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New details in civilian slaughter by Guatemalan army

NEW YORK — The restaurant cook living on the quiet street with his wife in Delray Beach, Fla., confessed to federal agents on Tuesday that he began his part in a 1982 massacre by throwing a living baby down a well.

A criminal complaint filed yesterday in federal court provides dramatic new details in the slaughter of over 250 civilians in the village of Las Dos Erres by an elite Guatemalan army commando force in December 1982. Four of the men, including the cook, Gilberto Jordan, live in the U.S. At least two are now in custody. As first reported by Globalpost Wednesday morning, all are under investigation.

The complaint, written by an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, states that a confidential witness who was also a soldier who participated in the massacre “stated Jordan, among others, was present at the well interrogating villagers on their knees when another [soldier] walked up behind a villager, hit him in the head with a large hammer, and then pushed the villager into the well.”

A dry well in the village was filled to the brim with over 150 bodies during the massacre, according to forensic scientists who exhumed the site.

A second soldier who has become a witness against his former comrades “stated that, while taking a break in the village, he observed Jordan carrying a live baby to the village well, and subsequently drop the child into the well.”

The agent, Jon A. Longo, described going to Jordan’s house on Tuesday. Longo noted, crucially, that Jordan discussed other alleged perpetrators, perhaps providing prosecutors with further evidence against the other suspects.

“Jordan agreed to be interviewed in his home,” Longo wrote. “Jordan’s wife was also present for a portion of the interview. ... Jordan admitted that he had served in the Guatemalan military. ... Jordan also identified a number of other individuals who were in the military with him at the same time. ... Jordan readily admitted that he threw a baby into the well and participated in killing people in Dos Erres, as well as bringing them to the well where they were killed.”

Jordan has been charged with lying about his past during the process of becoming an American citizen, which is a federal crime. If convicted, the stiffest sentence he can receive is 10 years in prison. Authorties would then likely move to have him deported to Guatemala, where he is wanted in a recently reinvigorated case against the alleged perpetrators of the massacre.

“Those who commit human rights abuses abroad cannot subvert U.S. immigration laws in order to take shelter in the United States,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John T. Morton Wednesday. “We are firmly committed to denying human rights abusers entrance into this country, weeding out those that are already here, and will enforce this U.S. government policy of no safe haven for human rights violators.”

Reached at his home in the country where he lives in secret, one of only two probable survivors of the massacre — and a key witness in the Guatemalan case — said the news of the arrest was of great comfort to him after 28 years of wondering if any of the killers of his family and neighbors would ever be brought to justice. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said the man, Ramiro Cristales, who was 5 at the time of the massacre and who was spared by the soldiers and brought up as a virtual slave in the home of one of the four men under investigation here. “I’m happy.”

Read more about Guatemala's ongoing investigation of the Las Dos Erres massacre.

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/the-americas/100506/civilian-slaughter-guatemalan-army