San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemala Apologizes for 1982 Indian Massacre

GUATEMALA CITY (EFE) – TheGuatemalan government marked thisweek’s 23rd anniversary of the massacreof 268 Achi Indians in the northernprovince of Baja Verapaz by offering a formalapology to the survivors and victims’kin, complying with an order from theInter-American Court of Human Rights.“We are here today to ask forgivenessin the name of the Guatemalan state fromall of the victims of the conflict,” Vice-President Eduardo Stein said at a ceremonyin the community of Plan de Sanchez,the site of the 1982 atrocity.“As a representative of the governmentI want to reiterate to you that apology andour firm commitment to push forward theinvestigation into the events that occurred,to allow for the clarification of what happenedand permit us to identify, try andpunish the intellectual and material authorsof these offenses,” he added.THE slaughter was carried out July 18,1982, under the rule of former dictatorGen. Efrain Rios Montt.Plan de Sanchez resident Juan ManuelJeronimo, now 58, said this week that hesurvived the onslaught by heading for thetown’s Catholic Church when he saw thesoldiers coming.“I always hid when the patrol arrived,”he said, referring to the military unit thatregularly visited the community in searchof sympathizers of the leftist guerrillasthen battling the army.But though Jeronimo survived, he lost26 family members in the massacre,including his wife and four children, aswell as his mother.He also recalled with sadness that thesoldiers raped some of the town’s youngwomen before killing them.THE November 2004 order from thehemispheric rights tribunal to theGuatemalan government also called onauthorities here to track down thoseresponsible for the carnage and to pay theAchis $8 million in compensation.The Plan de Sanchez massacre was oneof 669 mass killings documented by achurch-sponsored truth commission in itsreport on Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civilwar. The probe blamed the army for all but40 of those incidents.Most of the conflict’s estimated200,000 victims were Indian peasants.

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