News Release

Implications of Guatemala Showdown on U.S.-backed War Crimes Prosecutions

gmprThe New York Times reported: “The Guatemalan authorities on Wednesday arrested 18 former military officers on charges related to massacres and disappearances during the 1980s, the bloodiest period of the country’s 36-year civil war.

“The arrests pose a direct challenge to the president-elect, Jimmy Morales, a political neophyte who ran as the candidate of a party dominated by former officers. …

“In 2013, a former military dictator, Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt, was convicted of genocide, but the verdict was overturned. A retrial is scheduled to begin next week… Mr. Morales, a former television comedian and producer who will be inaugurated next Thursday, was elected in November as a political outsider.”

ALLAN NAIRN, 1cabang at gmail.com, @allannairn14
Nairn is a noted investigative reporter who has done extensive work on Central American death squads. He said in an interview with “Democracy Now!” on Friday: “The uprising, where hundreds of thousands of people came into the streets, brought down General Pérez Molina, and it created a climate where the prosecutors dared to try to go forward with these charges.

“These officers arrested the other day include a former army chief of staff, a group of intelligence chiefs, a former member of the Ríos Montt junta, a former minister of the interior. These are people at the heart of the power structure in Guatemala. They’re the partners of the oligarchy. They were the partners of the U.S. military. If you go back and read the cables that have so far been declassified from within the Defense Intelligence Agency and other U.S. agencies, you see them praising these officers, the very ones who have now been arrested for these atrocities. And these men arrested also form part of the core of the group that’s the incoming government of Jimmy Morales, just elected. His right-hand man was Ovalle Maldonado, who is one of those charged with crimes at the Cobán base … the pits are just stacked with skeletons. So, this has big implications.

“And it could have even bigger implications for the U.S. I spoke to, during the years when this was happening, three of the four CIA station chiefs who served there. I named their names in an article which appeared in The Nation in 1995. The prosecutors can go look at that article, see who they are. The U.S. personnel who were there, and who are still alive, can be subpoenaed. The U.S. should be subpoenaed to release all NSA, State Department and Pentagon documents regarding payments they made to these officers, training and advice they gave to them. The Guatemalan authorities, in theory, would have the right to extradite surviving U.S. officials.”

Discussing the role of former U.S. official Elliot Abrams — who Nairn accused of war crimes while the two were on “Charlie Rose” in 1995 — Nairn stated: “Abrams was perhaps the key figure in U.S. Central American policy during the time of the slaughter. He later became a top adviser to the Bush Jr. White House dealing with the Middle East, where the U.S. has mounted similar operations in support of killer forces. For example, in Iraq, in the capacity as a private contractor, the U.S. brought over one of the U.S. military men, Colonel [James] Steele, who had worked alongside the Salvadoran death squads. And in Iraq, he helped to set up the Shiite militia operations that went out and targeted Sunnis in Iraq. This was under the time of General Petraeus, when Petraeus was also carving up Baghdad with walls on a sectarian basis. They called it the ‘Salvador Option.'” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “How the Iraq Invasion Spawned Sectarian War.”

Nairn added: “This is a policy that’s been applied uniformly around the world. But since the U.S. is not yet as civilized as Guatemala, people like Abrams have not been put in the dock. But the Elliott Abrams equivalent — equivalents in Guatemala are this morning being brought before a judge in Guatemala as prisoners, and they’re going to face their fate.”