Dec 4, 2011

DNA Helps Guatemalans Find Their Disappeared

crédito de foto:Amancio Samuel Villatoro and Sergio Linares, the children of Amancio Samuel Villatoro, held up a black and white photo of their father who was one of the two positively identified through DNA samples given by their families.

December 4, 2011

By Nic Wirtz

Two victims of the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War were identified be DNA on November 22 in Guatemala City by the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala.

“The message needs to be that there is no impunity,” said Dutch ambassador to Guatemala Jan-Jaap van de Velde. “It is a very important message for Guatemala and for this society. There is no impunity and it will be fought.”

At an emotionally charged press conference, Amancio Samuel Villatoro and Sergio Linares, the children of Amancio Samuel Villatoro, held up a black and white photo of their father who was one of the two positively identified through DNA samples given by their families. Both Villatoro and Sergio Saúl Linares Morales had been captured in Guatemala City but their remains, found lying side-by-side, were recovered on the site of a former military base in Comalapa, Chimaltenango.

Executive director of FAFG, Fredy Pecerrelli, explained how suspicions were first raised in September 2003, when the site was exhumed. The two men stood out from the majority of the indigenous remains there because of their clothing and the dental work that had been carried out.

Both were abducted early in 1984, when Guatemala was presided over by General Oscar Humberto Mejía Victores who overthrew General Efrain Rios Montt in a military coup. Using a policy of targeted abductions, the government sought to put an end to the internal conflict by kidnapping, torturing and murdering civil leaders.

“This shows that what we have said for many years is true,” said Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo director Mario Polanco. “That the army was an army of human rights violators and committed thousands of crimes.”

Linares was seized by two armed men and forced into a white paneled van after leaving work on February 23, 1984. Later that day a larger group stormed the house he shared with his family and beat his 68-year-old mother. His wife, Sandra, who was pregnant with their second child, took their daughter and fled.

Politically active, the 33-year-old Linares worked for the National Institute for Municipal Promotion as well as teaching in the engineering department of the University of San Carlos.

The 46-year-old Villatoro was last seen by his family leaving for a union meeting. He was a coordinator of the Central Nacional de Trabjadores, a labour federation that helped workers organize into unions.

His wife was waiting for him at the bus stop but eight men emerged from a white panel truck. Later the same day, the family house was ransacked, taking documents and money.

“It is a very painful day but at the same time one of joy because we can at least rescue his remains,” said Nestor Villatoro Bran, one of Amancio’s sons. “I really always had the hope of finding him alive but at least it is something that we are recovering him.”

The fate of Linares and Villatoro remained a mystery until 1999, with the release of “Diario Militar,” which contained information about 183 abductees.  It contained lists of abducted people, items they had on them when kidnapped, items found in their homes and coded references to their fate.

The Diario Militar revealed that Linares had been captured after another detainee had agreed to inform on his colleagues in the Partido Guatemalteco de Trabajadores, the PGT or Guatemala’s Communist Party. Villatoro was said to be a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias or FAR.

There were mixed feelings, with the families saddened but relieved that part of their ordeal was over. Others chose to look at the positives, that relatives of the 40-45,000 disappeared are closing in on seeing those responsible have to answer for their actions.

“It’s an incredible day, it feels like a dream almost but a dream that I’d never dared to dream,” said Mr Pecerrelli. “I think what feels most incredible is that it’s only the beginning.”

The next stage will be for FAFG to present their report to the Ministerio Publico and RENAP, so that the identifications can be confirmed and it will be up to the authorities to decide on how to proceed with the case.


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