Erwin Sperisen’s direct superior risks 160 years’ imprisonment


Eighteen months after Erwin Sperisen received a life sentence for the murder of ten prisoners, his hierarchic superior is facing trial for the same facts before a Spanish tribunal.

Carlos Vielmann is the former Minister of Domestic Affairs of Guatemala. He took his position in 2004 and himself placed Sperisen at the head of the national police. In 2007, he resigned following several scandals, including the murder of four prisoners in their cells. Vielmann then moved to Spain, where he was granted citizenship in 2009.

His past cropped up again in an inquiry by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICG) and he was indicted in 2010 for having formed, along with Sperisen, a parastatal criminal structure. That structure would have planned the murder of 7 prisoners in the Pavon prison and 3 in the Infiernito prison.

The charges are consequent and the prosecution demands 160 years’ imprisonment and 300’000 euros’ compensation for the victims.

Vielmann was present on the crime scene

Like in the case of Sperisen, the defense should plead for acquittal, in spite of substantial evidence against the accused.

Indeed, in the case of Pavon, Vielmann was himself on the crime scene, where the murder had been grossly camouflaged as a fight. The CICG inquiry also showed that he was constantly updated on the phone – endorsing an exceptionally hands-on role for his position. The capture of the prisoners was also filmed, before their bodies were found riddled with bullets.

The trial will run over 2 months with over 20 witnesses called to the bar – of which a dozen from Guatemala via videoconference.

A crucial moment for this country plagued by violence and corruption, the trial will also be closely followed by victims and human rights organizations, who have tirelessly denounced these crimes – sometimes at their own risks. Let us hope that the judgment will satisfy their hopes and that justice will prevail, as it did in the Sperisen case.


The Infiernito prison is a high-security compound in the outskirts of Guatemala City. In October 2005, 19 prisoners managed to escape. Sperisen and other officials in charge of domestic security are accused of having launched the “Gavilan Plan” to find the runaways and execute them. A reward was offered for any information on their whereabouts. 3 prisoners were executed, and the crime scene was later camouflaged to hide this disproportionate use of force.

Pavon is also a high-security prison outside Guatemala City. On 25 September 2006, an operation to retake its control was launched. Over 3’000 policemen, members of the military and penitentiary officials were mobilized. During the operation, 7 prisoners were executed. Here too, the scene was camouflaged to give the impression these deaths occurred in a fight.

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