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Santa Avelina Journal: Victims of Guatemala’s Civil War Are Laid to Rest, 3 Decades Later

As leftist guerrillas moved their organizing away from cities and into the Maya highlands in the late 1970s, the army identified the Ixil as a base of support for the rebels, even though the insurgents never established a strong presence in the countryside.

The dictator Gen. Romeo Lucas García ordered the first military sweep into the highlands, in late 1981, attacking villages in a strategy designed to terrorize the civilian population and destroy any possible support for the guerrillas.

The so-called scorched-earth policy against the Ixil intensified under Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, who took control of the government in March 1982. The army massacred entire villages, razing buildings and destroying livestock.

General Ríos Montt, who was convicted of genocide in 2013 for the Ixil massacres, described the slaughter as “draining the sea the fish swim in.” His genocide conviction was thrown out on a technicality 10 days after the trial, but a new trial is underway. At 91, he is too ill to attend.

General Ríos Montt also broadened the counterinsurgency policy to establish control over the survivors. He forced them into what were called “model villages,” requiring them to work for food and pressing them into civil defense patrols, paramilitary groups that were often ordered to support the military massacres.

He was deposed in August 1983, and although the pace of the massacres slowed under his successor, Gen. Óscar Mejía Victores, the model villages persisted under military control.

Source: NYT > World

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