Guatemala Conference Preview: "Studying Perpetrators"

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 5:00pm

This series will highlight each of the panel discussions at the Center for Advanced Genocide Research’s upcoming conference “A ‘Conflict?’ Genocide and Resistance in Guatemala,” September 11-14, 2016, at the University of Southern California.

The first moderated session at USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research’s conference, “A Conflict? Genocide and Resistance in Guatemala” will be on “Studying Perpetrators” and be moderated by USC International Relations Professor Carol Wise.

The session will feature three panelists: Sofía Duyos, a law professor in Madrid; Sergio Palencia Frener, an anthropology and sociology professor in Mexico; and Manolo e. Vela Castañeda, a sociology and political science professor in Mexico.

Duyos has coordinated the publication of the book Condenado por Genocidio, or Convicted of Genocide, and written specifically about the conviction of Ríos Montt, the president of Guatemala from 1982-1983, and one of the key perpetrators of the genocide.

At the conference, Duyos will discuss the 2013 sentencing of Ríos Montt, how human rights organizations helped in achieving this sentencing, and how what military documents reveal about the genocide.

Palencia Frener, a professor at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla who received his Ph.D. at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, will speak about counterinsurgency in Chimaltenango, a microregion of Guatemala that received the most violence during the genocide, and that fought back by organizing through farming unions, peasant leagues, and political parties.

Castañeda is a native of Guatemala who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Guatemala before relocating to Mexico to get his doctorate. He now is a professor at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where his research focuses on human rights, particularly in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

At the conference, Castañeda will present on the construction of the willingness to kill in genocide perpetrators, arguing that factors such as group dynamics, personal ambitions, and racism in the armed forces led to their ability to kill innocent Guatemalans. Castañeda uses the massacre at Los Dos Erres, in which many women and children were killed, as a case study.