Fernándo Romeo Lucas García

21.04.2016 ( Last modified: 10.06.2016 )
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Fernándo Romeo Lucas García was born on 4 July 1924 in San Juan Chamelco, district of Alta Verapaz.

In 1978, despite accusations of fraud, he won the presidential election with the support of the right-wing party IDR. He was the President of Guatemala from 1 July 1978 until 23 March 1982 when his seat was overtaken by a military coup d’état lead by General Efrain Rios Montt.

He is accused of giving orders to attack and put fire on the Spanish embassy that was occupied by a group of indigenous farmers. On 31 January 1980, 36 indigenous (among them the father of the 1992 Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu) and two Guatemalan officials lost their lives and the Spanish ambassador Maximo Cajal was severely injured.

He is further accused of violently oppressing the indigenous population during his entire presidency.

After the coup d’état Lucas García together with his Venezuelan wife Elsa Cirigiliano fled to Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela. Since 1991, he suffers from Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

In December 1999, the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation, as well as several families of victims of repression, filed a complaint against Romeo Lucas García before the Spanish National Court, the highest judicial body of Spain, for torture and genocide.


legal procedure


In December 1999, the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation, as well as several families of victims of repression, filed a complaint against Romeo Lucas García before the Spanish National Court, the highest judicial body of Spain, for torture and genocide. The complaint is also directed against seven other Guatemalan high-ranking officials: Colonel German Chupina Barahona (director of the National Police), former Minister of Interior Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz, former Minister of Defense Anibal Guevara Rodriguez, former armed forces chief General Benedicto Lucas Garcia and former chief of the 6th commandment of the national police Pedro García Arredondo.

The complaint was about the attack of the Spanish embassy, the official policy of “minimization of the Mayan ethnicity”, the enforced disappearance and murder of numerous leaders of social movements, trade unionists and political opponents committed between 1980 and 1981.

The applicants explained that their decision to file the complaint before a Spanish court under the principle of universal jurisdiction was due to the impossibility of obtaining justice in Guatemala because of the threats and aggressions against witnesses, judges and lawyers, and to the lack of political will of the Guatemalan judicial system for the last 30 years.

On 13 December 2000, the Spanish National Court ruled that Spain was not competent to hear the case and that the Guatemalan authorities had priority in judging it.

On 5 October 2005, the Spanish Constitutional Court decided that Spanish tribunals could judge international crimes, regardless of the nationality of their authors and victims and of the place where they have been committed, by virtue of the principle of universal jurisdiction. The accused could therefore be prosecuted for genocide in Spain.

Spanish judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska demanded Venezuela to extradite Lucas García to Spain. Venezuela refused to do so, due to medical reports from García’s wife showing that her husband is severely affected by the Alzheimer’s disease.


On 2 May 2000, the AJR (Asociación para la Justicia y la Reconciliación) and CALDH (Centro para la Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos) filed a genocide lawsuit against general García.

On 27 May 2006, Lucas García died in a hospital in Caracas.



THE CIVIL WAR (1960-1996)

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala was embroiled in a civil war that resulted in 250 000 victims (deaths and disappearances). The war ended following a peace signing on 29 December 1996.

The civil war, which would last for 36 years, began in 1960 when young defiant officials and countrymen revolted against the dictatorial regime. Until 1982, there were a series of military or pro military governments.

In 1978, General Fernándo Romeo Lucas García became the president of Guatemala. It was during his presidency that the first large-scale massacre against the Mayan population took place.

In 1982, General Efraín Ríos Montt took control following a coup d’état. He set up Civil Defense Patrols (PAC) made up of 900 000 militia who the army had recruited by force to fight against the guerrilla. He intensified the scorched earth policy, tortures and enforced disappearances. More than 45 000 people fled to Mexico where they stayed in refugee camps in Chiapas and Tabasco. In response, 6000 soldiers from the four main guerrilla groups (EGP, ORPA, FAR and PGT) unified to form the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). From this point onwards, the conflict truly became a civil war.

Ríos Montt’s brief presidency (from 1982 to 1983) is considered to be the most violent period of the conflict. During this period, 440 Mayan villages were completely destroyed and 200 000 Mayan people were killed in attacks of extreme cruelty (such as; amputation, impalement and torture). Although the (left-wing) guerrilla forces and the (right-wing) death squads had committed summary executions, forced disappearances and had tortured civilians, the majority of human rights violations (93%) were committed by the Guatemalan army and by the PACs that it controlled.

In 1986, free elections were at last organised and were won by Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo of the Christian Democratic Party. It was not until 1996, however, that a peace agreement was signed between the government and the guerrilla, putting an end to a conflict that had lasted for 36 years.


In June 1994, the Oslo Accords ordered the creation of a truth commission called the Guatemalan “Commission for Historical Clarification”; its aim was to investigate human rights violations in relation to the armed conflict and to prepare a report covering these violations and their causes. The Commission also aimed to establish specific recommendations to “encourage national peace and harmony in Guatemala”. After having listened to thousands of accounts and having unearthed several clandestine burial sites, the Commission published a final report in February 1999, titled “Silent memories”.

In its report, the CEH accounted for 200 000 deaths, 50 000 disappearances, one million internally displaced refugees and more than 600 devastated communities. The majority of crimes (91%) were committed during the regimes of General Romes Lucas García (1978-1982) and General Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983).

The facts established by this report have been used on a number of occasions during the trials of perpetrators of human rights violations, particularly that of Felipe Cusanero Coj. A former paramilitary officer, he was the first person to be tried for the forced disappearances of civilians during the civil war.

The CEH was supported by another report, “Never again”, published on 24 April 1998 as part of the inter-diocese Recovery of Historical Memory project (REMHI).


On 12 December 2006, an agreement signed between the United Nations and the Guatemalan government established the CICIG. It is an independent body that aims to assist the Guatemalan office of the prosecutor, the national police and other institutions involved in the investigation of sensitive cases, as well as working to dismantle illegal security groups. The CICIG has the right to initiate investigations proprio motu.

The CICIG’s investigations have led to the issuance of 18 arrest warrants, notably for Javier Figueroa and Erwin Sperisen.


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