Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Former General Hector Lopez Fuentes: First arrest in connection to Genocide in Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala.
June 20th, 2011.
Issue: Genocide / Justice / Post-War

Today, June 20th, 2011, former General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, accused of genocide against the Ixil Mayan people during 1982 and ‘83, made his initial court appearance three days after his arrest.

Lopez Fuentes served as Guatemala’s military Chief of Staff, the third-highest-ranking official in the country, during the de facto regime of Efrain Rios Montt. Lopez Fuentes, standing in the front row alongside Rios Montt, is circled in this Jean-Marie Simon image, circa 1982.

“The Military Chief of Staff is responsible for the command, organization, training, education, discipline, conduct, strategic and tactical application of Guatemala’s Armed Forces.” (1)

Lopez Fuentes, 81 years old, is accused by the Public Prosecutor’s bureau for human rights “for over ten thousand murders, nine thousand forcibly displaced persons, and numerous rapes against women in the Maya Ixil region - all crimes took place between March 1982 and October 1983. According to Manuel Vasquez, public prosecutor in charge of the case, the crimes occurred through the implementation of the Sofia, Victoria 82 and Firmeza 83 military campaigns. All three strategic operations were created and carried out while Lopez Fuentes acted as the Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff.” (2)

“Lopez Fuentes’ arrest takes place eleven years after a judicial process was initiated by wartime victims’ family members. Among the evidence included are surviving victims’ testimonies in addition to both reports from the Historical Clarification Commission (CEH) and the Recovery of Historical Memory (REMHI).” (3)

Dozens of wartime victims’ family members filled the courtroom to witness the historic court appearance of Lopez Fuentes, without a doubt the highest-ranking official detained on genocide charges. The always-present Marylena Bustamante attended the event along with a laminated photograph of her detained-disappeared brother Emil.

“One of the cases on which Lopez Fuentes is charged on details the murder of at least 53 people in the villages of Chel, Xesayi and Xaxmoxan, all in Chajul, Quiche, from April to October, 1983.” (4)

The following photo essays display a post-exhumation burial ceremony for wartime victims carried out in Xaxmoxan, Chajul, on January 2007:
The Martyrs are Home
The People of Xaxmoxan

Versión en español aquí.

1 “Estado Mayor de la Defensa Nacional de Guatemala”.
2 Galeano, Gladys. “Responsabilizan de más de diez mil muertes a ex Jefe de Estado Mayor de la Defensa.” elPeriodico. Guatemala, June 18, 2011.
3 “Ex general guatemalteco declara a la justicia por crímenes de lesa humanidad”.
4 Op. Cit. Galeano.


Kate Doyle said...

These are terrific photographs, James. The first picture of the general alone on the bench is particularly extraordinary and haunting. Thank you for your work.
-- Kate Doyle
National Security Archive

Anonymous said...


Wow...It's great to see you in that courtroom...I can't imagine what kind of electricity was in that air. Keep it up...

JP Laplante

Catherine Nolin said...

James, so glad to see that you're back in Guate to capture these amazing images. You're work is always so impactful and so much appreciated by all of us who can't be there right now. Abrazos Catherine Nolin, UNBC