escalante said. The witness said that when he tried to stop police from setting the fire, they assaulted him.

Johán Ordóñez/AFP
Former Guatemalan police chief Pedro García Arredondo listens to the start of his murder trial in Guatemala City on Oct. 1, 2014. Arredondo is accused of ordering a 1980 Spanish Embassy fire that killed 37 people, including the father of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. Johán Ordóñez/AFP

To remove the protesters, soldiers and police burned the embassy, killing 37 people in the process, including Vicente Menchú, father of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, who delivered a statement at the start of this week’s trial.

Escalante said he remained outside the embassy and witnessed police attacking the Spanish ambassador as he attempted to escape the fire. Cajal and Gregorio Yujá were the only two survivors from inside the building, but Yujá was later kidnapped from the hospital and murdered. His body was dumped on the lawn at the University of San Carlos.

Other witnesses, including former Interior Ministry spokesman Elías Barahona, who arrived to the courtroom in a wheelchair, admitted to overhearing a conversation between then-Interior Minister Donaldo Álvarez and National Police Director Germán Chupina where an order was delivered to remove the protesters “dead or alive.”

Guatemalan expert Carlos Figueroa testified that the burning of the embassy was meant to “terrorize the population and destroy the social movement” of that era.

Guatemala’s civil war left more than 200,000 people dead or disappeared, according to the United Nations. Most of the atrocities were committed by members of the military. The Spanish Embassy attack was one of several atrocities committed during the conflict.

You may be interested

In Davos, tourism industry promises less plastic and more sustainability
News
2 views
News
2 views

In Davos, tourism industry promises less plastic and more sustainability

Pol Costa / AFP and The Tico Times - January 24, 2020

Faced with the tons of disposable plastic used by hotels every year, the CO2 emitted by airplanes or the overcrowding…

Meet Costa Rica’s newest NASA figure: Luis Diego Fonseca Flores
Space Ticos
48 views
Space Ticos
48 views

Meet Costa Rica’s newest NASA figure: Luis Diego Fonseca Flores

Bruce Callow - January 24, 2020

Costa Rica may be small, but its people are achieving great things. In this story, contributor Bruce Callow shares an…

French chef stabbed to death on Costa Rican beach
Costa Rica
364 views
Costa Rica
364 views

French chef stabbed to death on Costa Rican beach

AFP and The Tico Times - January 23, 2020

A French chef who was vacationing on a beach in northwestern Costa Rica was stabbed to death in an apparent…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!