Colonel Juan Chiroy and another 8 soldiers were arrested over the killing on October 4 of at least six demonstrators in Totonicapàn, in the south-west, where thousands were protesting against the government. In a news conference, the prosecutor Claudia Paz y Paz stated that investigations are still “at a preliminary level”, but due to the “exceptional” circumstances the judge ordered the immediate arrests.
According to the prosecution, Col. Chiroy “had orders to back the police, but failed to coordinate and disobeyed the top police orders to not approach the scene of the demonstration”. The officer and his troops in fact arrived a few hundred kilometers from the demonstrators.
Col. Chiroy apparently ordered his troops to leave their vehicles and once the clashes began with the protesters he left the scene.
“Col Chiroy abandoned his troops and left the security forces without command”, said Paz yPaz, specifying the troops were directly responsible for “extrajudicial killings and lesions”. Also two separate reports presented yesterday by the Human Rights office and the UN High Commission for human rights, accused the army of “violating the right to life” of the demonstrators.
According to ballistics reports, at least eight people used firearms. Autopsies on the six victims – according to the local civil society the victims were 8 – indicated that two were shot in the back and four in the forehead or abdomen.
President Otto Molina del Perez, a retired army general, yesterday announced that the military will no longer respond to civilian demonstrations and security protocols in regard will be revised.
So far, the official government version of events in Totonicapàn, where some 3,000 K’iche’ indigenous farmers blocked the road in protest over electricity costs, is that a group of “civilians” on board a security force truck opened fire against the demonstrators.