Historical Archives Lead to Arrest of Police Officers in Guatemalan Disappearance





Following a stunning breakthrough in a 25-year-old case of political terror in Guatemala, the National Security Archive today is posting declassified U.S. documents about the disappearance of Edgar Fernando García, a student leader and trade union activist captured by Guatemalan security forces in 1984. The documents show that García's capture was an organized political abduction orchestrated at the highest levels of the Guatemalan government.

The dormant case was brought back to life earlier this month when Guatemalan authorities used evidence found in the massive archives of the former National Police to arrest a two police officers (one active duty, one retired), charging them with kidnapping, illegal detention and abuse of duty. Arrest warrants have also been issued for two more suspects, ex-officers with the infamous Special Operations Brigade (BROE), a police unit linked to death squad activities during the 1980s by human rights groups.

The arrests are a testament to the important work being done by investigators in the police archive. Since the discovery of the vast, deteriorating archive in 2005, the files have proven to contain a treasure trove of evidence in some of Guatemala's most notorious cases of human rights atrocities stemming from the country's 36-year brutal civil conflict. According to the Historical Clarification Commission, 200,000 unarmed civilians died in the war, and 40,000 were estimated to have "disappeared."

The U.S. records published today provide illuminating details on the government campaign of terror designed to destroy Guatemala's urban and rural social movements during the 1980s that led to abduction of hundreds of labor leaders, including Fernando García. The posting also includes information on one of Guatemala's first human rights organizations, the Mutual Support Group (GAM), which itself became a target of government violence after its creation in 1984.

The posting also bring attention to the lingering question over Guatemala's missing military archives, which the President ordered released over a year ago. It also provides links to the National Security Archive's Guatemala Project homepage, with information on the death squad dossier, the police archives, and the investigative efforts to provide evidence in international and domestic human rights legal prosecution.


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