Guatemalan military linked to bishop's murder


Guatemalan military linked to bishop's murder

In a press conference in Washington on June 25, US lawyer Jennifer Harbury revealed 23 names and pseudonyms of members of the death squad Avenging Jaguar (Jaguar Justiciero, JJ), which claimed responsibility for the April 26 murder of Guatemala City auxiliary bishop Juan Jose Gerardi Conedera.

The individuals named are also members of a special commando of the G-2 military intelligence unit which was linked in the past to US intelligence services; according to Harbury, the G-2 commando and the JJ death squad are "one and the same".

Harbury's information comes from a Guatemalan who is currently in the US seeking political asylum, whose name is being withheld to protect his safety. The Guatemalan source, says Harbury, "was for years in close contact with the death squad, and is extremely credible".

Guatemalan defence minister Hector Barrios Celada demanded "overwhelming evidence" of the assertions, although he admitted that some of the names revealed by Harbury correspond to high-level military officers.

Army spokesperson Edith Vargas insisted that the Guatemalan army is one of the institutions "most interested" in solving Gerardi's murder.

US State Department spokesperson James Rubin rejected Harbury's allegations and said that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is collaborating with Guatemalan authorities to solve the bishop's murder.

Minor Melgar, legal adviser of the Archbishop's Human Rights Office (ODHA), said that the information revealed by Harbury "could be a door to work with a new hypothesis that considers the political motive" of Gerardi's murder.

Representatives of the San Francisco-based human rights and solidarity organisation Global Exchange held a press conference in Guatemala City on June 27 at which they demanded that the US declassify its documents regarding human rights violations in Guatemala.

The activists also insisted that their government should shut down the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, which trains Latin American military officers.

[From Weekly News Update on the Americas, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY, 10012, USA; e-mail]

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