Arrest of suspect in 1982 Guatemalan civil war massacre

This Associated Press article from January 24, 2011 reports that a Southern California martial arts instructor suspected of involvement in a 1982 massacre during Guatemala’s civil war was arrested in Canada while visiting his parents and is awaiting extradition to the U.S. 

[Suspect Jorge] Sosa, 52, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana [California] in September after authorities said he lied about his role in the civil war when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2008.

Sosa was granted citizenship, but it was revoked after the grand jury indictment. He lives in Moreno Valley.

In Guatemala, Sosa was a member of a special military unit called the “Kaibiles” and was the commanding officer of a unit assigned to find and arrest guerrillas who had stolen military weapons, according to court documents.

On Dec. 7, 1982, he and several dozen soldiers stormed the village of Dos Erres, near Las Cruces, and systematically killed the men, women and children, the government claims in the indictment. The unit is accused of slaughtering villagers with sledgehammers and throwing people into a well.

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The civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996.

In 1982, the “Kaibiles” were tracking an armed insurgency by guerrillas opposed to the military government. The killings cited in the indictment were investigated by the Guatemalan government 12 years later, when a judge ordered the excavation of the site and 162 skeletons were recovered.

The killings qualified under the law as perverse brutality, Guatemalan authorities said, and a judge in that country ordered the arrest of the Kaibiles in 2000.

In September, another former Guatemalan soldier who came to the U.S. was sentenced in Florida to 10 years in U.S. prison for lying on citizenship forms about his military service and role in the incident.

Read the Associated Press article, titled “Guatemala massacre suspect faces charges in California,” here. For more information on the civil war, including information about declassified CIA documents that reveal U.S. involvement in the 1954 coup that set off decades of destabilization in Guatemala, read the Wikipedia entry for Guatemalan Civil War. To learn more, check out Daniel Wilkinson’s excellent book, Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala.

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