A judge will decide on Wednesday whether former Guatemalan General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes should be tried in connection with 635 massacres of indigenous people. If he goes to trial, it would mark the first genocide case in Guatemala’s history.
Fuentes was detained in Guatemala City in June on charges that he planned and ordered about 300 different massacres when he was chief of staff of the Guatemalan military between 1982 and 1983, under the dictatorship of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, who came to power in a coup. The Montt regime was given economic and military support under the Reagan administration, while it committed some of the worst crimes of the decade.
The United States was party to an extensive list of human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity going back to the Eisenhower administration, when in 1954 the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a coup orchestrated by the CIA.
The 1960-96 conflict in Guatemala, with consistent US intervention on the side of the government and paramilitary groups, saw some 200,000 people, predominantly indigenous Mayan, murdered or disappeared. The height of the bloodshed occurred under US ally and beneficiary Ríos Montt, during which the number of killings and disappearances reached more than 3,000 per month.
Montt’s forces, with the help of his chief of staff Fuentes, slit the throats of women and children, beat innocent civilians and doused them in gasoline to be burned alive, tortured, and mutilated thousands of innocent indigenous peasants. The UN commission investigating the atrocities concluded it constituted acts of genocide. No inquiry into the culpability of US officials has been initiated.