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Hello, this is Michelle. Guatemala head to the polls on Sunday with awakened memories of more than 30 years of civil war that cost the lives of 200,000 people.

One of the front runners is the daughter of the infamous late military ruler Efraín Ríos Montt and has rights groups worried she may push for amnesty for war veterans responsible for atrocities.

We spoke to the son of one of the victims who has been spearheading the quest for answers about why the country’s history is at stake.

photo journaliste

Michelle Langrand


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Photo article

A display of some of the photographs in the death squad diary, a death log of Guatemala's counter-insurgency campaign in the 1980s, shown at the Université Populaire du Canton de Genève, March 2023. (Geneva Solutions/Michelle Langrand)

Paulo Estrada Velásquez was one year and 20 days old when his father went missing on 19 May 1984 in Guatemala. No more than a month later, his uncle would also vanish. They were both members of Guatemala’s communist party, Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo, and two of around 40,000 people who were forcibly disappeared during Guatemala’s civil war.

Estrada Velásquez and the Association of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Guatemala, Fandegua, which he is part of, have been battling for justice before the courts of Guatemala for years. Now, the possible election on Sunday of the daughter of late former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt as the country’s next president threatens to capsize the whole judicial process, already wobbly from corruption claims and reports of intimidation against the victims and the judges.

Estrada Velásquez was in Geneva in March, invited by the local association of Guatemalans KM 207 to speak about his case and warn of the downward spiral the Central American democracy is caught up in.

Read the full story on Geneva Solutions

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