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The Scale and Dagger Club
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The Scale and Dagger Club

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The so-called Fundación contra el Terrorismo [Foundation Against Terrorism] has added more gunpowder to the tense discussions generated by the trial against Ríos Montt. The organization headed by Ricardo Méndez Ruiz warns that the military are still present, that theirs is the true version of events, and that they’ll continue to defend it. The human rights defenders, often mentioned in the publications of the Fundación, denounce the organization’s use of military intimidation techniques and threats from the past. Who are the men behind this foundation? What is the “terrorism” against which they fight?
The arrival of Paz y Paz in the MP meant that there would be some changes in the processes related to transitional justice, which had been more or less stagnant. Paz y Paz came to the position with the support of civil society, her ascent to the office on the eighth floor of the Gerona building implied a new push for investigations involving the conflict. That is how, a few months after assuming her role as General Prosecutor, the MP began requesting arrest warrants for high-ranking military and National Police (PN) officers. And these arrest warrants began to be executed.
“The Fundación contra el Terrorismo is explicitly trying to polarize the country, attempting to distort the truth and generating the kinds of threats and discourse which imply threats directed at social leaders. Freedom of expression is one thing, it is one thing to dissent, and it’s another thing to threaten, criminalize, even try to destroy people,” affirms Sandino Asturias

                                                                                                                     Translated by Rodrigo Fuentes

A law firm in a neighborhood next to the Boulevard Vista Hermosa. Night falls. Lawyer Moisés Galindo and businessman Ricardo Méndez Ruiz Valdés walk through the halls finishing the day’s tasks. Galindo goes around the rooms, checking folders, opening cabinets, getting ready for next day’s cases. Méndez Ruiz sits at one of the office desks and starts talking about the Fundación contra el Terrorismo, the organization he has led for over a year with the ultimategoal of defending members of the army from the legal proceedings against them. Over the past months, he’s been especially active.

—This is where us members of the Fundación meet, around twice a week, when we’re done with our daily obligations—says the son of the ex-Minister of the Interior during the Ríos Montt government. Méndez Ruiz was kidnapped by the guerilla in 1982. He is dressed smartly, in a black suit and white tie and, although his attitude is relaxed, he maintainsa straight posture which harks back to his military formation.

The Fundación contra el Terrorismo is still not officially registered, as the Ministry of the Interior corroborated and, to this day, its only public event has been the march of people who came from Nebaj this past April 23rd, which crossed Guatemala City bearing banners denying genocide.

However, the four publications inserted in elPeriódico, signed by the Fundación contra el Terrorismo andentitled “The Farce of Genocide” are full of disqualifying remarks about human rights defenders or ex-members of the guerilla—some of those mentioned have denied they ever participated in the insurgency. These publications have been labeled “psychological war mechanisms used in the past,” “threats” “which incited hatred.” They are thus described by Sandino Asturias, the director of the Centro de Estudios de Guatemala who was included in two of the accusations against guerilla members. Asturias is son of Rodrigo Asturias,Gaspar Ilom, who led one of the four guerrilla groups, the Organización Revolucionaria del Pueblo en Armas (ORPA); Sandino was also a militant.

 

Oscar Platero, Escobar Blas or Byron Lima

Up until now, the Foundation has only had one face: Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, who was seen at the courts on a number of hearings during the trial against Efraín Ríos Montt and has also been at the hearings of other accused members of the military. However, along with him there are six more men, all of them military or with military training, who meet in one of the conference rooms of the law firm in the residential area in order to come up with actions for what they refer to as “defense”.

According to Méndez Ruiz, the Fundación contra el Terrorismo is made up of artillery captain Oscar Platero Trabanino—vicepresident and person in charge or drafting the publications—and by board members Colonel Juan Francisco Escobar Blas, Marco Augusto Quilo Ortiz—nephew of the ex Defense Chief of Staff José Luis Quilo Ayuso—, Colonel Carlos Alvarado Palomo and the lawyer Moisés Galindo*. Although not part of the board, Captain Byron Lima has, from prison, actively supported the foundation through his columns in El Metropolitano.

What’s the ultimate goal of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo? “For every thesis there is an antithesis; we are the antithesis,” Méndez Ruiz replies.

Sitting behind a large wooden table, he goes on talking about the “public lynching” of the army. He recalls the Amnesty and the Ley de Reconciliación [Law of Reconciliation] the tools which had allowed the military institution to avoid legal responsibility for crimes committed during the conflict. It has also allowed the high commanders of the Army and National Police at the time of the worstrepression to grow old in their homes, more or less indifferent to their victims’ accusations.

“It’s all because of her”

Then, he speaks of her. Of Claudia Paz y Paz. The Attorney General. He emphasizes it. “It’s all because of her.” The Fundación contra el Terrorismo wouldn’t exist, he says, if it weren’t for her arrival at the Ministerio Público [Public Prosecutor’s Office] (MP).

The arrival of Paz y Paz in the MP meant that there would be some changes in the processes related to transitional justice, which had been more or less stagnant. Paz y Paz came to the position with the support of civil society, her ascent to the office on the eighth floor of the Gerona building implied a new push for investigations involving the conflict. That is how, a few months after assuming her role as General Prosecutor, the MP began requesting arrest warrants for high-ranking military and National Police (PN) officers. And these arrest warrants began to be executed.

On June 2011, Héctor Bol de la Cruz, Chief of the PN in 1984, was arrested for his implication in the kidnapping and disappearance of union leader Fernando García. A week later, it was Héctor Mario López Fuentes’ turn, Defense Chief of Staff during the government of Ríos Montt, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Ixil region.

In July, Pedro García Arredondo, Chief of the Detective Corps in 1981, was captured for his involvement in the kidnapping of student Edgar Sáenz Calito. And in October of that same year the arrest warrant against Oscar Mejía Víctores, head of State from 1983 to 1985, was requested, though it did not lead to trial. At the same time, the arrest of General Efraín Ríos Montt was requested, and General José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, Director of Intelligence, was arrested. Both were tried  between March and May of this year.

The legalproceedings had started more than ten years ago in some cases—the process against Ríos Montt, for example, is in the courts system since 2001—and those individuals were arrested in six months. Their names and the crimes they were accused of became public, released in the press. Genocide was once again discussed. In February 2012, the Human Rights Attorney’s Office granted the Fundación de Antropología Forense [Foundation for Forensic Anthropology] (FAFG) the permit to begin excavations in the military base at Cobán, thanks to the accusation regarding the existence of a clandestine cemetery. And bodies were soon discovered, and genocide remained a topic of discussion.

“It’s all because of her,” Méndez Ruiz says.

The accusations of the guerrilla

“We weren’t going to allow ourselves to be led like sheep to the slaughter,” Ricardo Méndez Ruiz asserts. The son of the minister speaks in the plural, as if he were one of the accused military, despite the fact that his personal trajectory is not linked to the accusations and he knows the army’s history through the stories his father or friends of his father told. Following his kidnapping, Méndez Ruiz went to Chile to try to validate his studies in Veterinary School. When he returned to Guatemala, following the coup against Ríos Montt, he graduated as member of the Army Reserves and dedicated himself to commerce; among other business ventures, he imported sugar during the government of Alfonso Portillo.

In the months following those arrests, the Asociación de Veteranos Militares de Guatemala [Association of Guatemalan Veterans] (Avemilgua) published a notice in which it indicated that, given the attacks on members of the military, it was “convenient to structure a base to provide timely legal support to the army under necessary circumstances.”

 

And Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, who until then had been largely removed from public life, with the exception of a failed candidacy as the capital city’s mayor for the Frente Republicano Guatemalteco [Guatemalan Republican Front], became a kind of spokesperson for the retired members of the military, nearly all of them in their eighties. And the spokesperson, finally, for his father, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz Rohrmoser, commander of the Cobán military base from 1978 to 1982, subsequently named Minister of the Interior following the coup led by Ríos Montt.

 

The first task of Méndez Ruiz Junior in defense of the military was carried out in November 2011, when he filed charges at the MP reporting the kidnapping he had suffered in May 1982 by hand of the Partido Guatemalteco de los Trabajadores [Guatemalan Workers Party] (PGT). He accused 26 people, some deceased, others completely disconnected from the case—a fact later proven by the accused themselves when they noted inconsistencies in the dates, sometimes showing it was impossible for them to be responsible given their young age at the time of the events in question. In an interview for elPeriódico, Méndez Ruiz recognized that none of these individuals had perpetrated the kidnapping but that, just like the MP, he was following the chain of command. His objective was undoubtedly political. He denounced public characters from Guatemala: Yolanda Colom, the sister of Álvaro Colom, President at that time; columnist and former union leader Miguel Ángel Albizures; religious brothers Gurriarán; and some relatives of the Attorney General. His ultimate goal, he assured in that interview, was Claudia Paz y Paz “for the love of God, I’m aiming at her.”

In the months following that first accusation three more were presented against alleged guerilla militants. Theodore Plocharski Rehbac, businessman in the coffee industry from San Marcos, accused 52 guerrilla members of the assassination of 10 people. Among the accused were Sandra Torres, First Lady at the time; activist Iduvina Hernández, who was an activist with student groups at the Universidad de San Carlos; andrelatives of Claudia Paz y Paz. In the meantime, Esthela de Matta, widow of Furlán, President of the Asociación de Viudas de Militares y Especialistas del Ejército de Guatemala [Association of Widows of Members of the Guatemalan Army], accused 32 other individuals, and then, in 2012, Marco Quilodelivered to the MP a three volume compilation with 64,300 alleged crimes committed by the guerilla, including a list of 100 alleged subversive actors.

The documents delivered by Marco Quilo, the Fundación’s president indicates, were elaborated by Avemilgua between 1995 and 1996 with the purpose of getting them included in the Comisión del Esclarecimiento Histórico [Commission of Historical Clarification] (CEH), but he claims they weren’t accepted. On the other hand, Otilia Lux, expert on indigenous issues and one of the three members who headed the CEH, asserts those documents were indeed accepted and that the figures of the crimes committed by army and guerilla came from there. “The military was even invited to give their testimony; some came, others didn’t,” she said.

In the meantime, Méndez Ruiz, through his columns in elPeriódico—he was invited to write in the newspaper following his accusation in the MP—, kept defending the role of the armed forces and denouncing former guerilla members.

However, at its time of its occurrence in 1982, the kidnapping of Méndez Ruiz Junior did not go unpunished.

According to declassified documents from the U.S. Embassy, in an attempt to free his son, General Méndez Ruiz ordered the arrest of pediatrician Juan José Hurtado, to offer him as a “bargaining chip” to the Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres [Guerrilla Army of the Poor] (EGP), where four sons of the doctor were active. The pediatrician, who belonged to the upper class, was kidnapped one day after student Méndez Ruiz. However, the organization that had claimed authorship for the kidnapping, through a paid advertisement, wasn’t the EGP but the PGT, and following international pressure to achieve Hurtado’s release, the government moved the pediatrician to a hospital where he was left to recover physically from the torture to which he’d been subjected, and he was finally released in July 1982.

“If they’re looking for those responsible for the kidnapping of the young man (Ricardo Méndez Ruiz), they’re all dead. One by one, the D-2 identified and executed them, without waiting for the Ministerio Público (MP) nor the courts; as usual, they were disappeared,” Edgar Gutiérrez states in a column. Gutiérrez was coordinator of the of the archbishop’s report Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica [Recovery of Historical Memory] (Remhi) and Minister of Foreign Relations of the FRG President Alfonso Portillo, and is called “Gutiérrez the rat” in the blog by the Fundación contra el Terrorismo.

The dagger with the scale

 

But it wasn’t until March of this year, when the trial for genocide against Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez began, that the Fundación contra el Terrorismo made itself visible.

It began with a 20-page publication in elPeriódico, entitled “La farsa del genocidio” [“The Farce of Genocide”], where for the first time the logo of the foundation was visible, a military dagger from which a scale hangs. It is a text with disjointed information and one where words like “Marxist” and “terrorist” are repeated endlessly. It talks about the role of the Catholic Church in the conflict, the role of the guerrilla; it describes different insurgent cells and massacres attributed to them; it includes a list of human rights foundations and directly accuses hundreds of people, many of them with photographs and defamations:

Priest Javier Gurriarán is described as a “fiend”, while Frank La Rue, rapporteur for the freedom of expression of the UN and former union adviser, is defined as a “conspirator and manipulator by nature, a tie-wearing terrorist.”Bishop of Huehuetenango, Álvaro Ramazzini, and lawyer Ramón Cadena are described as “two of the main manipulators of public opinion, internationally recognized Marxists”; Judge of high-impact cases Miguel Ángel Gálvez is described as “one of the judiciary hitmen.” The texts also included a list of “unwanted foreigners.” Also, there is a list of movements relating to human rights and which allegedly infringe upon public order. It includes, for example, feminism as a movement that “Detracts strength from the virility and patriotism of males as such in Western nations.”

Additionally, the Fundación elaborated a report—only disseminated online— entitled “Los rostros de la infamia”** [“The Faces of Infamy”] which consists of a photo album with individuals who participate in the legal proceedings, such as the members of the court that tried Ríos Montt, the Attorney General and her secretaries, the Human Rights Ombudsman and leaders of human rights organizations.

Ricardo Méndez draws attention to the research involved in these publications. He adds that the country’s Left has written tens of books—he speaks, for instance, of Insurgentes by Santiago Santa Cruz, former member of ORPA, recalls the book Sierra Madre by Pedro Palma Lau, also a former member of this organization; he mentions Masacres de la Selva, by Jesuit anthropologist Ricardo Falla andTrueno en la Ciudad, by Mario Payeras, whom he describes as one of the best Guatemalan authors. Now, he asserts, it’s their turn, the military’s, to give their own version.

 

**************

The men in the club

Oscar Platero: with Berger, Pablo Monsanto y López Bonilla

The person who drafts and signs the texts in their publications is the Artillery Colonel Oscar Platero Trabanino, vicepresident of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo. Platero was the coordinator of customs security of the SAT [tax and revenue State agency] in the first months of the Óscar Berger government, whohad come to power in an alliance with right-wing parties PP, PSN and MR. However, in April 2005 he was let go after being accused of robbery of material goods and not fitting the position’s profile. According to a 2005 article in elPeriódico, this event led him to lock himself in his office with a gun, refusing to be fired.

In 2007, Oscar Platero became a candidate as a national congressman for the leftist party Alianza Nueva Nación (ANN) of former guerilla commander Pablo Monsanto. In the current government, he was hired by Lieutenant Colonel Mauricio López Bonilla, Minister of the Interior, as a consultant for the Ministry, a position which endowed him with Q165 thousand in 2012 for consultancy services rendered to the Fuerza de Tarea contra las Extorsiones [Task Force Against Extortions], as stated in the online portal for State purchases, Guatecompras. Also in 2012, according to the purchase records of the Ministry of the Interior, Platero received Q65 thousand from the Dirección General del Sistema Penitenciario [General Directorate of the Penitentiary System], for “psychological studies on imprisonment at the moment of the process of social reinsertion for prisoners, technical protocol, national emergency plan and evacuation of prisoners and protocol for aid for the hospitalization of prisoners.” This year he is no longer employed by the Ministry of the Interior.

Escobar Blas: Under investigation for the Murder of Gerardi

 

Another member of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo, who Méndez Ruiz refers to as first board member, is Juan Francisco Escobar Blas, a combat pilot and Colonel of the Air Force. He is still considered by the Ministerio Público to have allegedly participated in the assassination of former Auxiliary Bishop of Guatemala City Juan Gerardi, on April 28th, 1998, two days after going public with the Remhi report.

Public prosecutor Jorge García, from the Fiscalía Especial a Cargo del Caso Gerardi, told Plaza Pública that Escobar Blas is still under investigation given the sentence issued in 2001. “The judges said the process against Francisco Escobar Blas should remain open given that he hid evidence, presented himself in a false manner, and hid knowledge of events,” he stated.

When Gerardi was murdered, Escobar Blas worked as Jefe de Servicios de Protección del Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP) [Chief of Protection Services of the Presidential General Staff]. “According to his testimony, he received a call where he was asked to find out what has happened in the parish house, he walked from a house near the Tribunal Supremo Electoral [Electoral Supreme Court], to meet with Darío Morales, who was a cameraman for the Estado Mayor Presidencial [Presidential General Staff]. Several people in the parish house recognized him, among them the director of the PNC, Ángel Conte Cojulún. Afterwards, Escobar Blas and Morales walked together to the Estado Mayor,” the prosecutor stated.

Byron Lima, currently in prison for aiding and abetting in the murder of Gerardi, was a subordinate of Escobar Blas in the EMP, according to the prosecutor. García added that they have now requested the arrest warrant for Darío Morales and that they expect to have access to his information in order to further inquire on the participation of the Fundación’s first board member in the assassination.

“I am not involved, I was implicated in the case. When it happened I’d been on the Estado Mayor Presidencial for a month; I was responsible for the protection services section, circle 2, I wasn’t involved with Remhi at all,” Escobar explains, and adds that it was false that the Estado Mayor Presidencial carried out intelligence operations or that Byron Lima was his subordinate.

Despite still being under investigation, Escobar Blas, who works as a private helicopter pilot, has not stopped himself from commenting on social networks on news regarding the Gerardi case. He has also been a commentator on right-wing radio shows such as Libertópolis or Hablando Claro, Mario David García’s show in Emisoras Unidas [radio station], where he has shared his opinion on the Ríos Montt trial or the Gerardi case.

Furthermore, in April 2012, Escobar Blas lodged a complaint against 15 people who had played a role in the Gerardi case. He accused them of deceiving the public with distorted information and of altering the crime scene. Among those being sued are workers of the Ministerio Público such as Mynor Melgar, who now works with Claudia Paz y Paz; Jorge García himself; lawyer Marco Leopoldo Zeissing Ramírez;and human rights activists such as the director of the ODAHG, Nery Ródenas; the former director Ronalth Ochaeta;and Edgar Gutiérrez, coordinator of Remhi.

“Justice either shines on everyone or no one. No one is above the law; that, for me, is the main reason I’m part of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo,” Escobar states, clarifying thatuntil last year he didn’t know his colleagues in the foundation and that if he gets a whiff that they want to go into politics he’ll leave the Fundación.

Galindo: The military’s lawyer

Additionally, the retired aviation mayor and lawyer, Moisés Galindo, belongs to this group of dedicated defenders of the army. He has a long trajectory defending members of the military under investigation. Moisés Galindo, of Jewish origin and brought up in Panajachel, could be described as a hyperactive person though warm in manner. It’s very likely that if a member of the military is seen in court, Galindo is close by.

This lawyer has been involved in many of the cases against members of the military for their acts during the armed conflict.  He’s been part of the defense teams of Efraín Ríos Montt and José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez. Héctor Mario López Fuentes, former head of the Estado Mayor de la Defensa, can also be found among his clients. And he continues to file appeals for the release of the Comando VI and Detective Corps former chief, Pedro García Arredondo, after he was sentenced to 70 years for the kidnapping and torture of university student Edgar Sáenz Calito.He also defended Byron Lima and Francisco Escobar Blas for the Gerardi case and is the lawyer in all the previously mentioned accusations presented against the guerilla.

But Moisés Galindo has not only had a long trajectory as a defense lawyer, but was also an accused party who managed to escape conviction after being accused of the embezzlement of the Ministerio de la Defensa [Defense Ministry] during the government of Alfonso Portillo. “They freed me because they didn’t have any evidence against me. I proved it was a conspiracy, that Castresana (then chief of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) was behind it; I proved that I wasn’t in Guatemala nor in that position when it occurred,” Galindo states.

When asked about his reasons to be part of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo, he insists that he is simply the notary, “I believe that if the Peace Accords were signed and a Law of National Reconciliation was signed they must be respected, if the law isn’t respected, who is it made for?,” Galindo asked. During the armed conflict he occupied a position as mayor in the southwest of Guatemala, and after being wounded in combat he was offered a scholarship to study law at the Universidad Francisco Marroquín.

“I was one of the leaders of the Serranazo,” he explains. “When the attempted coup took place, I reached out to one of the leaders of civil society, Dionisio Gutiérrez, who was my friend, and realizing he needed the proper coordination of leadership, I introduced him to Otto Pérez Molina, who was another one of the leaders,” he asserts. “You know that within the army there was an institutional line and there was also a hard line. I was part of the hard line,” he concludes.

Additionally, according to Méndez Ruiz, other members of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo include Marco Augusto Quilo Ortiz, nephew of general and former Defense Minister, José Luis Quilo Ayuso. His father, LieutenantColonel Víctor Agusuto Quilo Ayuso, died in combat in 1986 in Petén, while fighting the guerrilla group Fuerzas Armadas Rebeldes [Armed Rebel Forces] (FAR). The last board member is Carlos Alvarado Palomo, infantry colonel, who worked in the military base at Petén and also carried out intelligence operations, according to information gathered in the National Security Archives of the United States.

Funders and Byron Lima

One of the questions underlying the publications in elPeriódico and the march organized from Nebaj is who funds the Fundación contra el Terrorismo.

Méndez Ruiz refuses to offer information when asked about the funders, in contrast to all other questions which are answered without hesitation.  But he does describe them as “businessmen,” “big businessmen from this country,” but who contribute small sums of money.

In this regard, he said that they, including Moisés Galindo, work ad honorem and that elPeriódico is offering them a “special price for being a columnist.” According to the information of Méndez Ruiz, elPeriódico charges Q29 thousand for each inserted publication—a sponsored advertisement costs Q19,800. A source fromelPeriódico said that, indeed, that was the price per insert and that it is not a special price, but the price stipulated given that it wasn’t using any of the newspaper’s pages. Additionally, it was confirmed that the Fundación’s publications are printed in the same printing press of that newspaper, and although the price for the printing is not revealed, the print-out is designed by employees of the newspaper. Méndez Ruiz shares information on the members of the board of the Fundación, but it is unclear what support they might have from other people or institutions. Captain Byron Lima Oliva may be one of the people in the Fundación’s shadow.

Through his columns in El Metropolitano—a free print-out distributed in Mixco; Antigua, Guatemala; Carretera El Salvador; and Quetzaltenango— Byron Lima has supported the Fundación, as in one of his writings entitled “Debemos conocer la verdad” [“We must know the truth”], where he concludes: “Let’s join the ‘Fundación contra el Terrorismo,’ lets publish our testimonies, let the truth come out, let’s not allow Marxism to grow, it has already been proven that it’s an authoritarian regime, dark, decadent.”

Lima also has a close relationship with the two lawyers who are members of the organization, Galindo and Cintrón, both members of his defense team, and he worked, according to the prosecution, with Escobar Blas in the Estado Mayor Presidencial. As possible evidence of this relationship there is a photograph in which captain Oliva amicably hugs Galindo and Méndez Ruiz.

When asked about Lima’s participation, the Fundación’s president says that the rumors that Byron Lima and his brother, Luis Alberto Lima Oliva, fund the organization, are not true. “Byron Lima is not part of the Fundación but is indeed a friend of ours. Galindo has been his lawyer, I am his friend although I don’t see him as often as I’d like,” he answers. Regarding the funding, Méndez Ruiz laments that “unfortunately it’s not true, because we do need money.”

The publication might be a crime

The actions committed by the Fundación contra el Terrorismo, described by its own members as a way of “escaping political persecution,” have been understood by those affected to constitute threats or intimidations.

“The Fundación contra el Terrorismo is explicitly trying to polarize the country, attempting to distort the truth and generating the kinds of threats and discourse which imply threats directed at social leaders. Freedom of expression is one thing, it is one thing to dissent, and it’s another thing to threaten, criminalize, even try to destroy people,” affirms Sandino Asturias, who is one of those accused by Marco Quilo and Theodore Plocharski.

In the meantime, Álvaro Ramazzini, the bishop of the Huehuetenango diocese who has also been targeted in the publications, says that he’s neither interested nor pays attention to these texts. “It’s the tactic they’ve always used to delegitimize,” he says.

In fact, because of the accusations in the pamphlets produced by the Fundación, one month ago a group of approximately 50 people and some social organizations lodged an official complaint with the Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos [Office of Human Rights Ombudsman], where it indicated that both the texts as well as the photographs “have caused a stigmatization campaign to become one of threats which are openly conceived of, in particular, by the president of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo.”

Jorge Santos, director of the Convergencia de Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos  [Association of Human Rights Organizations], who lodged the complaint along with Claudia Samayoa, director of the Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Udefegua) [Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders], explains they are worried these publications might lead to “physical attacks on those shown on the photographs. The vitriol with which their hatred is expressed is concerning.” Santos adds that the State’s permissiveness with regard to these publications is also disquieting, “and if to that you add the public statements by the President or the Secretario de la Paz [Secretary of Peace], we could say that a public policy of permissiveness is now under way.”

Among the different points in the complaint, according to Santos, the Ombusdsman is asked to begin an investigation regarding those publications, prevent stigmatization, and act “as soon as possible in order to stop this campaign.”

In the international realm, Spain’s ambassador to Guatemala, Manuel Lajarreta, wrote a response letter in elPeriódico describing the accusations in the insert “La Farsa del Genocidio” as “defamatory,” accusationswhich attacked the Spanish ambassador during 1980, Máximo Cajal; while the vice-minister of Foreign Relations of Norway, Arvin Gadgil, stated to Plaza Pública that these accusations describing his country as funding terrorism “unnerved him.” “The most important thing for us is to have a good relationship with the Government, even if we’re not able to agree on a series of issues. We have taken these allegations seriously and have no evidence whatsoever that our cooperation is being used for violent or illegal purposes,” he said.

Rootman Pérez, national subdirector of the PDH, stated that they are currently investigating the case. “The report from the Policía Nacional Civil, Copredeh and Avemilgua has already been received.” However, he explained that since the Fundación contra el Terrorismo is not officially registered, the process to request the information had been delayed. “We have to wait to have the reports handed back; if in the end these publications are considered to constitute threats or intimidation we’ll send the case to the Ministerio Público, since it’s not our duty to investigate crimes,” he said.

The Fundación contra el Terrorismo does not seem to mind this formal complaint and references it only as one more step in the Fundación’s trajectory. According to Méndez Ruiz, during the next week there’ll be a new, “tougher” publication, this time in all newspapers, including Prensa Libre Nuestro Diario –where he claims they charged the Fundación Q300 thousand. He keeps the topic secret. The identity of those giving the money is also secret material. Could the funders be liable for the threats?, the subdirector of the PDH is asked. “It would have to be demonstrated that they gave the money directly with the purpose of threatening; this is very difficult to prove.”

At the law firm it’s already night. Moisés Galindo is about to leave. As he walks on to the street, before he closes the door, he jokes about the Fundación’s support network: “Say that all the oligarchs are hidden here, all the sugar producers.” Those who finance the organization’s activities prefer to stay in the shadows, and nor have the military membersthey defend shown much support to the men who meet in a law firm to plan their next campaigns.

A little later, the president of the Fundación contra el Terrorismo leaves the headquarters alone. In the end it’s him, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, with his fight to defend the military’s honor.

 

 

Clarifications:

*Following the publication of this text, journalist Carolina Gamazo was informed by Ricardo Méndez Ruiz that the name of lawyer Julio Cintrón was incorrect. This information was indeed incorrect given that Julio Cintrón passed away in 2009. The author of this investigation apologizes for the problems this might have caused. According to information supplied by Méndez Ruiz following the publication of this text, the Fundación contra el Terrorismo is made up by the people described here and, additionally, Méndez Ruiz mentions retired Colonel Luis Estrada and lawyer Raúl Falla Ovalle, who acted as inspector of the Mercado de Futuros, S.A. (MDF).

** Following the publication of this text, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz contacted the journalist who wrote it to deny that the Fundación contra el Terrorismo was the author of the document “Los rostros de la infamia,” [“The Faces of Infamy”] which circulated online anonymously. Following his clarification, we have also verified that while the document “Los rostros de la infamia,” was shared on social networks with authorship ascribed to the Fundación, there was no signature from the Fundación itself. We are responsible for making the mistake of not checking this fact with the Fundación and apologize for it.

 

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