UN report: Guatemala army may have helped convicts escape
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- The U.N. Mission to Guatemala says there is
evidence the army helped a mob that broke a dozen ex-paramilitaries out of
jail just months after they were convicted of a 1993 killing during the
country's civil war.
If true, that could represent a violation of peace accords signed in 1996
between the government and leftist rebels which ended Guatemala's 36-year
Under the accords, the country's brutal paramilitary Civilian Self-Defense
Patrols were supposed to cut all military ties and disband.
"The escape constitutes another demonstration ... of impunity regarding
human rights violations by the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols," the mission said
in a press statement Friday.
Army troops had been given responsibility for guarding the jail in
Huehuetenango, 80 miles (140 kilometers) northeast of Guatemala City,
where the men were serving 25-year murder sentences for the killing of a
farmworker, apparently as part of brutal counterinsurgency campaigns
against villages suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.
Soldiers dressed as civilians were seen in the mob that forced jailers
release the men; mob members may have used army teargas to create the
disturbance; and an army commander refused to dispatch troops to stop the
mob, according to the statement.
"This incident reveals a continuing capacity for organization and operations
by former Self-Defense Patrol members. That points to a possible violation
of the (government's) commitments under the peace accords," the statement
More than 400 people, mainly from the men's hometown, stormed the jail
a police station in April and probably took the men to their municipality,
Colotenango, 18 miles (25 kilometers) west of Huehuetenango.
The paramilitary groups were formed in 1981 to assist the army in fighting
the civil war.