Fernando Romeo Lucas García

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General Fernando Romeo Lucas García (b. San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapaz, 4 July 1924 – d. Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, 27 May 2006) was the 25th President of Guatemala from 1 July 1978 to 23 March 1982. He was democratically elected as Institutional Democratic Party candidate (with the support of the Revolutionary Party). Elections for his presidency were fraud ridden and most poor peasants in Guatemala opposed his oppressive regime.

Whereas under the previous administration the human rights situation in Guatemala had improved, the regime of Lucas Garcia brought the repression to the much the same level observed during the "State of Siege" period under former President Arana Osorio (1970-1974).[1] The election of Lucas Garcia was followed by an increase in the extrajudicial killing, torture and "disappearances" of trade unionists, academics, lawyers, campesinos, and religious leaders. Some of the more infamous cases included the assassinations of former progressive Mayor Manuel Colom and Social Democrat Party founder Alberto Fuentes (both in 1979). Together with the government in neighboring El Salvador, the Lucas Garcia regime was cited as the worst human rights violator in the western hemisphere. The daily number of killings by government forces and officially-sanctioned death squads increased from an average of 20 to 30 in 1979 to a conservative estimate of 30 to 40 in 1980. An estimated 5,000 civilians were killed by government forces in Guatemala in 1980.[2] In 1981 the number of killings and assassinations by government forces exceeded 9,000.[3] He was president during Spanish embassy fire in Guatemala City on 31 January 1980, in which 37 people died. His vice president, Francisco Villagrán, resigned on 1 September 1980, citing differences with Lucas and disapproval of the country's worsening human rights situation.

The United States, Israel and Argentina all provided military support to the regime in the form of pipeline aid, sales, credits, training and counterinsurgency advisors. Between FS 1978 and FS 1980, the U.S. provided $8.5 million in military assistance, mostly FMS credit sales, and approximately $1.8 million in export licensing for commercial arms sales, despite a 1977 congressional prohibition on military aid.[4] In 1980 and 1981, the United States also delivered three Bell 212 and six Bell 412 helicopters worth $10.5 million to the army.[5] In June 1981 the Reagan Administration announced a $3.2 million delivery of 150 military trucks and jeeps to the army, justifying these shipments by blaming the guerrillas for the violence perpetrated against civilians.[6]

In its later years, Lucas Garcia's regime was perceived as a threat by the military establishment in Guatemala, as it engaged in actions which compromised the legitimacy of the Guatemalan military with both the populace and within its own ranks, thereby undermining the effectiveness of the counterinsurgency war.[7] In the 1982 elections, Lucas Garcia went against both popular opinion and the military's interests through his endorsement of Angel Anibal Guevara, his own defense minister. In response to these pressures, junior military officers under the command of General Efrain Rios Montt staged a preventative coup d'état on March 23, 1982, an act which the United States was neither complicit with nor had even foreseen.[8]

In 1999 the Audiencia Nacional of Spain began criminal proceedings for accusations of torture and genocide against the Maya population after a formal petition introduced by Rigoberta Menchú. However, the Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal denied the extradition on 22 June 2005, arguing that the required evidence was not presented and lifted the house arrest.

He died in exile in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, where he had lived for 12 years with his wife Elsa Cirigliano, suffering from Alzheimers and various other ailments, at the age of 81.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amnesty International Report 1979, pg 63: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/POL10/001/1979/en/1df40b59-669e-4ca6-a078-7c9d1b5afa3d/pol100011979eng.pdf
  2. ^ "Guatemala and El Salvador: Latin America's worst human rights violators in 1980" The Council on Hemispheric Affairs
  3. ^ Handy 1984, 180.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ "The Social Consequences of "Development" Aid in Guatemala". Cultural Survival. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  5. ^ Fried, Jonathan L.; Gettleman, Marvin E.; Levenson, Deborah T. et al., eds. (1983). Guatemala in Rebellion: Unfinished History. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0394532406. 
  6. ^ "Efraín Ríos Montt killer file". Moreorless.au.com. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  7. ^ McCleary, 1999; 46.[full citation needed]
  8. ^ Garrard-Burnett, Virginia (2010). Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Mont. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 152. ISBN 9780195379648. 
Government offices
Preceded by
Kjell Laugerud
President of Guatemala
1978–1982
Succeeded by
Efraín Ríos Montt