Manuel Benedicto Lucas García was born on 24 August 1932 in San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala. He received training at the French military academy of St Cyr. He was the head of the Army High Command. He is the brother of Fernándo Romeo Lucas García who was president of Guatemala from 1 July 1978 until 23 March 1982 when he was overthrown in a military coup led by General Efraín Rios Montt.
On 31 January 1980, Lucas García allegedly ordered – along with his brother – the attack and arson of the Spanish embassy then occupied by a group of indigenous. This attack caused the death of 36 indigenous persons and two Guatemalans farmers including the father of Rigoberta Menchú, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Spanish ambassador Maximo Cajal was severely injured.
During the 1980s, the “Military Zone 21” was a secret center for illegal detentions, torture, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance, and rape. In 2012, mass graves containing hundreds of bodies of indigenous men, women, and children from different Mayan ethnic groups – including Achí, Q’eqchi’, Pomochí, Ixil, and Kiché – were uncovered at Military Zone 21, which is now the site of a training center for U.N. peacekeepers known by the Spanish acronym CREOMPAZ. Over 550 skeletons have been exhumed, and at least 128 of the victims have been identified using DNA testing.
On 6 January 2016, Guatemalan authorities arrested 14 former high-ranking military officers in connection with the CREOMPAZ case for crimes committed at Military Zone 21 between 1981 and 1988.
MOLINA THEISSEN CASE
During the Guatemalan civil war, the Molina Theissen family was actively opposed to military rule and was viewed as subversive by the security forces. Carlos Augusto Molina Palma – the father of the victims in the Molina Theissen case – was arrested and physically abused on numerous occasions between 1955 and 1960, and was exiled from Guatemala by the military regime. His teenage daughter, Emma Guadalupe Molina Theissen, was a member of the « Juventud Patriótica del Trabajo » (Patriotic Worker Youth), which was connected to the Guatemalan Labour Party. Military authorities arrested Emma and her boyfriend on 19 March 1976; Emma was raped and tortured while she was being detained, and her boyfriend was later murdered. On 27 September 1981, Emma was again arrested, raped, and tortured by the military. She was illegally detained for nine days, but she escaped from the Manuel Lisandro Barillas military base in Quetzaltenango on 5 October 1981.
On 6 October 1981, a day after Emma’s escape, three armed individuals dressed in civilian clothing came to the Molina Theissen family home in Guatemala City. Two of the individuals entered the home, beat Emma’s mother, and took her 14-year-old brother, Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, away in an official vehicle. Marco Antonio was never seen again. According to the Commission for Historical Clarification – Guatemala’s truth commission – the armed individuals were members of the military intelligence section and took Marco Antonio as retaliation for Emma’s escape and the family’s dissidence.