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  • Guatemala is recovering from a 36-year armed conflict.

  • A conflict that was fought during the Cold War.

  • It was really just a small leftist insurgency

  • and a devastating response by the state.

  • What we have as a result is 200,000 civilian victims,

  • 160,000 of those killed in the communities:

  • small children, men, women, the elderly even.

  • And then we have about 40,000 others, the missing,

  • the ones we're still looking for today.

  • We call them the Desaparecidos.

  • Now, 83 percent of the victims are Mayan victims,

  • victims that are the descendants

  • of the original inhabitants of Central America.

  • And only about 17 percent are of European descent.

  • But the most important thing here is that

  • the very people who are supposed to defend us, the police, the military,

  • are the ones that committed most of the crimes.

  • Now the families, they want information.

  • They want to know what happened.

  • They want the bodies of their loved ones.

  • But most of all, what they want is they want you,

  • they want everyone to know that their loved ones did nothing wrong.

  • Now, my case was that my father received death threats in 1980.

  • And we left.

  • We left Guatemala and we came here.

  • So I grew up in New York,

  • I grew up in Brooklyn as a matter of fact, and I went to New Utrecht High School

  • and I graduated from Brooklyn College.

  • The only thing was that

  • I really didn't know what was happening in Guatemala.

  • I didn't care for it; it was too painful.

  • But it wasn't till 1995 that I decided to do something about it.

  • So I went back.

  • I went back to Guatemala, to look for the bodies,

  • to understand what happened and to look for part of myself as well.

  • The way we work is that we give people information.

  • We talk to the family members and we let them choose.

  • We let them decide to tell us the stories,

  • to tell us what they saw,

  • to tell us about their loved ones.

  • And even more important,

  • we let them choose to give us a piece of themselves.

  • A piece, an essence, of who they are.

  • And that DNA is what we're going to compare

  • to the DNA that comes from the skeletons.

  • While we're doing that, though, we're looking for the bodies.

  • And these are skeletons by now,

  • most of these crimes happened 32 years ago.

  • When we find the grave,

  • we take out the dirt and eventually clean the body, document it, and exhume it.

  • We literally bring the skeleton out of the ground.

  • Once we have those bodies, though, we take them back to the city, to our lab,

  • and we begin a process of trying to understand mainly two things:

  • One is how people died.

  • So here you see a gunshot wound to the back of the head

  • or a machete wound, for example.

  • The other thing we want to understand is who they are.

  • Whether it's a baby,

  • or an adult.

  • Whether it's a woman or a man.

  • But when we're done with that analysis

  • what we'll do is we'll take a small fragment of the bone

  • and we'll extract DNA from it.

  • We'll take that DNA

  • and then we'll compare it with the DNA of the families, of course.

  • The best way to explain this to you is by showing you two cases.

  • The first is the case of the military diary.

  • Now this is a document that was smuggled out of somewhere in 1999.

  • And what you see there is the state following individuals,

  • people that, like you, wanted to change their country,

  • and they jotted everything down.

  • And one of the things that they wrote down is when they executed them.

  • Inside that yellow rectangle, you see a code,

  • it's a secret code: 300.

  • And then you see a date.

  • The 300 means "executed" and the date means when they were executed.

  • Now that's going to come into play in a second.

  • What we did is we conducted an exhumation in 2003,

  • where we exhumed 220 bodies from 53 graves in a military base.

  • Grave 9, though, matched the family of Sergio Saul Linares.

  • Now Sergio was a professor at the university.

  • He graduted from Iowa State University

  • and went back to Guatemala to change his country.

  • And he was captured on February 23, 1984.

  • And if you can see there, he was executed on March 29, 1984,

  • which was incredible.

  • We had the body, we had the family's information and their DNA,

  • and now we have documents that told us exactly what happened.

  • But most important is about two weeks later,

  • we go another hit, another match

  • from the same grave to Amancio Villatoro.

  • The DNA of that body also matched the DNA of that family.

  • And then we noticed that he was also in the diary.

  • But it was amazing to see that he was also executed on March 29, 1984.

  • So that led us to think, hmm, how many bodies were in the grave?

  • Six.

  • So then we said, how many people were executed on March 29, 1984?

  • That's right, six as well.

  • So we have Juan de Dios, Hugo, Moises and Zoilo.

  • All of them executed on the same date, all captured at different locations

  • and at different moments.

  • All put in that grave.

  • The only thing we needed now was the DNA of those four families

  • So we went and we looked for them and we found them.

  • And we identified those six bodies and gave them back to the families.

  • The other case I want to tell you about

  • is that of a military base called CREOMPAZ.

  • It actually means, "to believe in peace," but the acronym really means

  • Regional Command Center for Peacekeeping Operations.

  • And this is where the Guatemalan military trains peacekeepers from other countries,

  • the ones that serve with the U.N.

  • and go to countries like Haiti and the Congo.

  • Well, we have testimony that said that within this military base,

  • there were bodies, there were graves.

  • So we went in there with a search warrant and about two hours after we went in,

  • we found the first of 84 graves, a total of 533 bodies.

  • Now, if you think about that,

  • peacekeepers being trained on top of bodies.

  • It's very ironic.

  • But the bodies -- face down, most of them, hands tied behind their backs,

  • blindfolded, all types of trauma --

  • these were people who were defenseless who were being executed.

  • People that 533 families are looking for.

  • So we're going to focus on Grave 15.

  • Grave 15, what we noticed, was a grave full of women and children,

  • 63 of them.

  • And that immediately made us think,

  • my goodness, where is there a case like this?

  • When I got to Guatemala in 1995,

  • I heard of a case of a massacre that happened on May 14, 1982,

  • where the army came in, killed the men,

  • and took the women and children in helicopters to an unknown location.

  • Well, guess what?

  • The clothing from this grave matched the clothing from the region

  • where these people were taken from,

  • where these women and children were taken from.

  • So we conducted some DNA analysis, and guess what?

  • We identified Martina Rojas and Manuel Chen.

  • Both of them disappeared in that case, and now we could prove it.

  • We have physical evidence that proves that this happened

  • and that those people were taken to this base.

  • Now, Manuel Chen was three years old.

  • His mother went to the river to wash clothes, and she left him with a neighbor.

  • That's when the army came

  • and that's when he was taken away in a helicopter and never seen again

  • until we found him in Grave 15.

  • So now with science, with archaeology, with anthropology, with genetics,

  • what we're doing is, we're giving a voice to the voiceless.

  • But we're doing more than that.

  • We're actually providing evidence for trials,

  • like the genocide trial that happened last year in Guatemala

  • where Generalos Montt was found guilty of genocide and sentenced to 80 years.

  • So I came here to tell you today that this is happening everywhere --

  • it's happening in Mexico right in front of us today --

  • and we can't let it go on anymore.

  • We have to now come together and decide

  • that we're not going to have any more missing.

  • So no more missing, guys.

  • Okay? No more missing.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Guatemala is recovering from a 36-year armed conflict.

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【TED】Fredy Peccerelli: A forensic anthropologist who brings closure for the “disappeared"

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    CUChou posted on 2015/04/30
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