Guatemala's congress votes to deny genocide

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Associated Press

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 14 at 7:36 PM

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's Congress approved a non-binding resolution that denies there was any attempt to commit genocide during the bloody 36-year civil war, while calling for "national reconciliation" in the Central American country.

"It is legally impossible ... that genocide could have occurred in our country's territory during the armed conflict," said the resolution, which passed late Tuesday with support from 87 of the 158 legislators.

The resolution was proposed by Luis Fernando Perez, a legislator for the party founded by former dictator Efrain Rios Montt. Rios Montt was convicted of genocide for crimes during his 1982-83 rule, but a court later annulled the 80-year sentence for the massacre of thousands of Mayans and ordered his trial re-started.

The vote apparently will have no effect on the trial, which is scheduled to begin again in January.

Groups representing Guatemala's Indians, the principal victims among the estimated 250,000 people killed during the 1960-96 civil war between a U.S.-supported government and leftist movements, have said the annulment of the Rios Montt verdict was a denial of justice.

Opposition congressman Leonel Lira criticized the resolution, saying such efforts "create more divisions in Guatemalan society."

"This shows that they aren't really looking for reconciliation, but rather there's an ideological point they're trying to make," Lira said.

Relatives and representatives of the army's victims during the civil war called lawmakers' decision racist and offensive.

Diego Rivera, leader of the Movement of Victims in Northern Quiche, said the decision affects the victims that are still fighting for justice.

"It can't be denied that there was genocide, our proof is the more than 1,771 human remains," Rivera said. "No one can hide there were several massacres. That's a racist attitude."

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