Guatemala’s president, Alvaro Colom, apologized for the government’s role in the 1982 Dos Erres Massacre on Thursday at a special ceremony held at the Palace of Culture.
He told those gathered at the ceremony, “in the name of the state, as your president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I officially apologize to the victims and their families,” the BBC reports.
The massacre marks one of the bloodiest moments of the country’s extended military conflict. In late 1982, a unit of Guatemalan soldiers killed over 200 civilians in the village of Dos Erres. The Guatemalan regime, then under the leadership of General Efrain Montt, claimed that the village was harboring armed leftist dissidents, and subsequently sent in the military.
Among the dead were women, children, and elderly.
Colom’s apology is one of the many attempts by the Guatemalan government to move forward after the decades- long armed conflict that scarred the country. It is also part of a region-wide movement towards reconciliation, as El Salvador’s government recently apologized for its own atrocities during that nation’s civil war.
Thursday’s apology marks the culmination of the Guatemalan government’s investigation into the Dos Erres tragedy.
In August, a Guatemalan court found four former soldiers associated with the Dos Erres incident guilty of crimes against humanity and murder. The court sentenced each to 30 years in prison for each person killed during the 1982 massacre, amounting to 6,000 years for each defendant.
Yet Colom’s words have not brought closure to all. One of the survivors argues that the men who ordered the killings have escaped punishment and has asked Colom to begin an investigation.
Those who had ordered the massacre were more guilty than those who had carried it out, the BBC quoted him as saying.