Justice delayed, but finally done
by School of the Americas Watch
After 37 years, justice has come for the Molina Theissen family. At dawn on May 23, a high-risk court put an end to a long wait and sentenced four Guatemalan ex-officials, three of them School of the Americas graduates (SOA/WHINSEC), for the kidnapping and rape of Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen and for the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen in 1981.
Unanimously, ex-General Benedicto Lucas García, who served as army Chief of Staff; ex-General Manuel Callejas y Callejas, ex-chief of military intelligence; Francisco Gordillo and Hugo Zaldaña, were sentenced to 33 years of incommutable prison for crimes against humanity and for the rape of Emma Guadalupe, who was kidnapped and detained by the Guatemalan army between September 27 and October 6 of 1981. Aditionally, Lucas García, Callejas y Callejas, and Zaldaña were sentenced to 25 years of incommutable prison for the forced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen on October 6 of 1981. Edilberto Letona was absolved of all charges and was ordered for immediate release.
“May 23 will go down in history as the date in which the Molina Theissen family and all families whose children were taken away — families plunged into a profound abyss — we can see justice shine. Us survivors can feel it, and we feel that justice was served for us and our disappeared, as well as our children”, said Adriana Portillo, a lifelong human rights defender and survivor of the armed conflict in Guatemala. After Guatemalan security forces killed one of her brothers and disappeared six members of her family — among them her father, her 9 and 10 year-old daughters, and her 18 month-old sister — Adriana and her two surviving daughters fled Guatemala in 1985.
Marco Antonio was 14 when he was disappeared by the Guatemalan army, backed by the US government. According to the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission, another 5,000 suffered the same fate, yet their whereabouts are still unknown. Nevertheless, the struggle for truth and justice that began 37 years ago is a historic step in the struggle in the search for those murdered and disappeared during the internal conflict.
“Even though this has been a big step in the history of justice in Guatemala, we cannot forget that the School of the Americas continues to train Latin American armies in other parts of the world in torture tactics and disappearances, and so many other things. Not only Guatemala and SOA Watch, but also people throughout the world should ensure that governments of the United States be held accountable as well as they are responsible for the suffering of all Latin American people over so many years,” added Portillo in reference to SOA graduates Benedicto Lucas García, Manuel Callejas y Callejas, and Francisco Gordillo.
At SOA Watch, we celebrate the historic sentence in the Molina Theissen case and we uplift the struggle of the families as the driving force of movements for truth and justice in Latin America. We do not forget the repressive role of the United States governments in the violent and dignified history of the people of our continent. We demand the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC as one first step in reparations for the harm done to hundreds of thousands of victims of torture, exile, forced disappearance and death. Guatemala has taken one more step forward in the search for memory and justice. The United States should do the same.