We Must Remember the Past to Build a Better Future

When we returned to Antigua, an article appeared in the local paper saying a resolution had been passed in the US House of Representatives supporting the arrest of the eight men most responsible for the worst crimes during the years of violence. Among the 40 signers were Representatives Earl Blumenaur and Peter de Fazio from my state of Oregon.

The court case that resulted in the House resolution was filed in 1999 by the Rigoberta Manche Tum Foundation after legal paths inside the country were exhausted. They filed the case in the Spanish National Court accusing the eight leaders of genocide, terrorism and torture. When the Spanish judge came to Guatemala to interview the eight accused, he was blocked by the Guatemalan Courts. He returned home and declared that justice was impossible using the framework available within Guatemala. The case moved forward. On July 7 of this year (2006), the court issued arrest warrants for all eight men. They are in hiding, but if they leave the country for any reason, Interpol, the international police force, will arrest them to stand trial.

The Guatemalan government asserts there are no criminal charges pending against the eight men in the country. Perhaps they are resisting external pressures but other indications are that the government is accepting some responsibility for the human rights offenses. On September 19th of this year, the government and the representatives of the twenty-three communities affected by the construction of the Chixoy Dam signed an agreement to seek solutions to the demands of the people.

It is a beginning.