The Guatemala Genocide Trial: Rodríguez Sánchez Delivers Final Statement Before Verdict

On the morning of September 26, former chief of military intelligence Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez made his final statement to the court. Rodríguez Sánchez faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity against the Maya Ixil population between March 23, 1982 and July 31, 1983 when, as head of military intelligence, he was a member of the general staff of the Guatemalan army. Efraín Ríos Montt, the de facto president at that time, appointed him.

Rodríguez Sánchez categorically denied his responsibility for genocide and crimes against humanity against the Maya Ixil population. “With my head held high, I can say that I am not responsible for, nor did I order anyone to do, the things that were allegedly done. With all certainty, before the creator of the universe, I am innocent.”

He affirmed that there is no official document showing that he gave a direct order to kill or massacre the Ixil people. He noted that he is charged with genocide of the Maya Ixil, when, in fact, the army intervened to “rescue the population and bring them development.”

“Yes, we acted to destroy the armed groups,” he added. “This was an armed conflict, after all; we weren’t throwing flowers at each other. The [guerrillas] attacked the state of Guatemala and the army acted in defense of the state, as mandated by the Constitution.”

Rodríguez Sánchez said he was merely an advisor to the military high command, and did not have command over troops nor could he issue orders.

“It was often stated that criminal responsibility is individual. But why do they want to hold me responsible for everything the army did or failed to do? I was not the army chief of staff, nor was I the minister of defense, nor was I the head of state; They are the general staff, and they are the ones who can give or change orders. An advisor cannot do that.” Later, he added, “I think they got the wrong guy.”

He made reference to the fact that he was acquitted, while his co-defendant Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2013. “On May 10, 2013, the court acquitted me,” he said. “A long time passed before they named a new tribunal; with the same witnesses, the same evidence, the same experts, so we can’t expect a different verdict.”

Noting that he was captured in 2011, Rodríguez Sánchez said: “For seven years I have been deprived of my liberty. I have suffered humiliations. People yelled at me in the elevators, calling me genocidaire, calling me killer. The press has already condemned me. This hurts me and my family.” He also noted that his health has suffered as a result of the stress caused by these proceedings, and that the cost of hiring a defense lawyer has sapped his retirement savings. “I do not have the profile of a murderer,” he said. “This is hurtful to me.”

Finally, Rodríguez Sánchez challenged the validity of the expert testimonies, suggesting that they were paid to testify, which, he argued, undermines their credibility. “He who pays for the band gets to choose the songs played,” he said, adding: “It is very delicate to imagine that a foreigner can intervene to determine which experts testify and the content of their testimony. This is not right.” He also raised questions about the chain of custody of the human remains exhumed by forensic experts who testified in the trial.

The court convened the sentence hearing for this afternoon at 6:30 p.m.

Jo-Marie Burt is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at George Mason University. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Paulo Estrada is a human rights activist, archaeology student at San Carlos University, and civil party in the Military Diary case.