Powerful Testimony from Day 4 of Ríos Montt Genocide Trial: “They Destroyed Everything”

Mar 23, 2013
11:55 AM

NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) filed the following Day 4 report of the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and ex-intelligence chief Mauricio Rodriguez Sánchez in Guatemala City. They have given us permission to republish their reports:


NISGUA continues live coverage of the trial in Guatemala of Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez for genocide crimes against humanity. See our archive of live Twitter updates at @NISGUA_GuateOur live updates were interrupted today as witness Juan Raymundo Matón completed his moving testimony. We offer here a rush transcript of his concluding statements. Any errors in transcription or translation are our own.

“…they destroyed everything,

not just our crops, but our culture.”

Edgar Pérez, AJR Lawyer: What does it mean to tell your story?

Juan Ráymundo Matón: No one asks us to tell our story. This is everything I suffered, in the flesh. No one can obligate me to come to tell the story, no one else knows what I lived. Sorry, I didn’t finish explaining something. After the massacres, my father died May 25, 1983, they bombed the place and he died.

What they wanted to do was to disappear us but thanks to God the mountains protected us, mother nature saved us. My father died and stayed in the mountains. As indigenous people we have rituals  days to celebrate our dead, but on that day I can’t go to my father because he is in the mountains. I’m not at peace like before, my father does not appear. They were killed and I can’t see them any more. This pain, this sadness, I never forget it. I felt it in the flesh. There is no peace. We lost everything, our land, our animals, our clothes, but no one has replaced it. The government did it, the government is here but don’t do anything. On the contrary, they look down on us. Excuse my expression. The pain will only end when I die.

[He breaks down and Edgar Perez pauses to give him a moment.]

Edgar Pérez: I’m sorry I keep asking. You mentioned your culture, customs. Today, can you practice your culture, your customs?

Juan Raymundo Matón: We had the custom of going on All Saint’s Day to put candles and flowers where our family members are buried. But as I said, we can’t do that because we don’t have a place to do that. Our ancestors have customs. All of this was destroyed when the military initiated their plan of scorched earth, all of it was destroyed.

During this policy of scorched earth, they destroyed everything, not just our crops but our culture. People couldn’t even speak in their own languages. No one wanted to leave their culture, their customs; it was only because of this situation. It’s hard. I came to give my testimony, they ask who made you testify but I came because of my own pain, my sadness. Maybe I didn’t express myself well enough but all the people who came to do this to us, I saw it with my own eyes. Many neighbors were shot to death, I went with them to bury them. Some could only be buried in a hole like animals. At that moment there was only time to open up a hole and bury them. Or sometimes the poor people only had time to throw them in a river.

Edgar Pérez: What do you want from this trial?

Juan Raymundo Matón: What I hope for, what I want is that this situation that many communities in the Ixil region experienced, and also in other municipalities and department, now that I have children, I do not want this to happen again to our children. What I demand, what I want is justice. I’m not saying kill them. That is not what God wants. They looked down at us, like animals, they killed us, they made the decision. I ask for justice so that this never happens to our children. On the day I die, I want my children to never suffer what I lived, what I suffered. I ask that the authorities judge. Many people know, even on the international level, what happened but there are people who still say that we lie, that we are making it up, but this happened. Something must be done so that our country can change. This is a great pain for me, if they hadn’t done this I would have my family. Justice must be done.