[Marxism] Guatemalan "paramilitaries" to be compensated for their employment
Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Fri Aug 20 08:51:18 MDT 2004
Former paramilitaries say they were forced into service by the army
Guatemala says it will pay at least $420m to paramilitaries who battled
rebels during the country's civil war. The former fighters, who
activists say are responsible for war crimes, had threatened to
paralyse the country if Congress did not approve the payments.
The paramilitaries have been demanding compensation since they were
disbanded in 1996 at the end of the central American state's civil war.
The government says it will pay about $600 to each of about 700,000
fighters. Paramilitary groups say 1.3 million people are entitled to
In approving the payments Congress overturned a ruling by the country's
highest court last year which had declared the payment of the fighters
The former militia members have been putting pressure on the government
to pay them for months, threatening to blockade roads and shut
airports. "We are satisfied that we have overcome this crisis," said
Felipe Yaxon, leader of one of the paramilitary groups, according to
Reuters news agency.
Human rights activists say the former paramilitaries were behind some
of the country's worst war crimes, including massacres, rapes and
tortures. More than 200,000 people disappeared or were killed during
the 36-year civil war.
Members of the Civilian Self-Defence Patrols, which were set up in 1982
during the civil war, were unpaid and supposedly volunteers but many
say they were forced to serve. "We had no choice, either we patrolled
for up to 24 hours at a time or the army killed us," one former
paramilitary fighter, Erasmo Ramirez, told Reuters.
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