2008-01. Spanish Embassy Massacre: 28th Anniversary
January 31st, 2008
Guatemala City, Guatemala.
January 31, 2008.
Issue: Genocide / Impunity / Justice
“Starting in 1977, a large number of Maya K’iche’ and Maya Ixil inhabitants from the municipalities of Nebaj, Chajul, San Juan Cotzal and San Miguel Uspantan, all located in the northern region of the Department of Quiche, began to organize under the newly created Committee for Peasant Union (CUC). During the year 1979, a number of oppressive acts were carried out by the army against the residents of these municipalities.” (1)
“In response to such repression, Maya Ixil and Maya K’iche’ peasants, many of them members or local leaders within the CUC, travelled to Guatemala City so as to denounce both at national and international levels the human rights atrocities which were taking place in their communities.” (2)
“Once in Guatemala City, the peasant delegation visited a number offices and personalities seeking help in divulging their accounts. But their effort was in vain. At the National Congress, access was denied to them. The press also refused to cover the story.” (3)
“The delegation, however, did receive support from students at the University of San Carlos (USAC), militants from the Robin Garcia Student Revolutionary Front (FERG), some labor unions, as well as a few social organizations… In the end, they decided to occupy an Embassy.” (4)
A public declaration from the indigenous communities which peacefully occupied the Spanish Embassy, dated January 31, 1980, states: “…We have been left no other choice but to occupy the Spanish Embassy as the only resource to make our pleas known at both local and international levels.” (5)
The military government of General Lucas Garcia decisively selected to remove the protesters “by any means”. Hence, after only a few minutes after the occupation took place, dozens of police and state security agents surrounded the Spanish Embassy grounds. (6)
“Immediately after knocking down the door, [the security forces] made use of a flamethrower, or similar gas-emitting device, against those found inside the ambassador’s office; most were struck by the flames from the waist up and propelled backwards, hence causing a pile-up effect.” (7)
“Dark smoke was seen come out of the windows, and all 37 people present were burned alive.” (8)
“The case of the Spanish Embassy Massacre serves as precedent and proof of the intensive and excessive political repression applied by the Government of Lucas Garcia in 1980. It clearly reflects the situation lived during such time where political opposition, demands for social justice, and the denouncement of human rights violations were completely disallowed. In addition, it also reflects the state of terror in which Guatemala society lived under at that time.” (9)
Twenty-eight years after the event, a number of activities were carried out to commemorate those massacred: a demonstration in front of the Constitutionality Court (CC), a forum focusing on the topic of Impunity, as well as a vigil in front of the current Spanish Embassy.
“Twenty-eight years have passed, yet even though it is clearly known who the responsible for this massacre are and some of them even have apprehension and extradition orders from Spanish courts, current government officials have allowed them to remain immune to the law.” (10)
Through a communiqué read by Claudia Samayoa, the Coordination Genocide Never Again expressed its utmost rejection at the December 12, 2007, decision by the CC to refuse to act with regards to the apprehension and extradition orders, and therefore granting continual freedom to those accused of committing grave human rights crimes.
“The decision by the Constitutionality Court makes evident the lack of will by the State and the Judicial System in Guatemala to investigate, prosecute, and judge genocide. Additionally, it reaffirms a systematic prohibition of justice and mocks the dignity, beliefs, and memory of the hundreds of thousands of victims who suffered grave human rights violations.” (11)
“Magistrates from the Constitutionality Court, history will judge your complicity with those who carried out genocide and victimized the Guatemalan people.”
“Don’t be fooled. We can judge those responsible for Genocide… It is not true that the Spanish Judge relinquished Guatemala’s Genocide case, but instead he gave up due to the manipulation of laws carried out by local authorities who favor those responsible for Genocide.”
“Wanted: Efrain Rios Montt; for Genocide”. The onetime military dictator who governed during the most repressive years in the early 1980s and implemented the infamous Scorched Earth Campaign, once again relishes from his immunity as he was recently elected to congress. Incredibly, the Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG), political party headed by Rios Montt himself, now presides over the Congress Commission on Human Rights.
Due to the historic significance which the burning of the Spanish Embassy has, January 31st has been declared International Day in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.
The vigil took place outside the current Spanish Embassy throughout the evening of January 31st and into the morning of February first.
The names of those massacred were distributed among the present and individual honors were rendered.
Rafael Gonzales, historic member of the CUC, delivered a sentimental homage to his murdered brother Juan Jose Yos Gonzales.
Gregorio Yuja, lone Guatemalan survivor of the massacre, suffered grave injuries and was hospitalized. Despite having special protection by the Police, he was abducted from his hospital bed the day after the burning. “On February second, the body of Gregorio Yuja was found dead with evident signs of torture notwithstanding the severe burnings throughout his body. His corpse had been dumped at dawn in front of the University of San Carlos’ main administration building”. (12)
“As we commemorate the 28th anniversary of this brutal massacre, we lend homage to both our male and female comrades, and therefore, we demand the appropriate Guatemalan authorities to apprehend and put on trial those responsible for the Spanish Embassy Massacre.”
“Heroes from the Spanish Embassy, your ideas will guide our road!”
To contact and get involved with the CUC: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Versión en español aquí.
1 Guatemala, Memoria del Silencio. Informe de la Comisión para el Esclarecimiento Histórico (CEH). Tomo VI, Anexo I: Casos Ilustrativos. P. 163.
2 Ibid. PP. 163-4.
3 Ibid. P. 164.
4 Ibid. P. 165.
5 Ibid. P. 163.
6 Ibid. P. 168.
7 Ibid. P. 173.
8 Ibid. P. 174.
9 Ibid. P. 181.
10 Comuniqué by the Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC), Guatemala, January 31, 2008: “Rendimos Homenaje a Nuestros Héroes Caídos en la Embajada de España en 1980 y Exigimos Justicia”.
11 Comuniqué by the Coordination Genocide Never Again. Read in Spanish on January 31, 2008, Guatemala City.
12 CEH. Op. Cit. P. 175.
13 CUC. Op. Cit.