Latin America & Caribbean

US deports Guatemalan massacre suspect Santos Lopez Alonzo

Former Guatemalan soldier Santos Lopez Alonzo escorted by Interpol agents after landing in Guatemala City, on August 10, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Santos Lopez Alonzo says he fears he will be tortured in Guatemala

A former Guatemalan soldier suspected of helping carry out a massacre in 1982 during the country's civil war has been deported from the US.

Santos Lopez Alonzo, 64, arrived on a flight in Guatemala City handcuffed and flanked by security guards.

Prosecutors say he served in an elite army unit that massacred more than 160 villagers. He denies the charges.

Two other members of the unit are serving sentences in US prisons for immigration crimes.

Another was deported to Guatemala and is serving a 6,000-year sentence.

Speaking last week at a California immigration detention centre, Mr Lopez said he had guarded women and children during the massacre but had not taken part and had killed no one.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said he feared he would be tortured in Guatemala in revenge for helping the US government prosecute one of his former comrades.

Mr Lopez, who was arrested in the US in 2010, had fought deportation but a federal appeals court last month refused to block his return.

After he arrived in Guatemala City on board a charter flight on Wednesday, lawyers for victims' families said they hoped he would be held accountable.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many still campaign for information on the thousands who disappeared during the civil war

"We are very happy they deported him and that he must now face Guatemalan justice, above all, for the victims," said Francisco Vivar, an advocate for victims.

The massacre took place during Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war, which was ended in 1996 by a UN-sponsored peace agreement.

In December 1982, a squad of elite soldiers was sent to search for missing weapons in the village of Las Dos Erres. Instead they rounded up villagers and bludgeoned them to death before throwing their bodies into a well.

Mr Lopez insists he was assigned to stand guard while others carried out the killings.

An estimated 250,000 civilians were killed or disappeared in the bloody civil war.

A UN truth commission in 1999 established that the army and state security agents were responsible for more than 90% of the deaths.

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