Jailed for War Crimes, Guatemalan Military Officials May Now Get Amnesty

Jailed for War Crimes, Guatemalan Military Officials May Now Get Amnesty

Four former senior military officials were convicted, including Benedicto Lucas García, who was the army chief of staff, and Manuel Callejas y Callejas, who was the military intelligence chief.

“This was the only possibility that we have had in almost 40 years to place the responsibility, the shame, the guilt on those who are truly responsible for our situation and that of many other victims,” said Marco Antonio’s sister, Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, 59. She was detained on a military base where she was raped and tortured before she escaped after nine days.

Now many Guatemalans fear a return to impunity.

“People had the audacity to believe that the justice system is listening,” said Jo-Marie Burt, a Guatemala expert at George Mason University who has followed the trials closely. “And then for Congress to say that none of that matters, that, we, the army saved the country from terrorism — they want to bring Guatemala back to 1981.”

But if the amnesty is approved Wednesday, it will not succeed in turning back time, said Ana Lucrecia Molina Theissen, 64, the eldest of the family’s three daughters.

“The image of criminals disguised as heroes, that won’t be recovered,” she said. “That image of heroic, respectable patriots — that will never return for them, never.”

Guatemalan lawmakers have brushed aside protests from indigenous groups and human rights groups at home, and appeals from abroad, including a protest from the United States State Department. Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, warned that passage of the bill would have “serious consequences” for United States aid.

“A government that shields its armed forces from punishment for crimes against humanity fails in its most sacred obligation to defend justice and uphold the rule of law,” he said.

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