Oscar Mejía, one of Guatemala’s brutal Cold War dictators died on February 1st, 2016.
He died as he lived, without remorse for the torture, genocide, and brutality he inflicted on the long-suffering people he ruled. I visited Guatemala in 1959. The street tales of fierce fighters in the highlands who faced machine guns with machetes were frightening. Time spent at Lake Atitlán brought a different reality to bear. These short-statured, barrel-chested remnants of the Mayan civilization wanted only to be left alone.
The 1871 revolution bore Justo Rufino Barrios to power. He stole previously protected native lands to accelerate coffee production in Guatemala. Barrios wrote law that forced the native population work for low wages for the new landowners. It was the onset of an appalling tradition, which later saw the U.S. and John Foster Dulles propagating.
Throughout the decades the U.S. intervened in Guatemala’s politics. President Ronald Reagan privately doubted, but publicly supported the Oscar Mejía Víctores’ regime. Unredacted provides a detailed look at Oscar Mejía Víctores role in Guatemala’s history. It is a ‘must read’ for the Cold War legacy.
February 8, 2016
by Kate Doyle
Oscar Mejía Víctores, Guatemalan army general and former head of state from 1983 to 1986 who presided over some of the most repressive periods in the country’s 36-year civil conflict – first as minister of defense and then as military dictator – died on Monday, February 1. He was 85.
Mejía Víctores was never brought to justice for his alleged connection to human rights abuses. Due to his failing health in the years prior to his death, public prosecutors were forced to drop an indictment they had brought against him for genocide and crimes against humanity, after government doctors declared him physically and mentally incompetent to stand trial in 2011.
But on the same day that the retired general died, two military men who served under him appeared in a Guatemalan courtroom for the opening day of the “Sepur Zarco” case, the world’s first criminal trial of persons accused of sexual violence and enslavement in the context of armed conflict to be heard by a national court. The trial is one of several human rights cases that have advanced in Guatemala since the beginning of this year, signaling a resumption of major human rights prosecutions by a justice system that in 2015 was largely focused on important corruption cases.
Throughout his career, Oscar Mejía Víctores cut a classic figure as a loyal military officer, brutal strongman, and untouchable human rights violator.