GENOCIDE TRIAL

Guatemala’s version of Super PACs and the battle to deny genocide

The biggest blow to the country’s judicial independence came Tuesday, with full-page advertisements in Guatemalan daily newspapers. The ads, signed by a group of ex-military and peace accord negotiators, accused the tribunals of a “juridical fabrication” and claimed genocide did not occur. They say a guilty verdict could send the country into disarray. Retired Generals Efrain Rios Montt and Jose Rodriguez Sanchez were charged in January 2012 for genocide and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors accuse them of the slaughter by subordinates of at least 1,771 Mayan Ixils.

Adapted by: Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

Similar to 501(c)(4) organizations in the United States that work with political affairs committees, these groups are generally civic leagues that are supposed to operate exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. However, 501(c)4 groups can take unlimited corporate and union money without disclosing their benefactors. In Guatemala these type of ads have led to increased support and interference with political outcomes.

Please see excerpts below.

“Betraying Peace and dividing Guatemala”

Ex-military and former officials of President Alvaro Arzu’s (1996-2000) government signed the ad. Arzu signed the Peace Accords in 1996. Some of the undersigned in the ad have testified for the defense. They say the prosecution’s charges “are really directed against the entirety of the Guatemalan nation.” If found guilty, this accusation “would become a verdict against the entire country that threatens to polarize all of society and revert peace.”

Call to Reflection by the Friends of the Country Association”

According to this organization the trial against Rios Montt, “isa turning pointin the completion ofGuatemala's internal armed conflict." The argues that the Guatemalan military followed the law of the time whereby contrast counterinsurgent guerilla groups comitted crimes illegally under any framework. They defend the army attempted to uphold the state of law despite the fact that a majority of the time the country was governed by a military dictatorship.