Updated 06:21 PM EST, Fri, Jan 15, 2021

Guatemalans Hold Mass Funeral for Victims of 1982 Massacre

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In 1982, the Guatemalan army massacred children and civilians under the dictatorship of then-general Efrain Rios Montt. Thirty-three years later, 49 of the victims were finally laid down to rest in a funeral march, carrying coffins with the remains along the main road of the Huehuetenango State.

The remains were actually exhumed in 2009, but it took a long time to carry out the burial because the Guatemalan government refused to fulfill their responsibility of giving the victims dignity in their final rest, according to the families. TeleSur noted that it was the International Red Cross who finally lent a hand to help with the burial.

Unfortunately, only 49 of the 74 people killed in the community had their bodies recovered. Jose Suasnavar of the Forensic Anthropological Foundation explained, "We've recovered (the remains of) at least 49 individuals, but the problem is that we don't have complete bones ... we have a piece of skull, a piece of a femur, a bit of rib, and so on."

Guatemala has been on the hunt for the military officers who took part in the massacre, some of whom were captured just last June. In a separate report, the massacre back then was called "Operation Sophia," and instead of ending guerrilla warfare like it was supposed to, it wrecked Mayan communities who were believed to have been hiding with the rebel soldiers.

In the first decade of the operation, the army destroyed over 600 villages. 200,000 civilians either disappeared or were killed. In 1999, The National Security Archive noted that the UN-sponsored Historical Clarification Commission determined the operation as "acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people."

Despite the tragedy dating back three decades ago, the wounds are still fresh in the minds of some of the victims' family members as well as the community, who watched the horror first-hand. A survivor shared terror-filled memories of some 300 soldiers barging in to their community on July 27, 1982, "acting like devils who had escaped from hell."

The witness said, "I saw with my own eyes, then a nine-year-old child, the army massacring children, accusing them of being guerillas, cutting off their head and sucking their blood in order to create psychological panic within the community. They raped women in front of their husbands, as punishment, as psychological torture. In a field near here, they played ball with the heads of the dead."

Many of the massacre victims may lay in their final resting place, but for the Mayan community, the horrors of the Guatemalan Civil War is not something that they can erase from their history.

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