Memory, Truth, And Justice: The Demands for Memory and Justice Rise from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Argentina

Friday March 23 marked the 36th anniversary of the 1982 coup in Guatemala that brought SOA graduate General Efraín Ríos Montt to power. Like his predecessor, SOA graduate General Manuel Benedicto Lucas García, Ríos Montt continued the National Security Doctrine. From 1962 to 1996, when the Peace Accords were signed, 200 thousand Guatemalans were killed, 45 thousand were disappeared, over 200 thousand were forced to become refugees, a million people were internally displaced, 600 hundred situations were catalogued as massacres, and there were acts of genocide, like the ones suffered by the indigenous communities through the Scorched Earth campaign, according to the 1999 UN Truth Commission Report “Guatemala: Memory of Silence”. The military was responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations, all of them carried out with complete impunity and a policy of racism and historical exclusion of the indigenous population. Ríos Montt’s regime was fully supported by United States.

On May 10, 2013 a Guatemalan high court sentenced Ríos Montt to 80 years of prison for being found guilty of being the intellectual author of the genocide of the Ixil maya people and for crimes against humanity (the maximum penalty allowed in Guatemala; 50 years for the crime of genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity). Despite the annulment of the sentence, the genocide trial has begun anew, and Ríos Montt is on trial once again for the genocide of the Ixil Mayans and for crimes against humanity. Since 2013, every March 23 is now remembered as the National Day Against Genocide, and the people of Guatemala continue to inspire and teach us that the search for justice is possible.

At the same time that we keep our brothers and sisters from Guatemala present, we also uplift the memory that 42 years have passed since the March 24, 1976 coup in Argentina. We join the ongoing struggle for memory and justice and we celebrate the recent trial of the ESMA case, where military accomplices of the coup regime are being judged for the murder and disappearance of at least 800 people. Likewise, we recognize as a victory the legal recognition of the “flights of death” as a strategy of the State during the regime of the Junta Militar led by Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Eduardo Massera and Orlando Ramón Agosti, all graduates of the School of the Americas. In the same way, Miguel Etchecolatz’s house arrest was recently revoked, and he will return to prison to serve his life sentence.

The Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, H.I.J.O.S Argentina and many other Argentine groups, along with international solidarity, continue the struggle for truth andmemory for the 30,000 disappeared and will not rest until justice is prevail.

Finally, on March 24, but in 1980, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, was murdered at the age of 62. Monseñor Romero represented the hope ofjustice for a country torn by a civil war that lasted 13 years and by the constant US political, economic, and military intervention in the country. 38 years after the assassination of Romero, we do not forget that the investigations of the United Nations TruthCommission for El Salvador, together with journalistic and academic investigations, show that Major Roberto d’Aubisson was the mastermind of the priest’s murder . D’Aubisson is one of the outstanding graduates of the School of the Americas and, in addition to the assassination of Monsignor Romero, he is also responsible for the organization of death squads. While the Catholic Church has accepted the sanctification of Monsignor Romero, a process of truth and justice that honors the memory of the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced during the time of the conflict is still necessary. The consequences of the civil war and the historic US intervention in El Salvador are still visible in the light of the conditions that force thousands of people to leave their country to survive.

The people of the United States can and must hold those responsible for training SOA graduates like Ríos Montt,Jorge Rafael Videla, or Roberto d’Aubisson  to account. Similarly, the definitive closure of the School of the Americas continues to be a historic debt the United States has with Latin American countries. SOA Watch reaffirms its commitment to active solidarity and uplifts the struggle of the people of Guatemala, El Salvador and Argentina who bravely continue to seek justice in the face of blatant impunity.

In solidarity,

SOA Watch