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By J. Power (Auth.)

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Additional info for Amnesty International. The Human Rights Story

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The Amnesty report is an accumulation of horrors that point a firm finger at the government. My o w n conversations with exiles in Costa Rica and with the vice-president of Guatemala w h o fled the country in late 1980, back it up. Nearly three thousand Guatemalans have been seized without warrant and killed since General Lucas Garcia became president of Guatemala in 1978. Many of them have been tortured. Death for some had been quick and clean, a bullet in the head. Others had died slowly and painfully, suffocated in a rubber h o o d or strangled with a garotte.

I spent four hours in Mexico City with the researcher for Amnesty International, cross-examining him on how Amnesty garnered such a wealth of information and established its veracity. It is clearly an exhaustive process. External organizations—church, union, and political— which have live networks inside Guatemala feed him with information all the time. He and other members of the small Amnesty team have to evaluate carefully, learning over time w h o can be trusted, w h o has a propensity to exaggerate, and w h o m they can ask to double- and triple-check.

It was the start, however, of a guerrilla campaign which has waxed and waned ever since. By 1966 the guerrillas' strongholds in the mountain ranges of Sierra de Las Minas and Sierra de Santa Cruz seemed a genuine threat to the government which, with the aid of para-military civilian groups, moved ruthlessly to suppress them. Colonel J o h n Webber, United States military attache, 46 was reported by Time magazine (26 January 1968) to have acknowledged that "it was his idea" to mobilize these groups, which were the precursors of the " i n d e p e n d e n t " civilian death squads that still exist today.

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