Almost 30 years on, the search for justice in Guatemala continues

29 years ago today Carlos Cuevas, a 24 year old Guatemalan student and activist disappeared. Almost 30 years on, Carlos’ sister, Ana Lucia Cuevas continues her search for justice for the abduction of her brother.

On 15th May 1984, as he drove through central Guatemala City on his motorbike to visit friends, Carlos Cuevas was violently abducted and disappeared. Since that day, Lucia Cuevas and her family have tirelessly searched for answers as to what happened.

In 1999, a document known as the ‘Military Diary’ revealed a record kept by the Guatemalan military of those individuals who disappeared at the hands of the security forces in the country during the mid-1980’s. Each record contained the individual’s name, photograph and a coded reference to their execution.  It was from this document that Lucia learnt of her brother’s fate.

‘The Echo of Pain of the Many’ is a moving account of Lucia’s return to her home country Guatemala in search of answers. Carlos was one of 200,000 people who were murdered or disappeared during the 36 year civil war in Guatemala. Immediately after Carlos’ disappearance, his wife Rosario Godoy set out to discover what had happened to her husband and co-founded the Mutual Support Group of the Families of the Disappeared (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo - GAM) with Nineth Montenegro whose husband, Fernando García disappeared in 1984. One year after Carlos disappeared, Rosario and Augusto Rafael, Carlos and Rosarios’ two year old son were abducted and their bodies were found later that evening.

Lucia’s journey is a personal family account of events in Guatemala but also a reflection of the national tragedy as she visits mass graves, the police archives and ongoing forensic examinations at Fundacion de Antropologia Forense de Guatemala. The film contains interviews with family members of those who disappeared and with indigenous communities who suffered during the military regime.

Lucia’s documentary not only reminds us of the importance of recognising the pain suffered during the civil war but also reminds us that there is hope. In 2010 two former police officers were sentenced to 40 years in prison for their role in the disappearance of Fernando García and the documentary features the first conviction of a member of the military for a crime against humanity.

Lucia’s strength and courage is admirable. “I’m frequently told that after 30 years we should forget, however, when things happen that one knows are deeply unfair, you cannot leave it alone, you cannot stop looking for answers,” said Lucia and to this day she continues her search for justice for Carlos.

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