Derechos Human RightsReport


June 25, 1998

      Despite 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

     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"  

Human Rights in Guatemala

Derechos HR
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