STATEMENT OF JENNIFER K. HARBURY
June 25, 1998Despite the signing of the final peace accords in Guatemala in December, 1996 peace and respect for human rights have remained elusive. Right wing death squads have continued to target Mayan leaders, unionists, jurists, social workers, and human rights and religious leaders despite the clear prohibitions in the accords. Disturbingly, much of the worst repression has focused upon any person seeking to break the official impunity that has long shielded those who kidnap, torture and kill. Recent cases in point are the murders of Bishop Juan Gerardi and public prosecutor Sylvia Jerez. Ms. Jerez had been assigned to several cases involving the army, including my own. Bishop Juan Gerardi will rightfully go down in history as both a hero and a martyr for the cause of human rights in Guatemala. On April 24, 1998 he unveiled his exhaustive report on the violations that had taken place during the thirty five year civil war in Guatemala. Some 200,000 civilians had been killed, not in accidental bombings , and not trapped in military cross fire. They had been violently seized, dragged away and murdered, almost always after suffering terrible tortures. Most were tossed into unmarked graves and remain, for their loved ones, amongst the "disappeared". During these years of terror, some 440 Mayan villages were wiped from the map. Bishop Gerardi investigated these abuses with great care and publicly stated his findings and conclusions. The Guatemalan army and paramilitary forces were jointly responsible for some 85% of the war crimes. The resistance forces were cited for less than 10%. This truth, startling only to outsiders, cost Monsignor Gerardi his life. Only 48 hours after giving his report, he was bludgeoned to death in his garage. He did not die quickly. Instead his killer, clearly in no hurry, struck him seventeen blows to the face and head with a chunk of concrete. According to autopsy findings it took fifteen to thirty minutes for the elderly Bishop to die, drowning on his own blood. Nothing of value was stolen. The case remains unresolved. Within weeks of this grisly murder, a notorious death squad called the Jaguar Avengers claimed "credit" for the crime. In a written death threat to a progressive political candidate, the Juaguars warned him to change his communist ways, stating, "we are enclosing a little bit of the blood of Monsignor Gerardi, whom we killed on Sunday night...". The Jaguar Avengers have been sowing terror in Guatemala for many years, and have recently escalated their threats and intimidations against civilian dissidents. Ironically, they seem to have forgotten that a witness exists who has given us their real names as well as their full military titles. This witness is currently in legal proceedings, and is in extreme personal danger. For this reason I can neither name him today, nor can I give any identifying details. However, I can tell you that he was for many years in close contact with this death squad, that his information is first hand, and that what he has told me so far has been corroborated in large part by others. He is extremely credible. This is the information he has been able to share with us. According to the witness, within the Guatemalan military intelligence division, or G-2, there exists an official, though secret death squad called the "Comando", which has long been responsible for spying upon, intimidating, and eliminating, usually with much brutality, the civilian human rights and reformist leadership. Leaders of the Comando check in with "Uncle Sam" two to three times a week in a modern building a few blocks away from the U.S. Embassy. They have been witnessed on several occasions flying in helicopters with North Americans in areas of combat. By way of illustration, two of their leaders were aboard the military helicopter that came to take my husband from the Santa Aa Berlin base to the Capital, from one secret prison to another, in 1992. Also on board was a six foot tall, sandy- haired, light-eyed man, dressed overalls devoid of the requisite Guatemalan insignia, and wearing U.S. combat boots on his feet. In short, yes, this internal death squad coordinates very closely with some intelligence branch of the U.S. government. What relationship does the Comando have to the Jaguar Avengers? They are one and the same. The witness has seen them for years driving with boxes of Jaguar Avenger fliers and threatening letters in their cars, dropping them off at intelligence offices and giving instructions for their distributions. Sometimes leafletting occurred just prior to a killing. Did the Jaguar Avengers, or the Comando members, really kill Gerardi? They claim that they did. Normally, one would not claim "credit" for such a crime if one were in fact innocent. If this claim is false, it can only be assumed that they have made this public statement in order to draw fire away from a different, but friendly military death squad. Either way, these military people must be investigated. They either murdered Bishop Gerardi or they know who did. And they have much to say about many many other victims as well. Simultaneously, I call for full disclosures by the United States government in this case. The Comando has for many years been in close and frequent communications with members of our own government. Someone in our CIA or our Defense Community knows who the murderer is. I call upon them to learn from past mistakes and come forwards now with the truth. The Guatemalan people deserve to live in peace. The following is a list of the official pseudonyms and the real names of the members of the Comando, or Jaguars which have been given to me by the witness: 1. Col. Edgar Ricardo Bustamonte Figueroa "Don Sergio" 2. Teniente Coronel Trujillo Salguero "Don Leonel" 3. Mayor Gonzales Peres "Don Minche" 4. Mayor Echevarria Merlo "Mateo" y "Francisco" 5. Mayor Hugo Flores Arana "Don Fausto" 6. Teniente Coronel Oliva Carrera "Don Gaspar" 7. Mayor Berganza "Don Cesar" 8. Teniente Coronel Tanches Lutin 9. Mayor Napoleon Rojas "Don Tomas" 10. Mayor Alberto Gomes Guillermo "Don Rolando" and "Laco" 11. Capitan Ovalle "Don Chando" 12. Mayor Carlos Cardenas Sagastume "Martin" 13. Teniente Coronel Jose Vicente Paiz Hernandez "El Macho" 14. Mayor Reyes "Don Romeo" 15. Capitan Illesca 16. Especialista Guerra Sagastume "Karate" 17. Especialista Jose Victor Cordero Cordona "La Yegua" 18. Especialista Ismael Salvatierra Arroyo "El Ganso" 19. Especialista Irineo Ortiz "Kaibil" 20. Especialista Cesar Casia "Maceta" 21. Especialista Gregorio Avila "Don Goyo" 22. Especialista Pinedo "El Caballo" 23. Especialista Juan Tomas "Patricio", "Ticho"
This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights