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HomeCentral AmericaGuatemalaIndigenous Survivors Recount Horrors at Guatemala Genocide Trial

Indigenous Survivors Recount Horrors at Guatemala Genocide Trial

Indigenous survivors of Guatemala’s civil war recounted the horrors of massacres allegedly committed by the military at the genocide trial of an elderly retired general on Monday.

Juan Brito said his wife and four young daughters were shot dead and their bodies burned in a remote Mayan village in January 1982. “Only a few bones and ashes remained,” he told the judges on the second day of the trial of Benedicto Lucas Garcia, 91.

The soldiers killed quite a few children… and pregnant women,” added the 70-year-old, speaking the Mayan language and assisted by an interpreter. Catarina Chel, 87, said that her two teenage children were murdered by soldiers when they were harvesting corn.

About 30 survivors are expected to testify at what is Guatemala’s second genocide trial. Lucas Garcia is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and forced disappearance, which carry a possible sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

He served as armed forces chief during the 1978-1982 presidency of his brother Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, who died in 2006 aged 81.

Lucas Garcia is accused of planning and executing dozens of massacres in villages in the western region of Quiche during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war. The Ixil Maya population was accused by the military of serving as a support base for leftist guerrillas.

Lucas Garcia followed the trial by video link from a military hospital where he is serving a 58-year prison sentence for forced disappearance, rape and torture.

Some 200,000 people died or disappeared in Guatemala’s civil war, more than 80 percent of them ethnic Maya, according to United Nations figures. Former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt was in 2013 sentenced to 80 years in prison for the genocide of Ixil Maya people during the civil war.

The sentence was later overturned and he died in 2018, aged 91, as a retrial was under way.

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