Jesus Tecu Osorio's Footage of Rabinal, Guatemala


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This collection contains video footage shot by WITNESS partner Jesús Tecú Osorio, an activist and survivor of the March 13, 1982 massacre in which 177 Mayan-Achi women and children in Río Negro, Rabinal were tortured, raped, and slaughtered by the Guatemalan army and army-led civil patrol groups. Río Negro was one of the 440 villages that were razed and destroyed during the Guatemalan government's counter-insurgency campaign. Already, on February 12, 1982, Jesús's parents were murdered along with 73 other residents from Río Negro at the nearby village of Xococ. It is estimated that at least 5,000 Mayans in the Rabinal area alone who were massacred in the 1981-1982 campaign of terror. The village of Río Negro, and the area of Rabinal in general, was specifically targeted in the military's counterinsurgency campaign because it was located in the future Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam basin and the inhabitants of Río Negro refused to leave their ancestral lands. The World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) were responsible for the supervision of the compensation and resettlement programs for the Chixoy Dam which were never complied with; instead, the WB and the IADB continually financed a project that was not only costing hundreds of millions of dollars, but thousands of lives, directly and indirectly. The governments of Efrain Rios Montt and Romeo Lucas García supervised and directed the army's genocidal campaigns. The Guatemalan army not only perpetrated the massacres, it also forced "civil patrollers" (aka PACs or Patrullas de Autodefensa Civil) to enlist and slaughter their neighbors. Yet Rios Montt, Lucas García, and all other high-ranking officials that participated in the campaign have enjoyed total impunity and continued to hold high government posts.

Jesús Tecú Osorio was 11 years old when he witnessed the massacre of his family and fellow villagers. He and the 17 other children who survived were enslaved as servants in the houses of the patrolmen who killed their families and friends. He is now one of the few from his community currently working to expose the truth about systematic human rights violations and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. He founded ADIVIMA, the Committee of Widows and Orphans in Rabinal, an organization that works to break the traditional climate of impunity that has protected uniformed killers in Guatemala. He spearheaded the campaign to exhume mass graves in Rabinal and bring charges against the patrollers responsible for the massacres in Rabinal. He is also working to end the recent economic and social injustices in the Rabinal community by leading 25,000 people in their ongoing campaign for compensation after the government uprooted them in order to use their land for the Chixoy Hydroelectric Project.

This collection includes recorded interviews and footage from the Rabinal area of exhumations, memorial ceremonies and re-burials, political actions against amnesty for those responsible for the killings, and gatherings of former civil patrollers. There is also footage documenting legal proceedings against former civil patrollers involved in the massacres. Finally, there is footage of various indigenous Maya Achí rituals and performances. This collection also includes two WITNESS co-productions, A Right to Justice and A Massacre Remembered.

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A Massacre Remembered

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Guatemala's thirty-six year civil war claimed the lives of more than 200,000 citizens and displaced millions more, many of them Mayan civilians. During the war, the Guatemalan military killed, tortured, raped and butchered hundreds of thousands of people. This WITNESS Rights Alert feature tells the story of WITNESS partner Jesús Tecú Osorio, one of the few survivors of the Rio Negro Massacre that took place on March 13, 1982. After witnessing the massacre of more than one hundred children and nearly eighty women by members of the Guatemalan army and civil patrols, Jesús and seventeen other children were taken to work as servants in the houses of the patrollers who had killed their families. Jesus lived in captivity for three years until he was freed by his only surviving sister, Laura. This Rights Alert feature tells Jesus's story and informs viewers of the movement that he has spearheaded to acknowledge, commemorate, mourn and seek justice for the victims of this devastating tragedy. This piece is narrated by REM musician Michael Stipe, with music by Philip Glass. [RT 3:47]

 
A Right To Justice. English version

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A RIGHT TO JUSTICE, shot by Guatemalan human rights advocate Jesus Tecú Osorio, expands on the earlier Rights Alert "A Massacre Remembered". Following the struggle of the indigenous Maya Achi people of Guatemala to have the truth of the genocide there in the early 1980s revealed, it includes footage of the recent trial of a few of the perpetrators. Detailing recent efforts to document the atrocities, and to secure justice through the prosecution of the masterminds of the massacres, it also includes sequences illustrating the impunity with which some perpetrators still act. [RT 9:30]

 
Derecho a la Justicia.

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DERECHO A LA JUSTICIA [English title: A RIGHT TO JUSTICE], shot by Guatemalan human rights advocate, Jesús Tecú Osorio, expands on the earlier Rights Alert "A Massacre Remembered". Following the struggle of the indigenous Maya Achi people of Guatemala to have the truth of the genocide in the early 1980s revealed, it includes footage of the recent trial of a few of the perpetrators. Detailing efforts to document the atrocities, and to secure justice through the prosecution of the masterminds of the massacres, it also includes sequences illustrating the impunity with which some perpetrators still act. [RT 9:30]

 
Sr. Lucas Tecú y Mujeres Lideres de Familiares Desaparecidos.

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An edited video documenting a meeting between the Vice-Mayor of Rabinal Lucas Tecú and women leaders with missing relatives. The video, date-stamped 14 August 2002 throughout, shows Lucas Tecú standing and speaking to a room of women and some men. The women in the audience respond to Tecú and ask him questions. Tecú was the commandant of the military commissioners in the early 1980s, commanding 280 members. He says that he has no knowledge of the massacres, and blames those who have since died. He says that is was difficult to control the commissioners and that he never used a weapon. The first woman who speaks asks him where their family members are buried.

 
[Activities of the Rio Negro Foundation / March and ceremony for Rio Negro massacre victims] 1 of 5

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The first part of this video documents the work of the Fundacion Rio Negro to commemorate twenty year anniversary of the Rio Negro massacre. There is footage of an commemoration event that took place in Rabinal in March 2002. Inside a gymnasium, a woman leads a large group of young people happily chanting to drum music and marching in a circle. The young people then sit and watch as a few young men demonstrate how to walk on stilts. Other young people wearing trains of fabric to resemble caterpillars weave around the stilt-walkers. Cut to exterior shots of the young people, dressed in brightly colored costumes, parading down the street. Shots of market square as the parade passes through it. Cut to an outdoor stage where a crowd listens to various presentations, including a theatrical re-enactment of the Rio Negro massacre. A banner behind the stage reads "Ofrenda por la Vida y la Paz. Rabinal, B.V. Marzo 2002."

 
[Activities to commemorate the victims of the March 13, 1982 Rio Negro massacre]

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Footage of a small group of people standing in a hilly area with grass and trees. Footage of a ceremony by the descendants of the victims of the Rio Negro massacre.

 
[Agua Fria and Rio Negro / community meeting in Tempisque / Memorial for Rio Negro massacre / Religious procession] 1 of 2

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Footage date-stamped 5 March 1997 from a gathering of people in a wooden building.

 
[Arrival of remains in Rabinal and procession to Pacux for burial of victims of the Rio Negro massacre]

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Footage date-stamped 12 March 2002 of a march for victims of the Rio Negro massacre. Footage date-stamped 13 March 2002 of a large room in which exhumed clothes of victims are laid out on the floor.

 
[Buying a property / opening of the Community Museum of Rabinal] 1 of 2

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Footage date-stamped 7 February 1999 shows workers celebrating the new farm bought by the foundation that Jesús Tecú Osorio and others created in Guatemala.

 
[Chichuvipal interview]

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This is an interview with a Mayan Achi woman, in the Achi language, which concerns the massacre in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz in 1982. Not translated or logged.

 
[Civil Patrollers sentenced in Rio Negro case]

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Footage from the sentencing of former civil patrollers Carlos Chen, Pedro González, and Fermín Lajuj Xitumul for their participation in the Rio Negro massacres.

 
[Clip reel of raw footage / July 2002 Interview with Jesus Tecu Osorio] 1 of 2

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Clip reel of various raw footage shot by WITNESS partner Jesús Tecú Osorio. Includes footage from rallies against amnesty for perpetrators of mass killings in Rabinal, community memorials for victims of the massacres, and exhumations of remains from clandestine graves.

 
[Conclusion of exhumation at Vegas de Santo Domingo / Exhumation at INEBE school yard and INEBE well]

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Footage from the conclusion of the exhumation in Vegas de Santo Domingo, and from the exhumations at the Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica (INEBE), a secondary school in Rabinal on the site of a former military base.

 
[Defendants' statements in the Rio Negro case]

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Footage from a court appearance by Carlos Chen, Pedro Gonzalez and Fernin Lajuj, three men who were accused of killing the parents and family of Jesús Tecú Osorio.

 
[Exhumation at Pichec / Jesus Tecu Osorio speaking / burial ceremony / inspection of clandestine gravesites at Piedra Cal and other locales]

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Footage from exhumation conducted by the Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG), possibly in Pichec, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz.

 
[Exhumation at Vegas de Santo Domingo]

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Footage from an exhumation conducted by Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG) at Vegas de Santo Domingo, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz.

 
[Exhumation at two sites at the Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica Experimental (INEBE) in Rabinal]

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Footage from two exhumations at a secondary school, the Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica Experimental (INEBE) in Rabinal, the site of a former military base. Video cuts back and forth between shots from the two sites, one inside a well and one in the middle of a school yard. Various high-angle shots of people digging inside a deep well and in the school yard. Various shots of anthropologists digging and draining water from site with sponges. Various shots of school children and others watching exhumation. CU unearthed clothing, skulls, and other remains with numbered markers. Chalkboard at one site with marked remains reads "INEBE, Rabinal B.V., FAFG-213-II-7, 13/08/02. CU anthropologist cutting through clothing and brushing dirt off a skeleton. Various high-angle shots inside deep well, supplies being lifted out of well, anthropologist climbing out of well. Various shots anthropologists carefully remiving bones, examining them and placing in marked paper bags. MS of two women in traditional clothing kneeling over the side of the pit observing the exhumation. MS woman lighting candles and arranging a small altar with flowers at the side of the pit. CU anthropologist sketching the site on graph paper. CU anthropologists' equipment. Another chalkboard inside a pit reads "INEBE, Rabinal, B.V., FAFG-2130II-1, 14/08/02."

 
[Exhumations in Rabinal, Guatemala part 1]

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Footage of an exhumation of the massacre site in Rabinal, Guatemala. Footage includes many CUs of exhumation and memorial ceremonies with Maya Achi people around the exhumation site.

 
[Exhumations of men from Rio Negro massacred in the village of Xococ]

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Footage date-stamped 3 September 2001 and 4 September 2001 from a community gathering in Xococ to commemorate those who were killed on February 13, 1982. Also contains footage from an exhumation site.

 
[Footage selections from two gatherings of former civil patrollers of Rabinal and interview with Juan Reyes]

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Selections of footage from the first two gatherings of former civil patrollers in Rabinal in July 2002, and from an interview with Juan Reyes, the president of the committee of former civil patrollers in Rabinal.