Guatemala Court Convicts Former Patrol Members of Violations

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan court on Monday sentenced five former civil patrollers to 30 years in prison for abusing more than 30 Achí Indians in 1982 as a counterinsurgency method during the Civil War.

Five of the women directly accused the paramilitaries of sexual violations while another 29 indirectly. The women from various villages in the municipality of Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, waited more than 30 years to obtain justice. They told the court that after the abuse they suffered displacement, guilt and stigmatization, in addition to physical and emotional damage.

In less than a month, the court heard the testimonies of victims and experts and reviewed documents that showed that Gabriel, Francisco and Damien Cuxum Alvarado, as well as Bernardo and Benvenuto Ruíz Aquino, violated the indigenous women when they were civil patrollers.

Gabriel Cuxum will also have to serve an extra sentence of eight years for trying to change his identity to evade justice.

The civil patrollers were private groups organized by the military during the armed conflict to control the population.

Judge Gelvi Sical read the sentence and detailed that psychological reports made to the women showed that they were lucid and had a good memory. He added that according to experts the abuses were committed to inflict pain and destroy communities that the former patrolmen considered enemies because they believed they supported the enemy guerrillas.

“That explains the forced disappearances, murders and sexual violations,” said the judge. He added that the court was dismayed by what the women had suffered, since it showed “a clear sign of slavery” and that they “have waited years to break the silence to be heard and demand justice.”

Pedrina Lopez, who was 12 years old when military allies came to her community and abused her for six hours, said she wanted “my truth to be heard, for justice to be done.”

Several kilometers from the courtroom, via videoconference, the defendants heard their sentence.

According to a report of the truth of what happened during the war in Guatemala (1960-1996), some 200,000 people died and 45,000 were disappeared. It adds that 97% of the crimes were committed by members of the army and paramilitaries and the remaining 3% by the guerrillas.

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