The Miami Herald
October 8, 1999

 Former army aides sentenced to death in Guatemala

 GUATEMALA CITY -- (AP) -- Three former members of army-organized civilian
 defense patrols have been sentenced to death for taking part in massacres during
 the height of the country's civil war.

 A court in Salama, about 35 miles north of the capital, restored death sentences
 imposed on Fermin Lajuj, Pedro Gonzalez Gomez and Carlos Chen for their parts
 in the 1982 massacres at Rio Negro and Agua Frio.

 The initial death sentence following a 1998 trial was annulled by an appeals court,
 which ordered a new trial.

 The defense said it would appeal. About 400 villagers from the men's home village
 of Xecoj protested the verdict, but left afterward without violence.

 The army trained civilian patrols to help them combat leftist rebels during the
 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Many of the human rights violations
 recorded by U.N. and Roman Catholic church surveys were committed by such

 About 130 civilians were killed during the incident in the Achi Mayan Indian
 hamlet of Rio Negro, about 25 miles north of Guatemala City. The motives for the
 killing were unclear.

 In other cases, the army suspected villages of harboring rebels or patrolmen used
 their positions and weapons to press their side in local land disputes.