LATIN AMERICA

Guatemala sentences ex-officer for country’s worst massacre

Pedro Pimentel convicted for role in murder of 201 peasants

Madrid -
Pimentel is escorted to court to hear his sentence.
Pimentel is escorted to court to hear his sentence.REUTERS

A former special military operations officer, convicted for his role in the murder of 201 peasants in the so-call Los Dos Erres massacre, was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison by a Guatemala judge on Monday.

Pedro Pimentel, who was extradited following his arrest in the United States where he worked at a California factory, has denied that he was a participant in the 1982 bloodbath.

But two former soldiers who took part in the killings testified that Pimentel was part of their elite group known as the Kaibiles and was responsible for the atrocity that took place during the military regime of General Efraín Ríos Montt. It was the worst massacre in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war.

Last August, four other former officials were convicted and also received long prison terms: 30 years for each murder. The prison terms are largely symbolic because under current Guatemalan law maximum sentences are 50 years.

The convicted former army officers who formed the elite squad entered into the village of Los Dos Erres, located in the northern Petén department, looking for missing weapons.

“To the families I just want to tell you that I also want justice, and I am upset over what happened, and I share your pain,” Pimentel said in his final statement to the court as reported by the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre. “This is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone but I am affected by this because they are accusing me of murdering your family members. I want another investigation into witnesses who claim this.”

Besides Pimentel, three other accomplices were tracked down in the United States. One was arrested in 2010 living quietly in a Florida suburb and working as a pizza chef. Pimentel was arrested in Santa Ana, California after he was charged by the US Justice Department for lying on his immigration papers.

In November 1982, the Kaibiles were sent to the village of Los Dos Erres (the two Rs) after guerrillas ambushed their convoy. After searching the villagers’ homes for missing weapons, the troops murdered 201 people by striking their heads with hammers and throwing bodies down a well. Some of the women and girls were raped before they were killed. Last month, the 85-year-old Ríos Montt, who governed for 17 of the most violent months between 1982 and ’83, was ordered to be held under house arrest after being charged for similar crimes last month.

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