Human rights advocates welcomed news Saturday that a presidential panel in Washington found evidence of CIA involvement in torture, executions and other abuses in Guatemala.
“This is what we have been telling the world for 12 years - that the CIA was active in all of these abuses,” said Nineth Montenegro, a federal lawmaker who entered politics after her labor-leader husband disappeared in 1984.
Montenegro has long claimed that Guatemalan security forces working with CIA agents were responsible for the disappearance of her husband, Fernando Garcien.
Montenegro and others have been pushing for declassification of U.S. documents on CIA involvement in Guatemala. Only by shedding light on its violent past, they say, can the country end its civil war and build a democratic society.
President Clinton ordered the panel to conduct an investigation after allegations were made last year that the CIA may have acted improperly in Guatemala.
Edgar Gutierrez of the Myrna Mack Foundation, which is pushing for changes in Guatemala’s security forces and judiciary, called the report significant but said it would probably not help clear up any individual cases.
There was no immediate response from the Guatemalan military or President Alvaro Arzu. News of the report arrived shortly after government offices closed for the weekend.
The 53-page study released Friday by the Intelligence Oversight Board said the CIA did not keep the U.S. Congress adequately informed of its activities in Guatemala and was insensitive to human rights abuses there.
“Several CIA (agents) were credibly alleged to have ordered, planned, or participated in serious human rights violations such as assassination, extrajudicial execution, torture or kidnapping…(and) the CIA was contemporaneously aware of many of the allegations,” it said.
The findings come as Guatemalan rebels and government negotiators seeking to end Central America’s last and longest war begin studying the role of the military, which still wields enormous power though direct military rule ended in 1986.