Two sisters watch the exhumation of their mother and four small siblings who were killed by soldiers. photo by Jonathan Moller New York, where they were tried and convicted on DEA evidence. But the DEA did nothing back in Guatemala when, shortly after the arrests, the military merely moved the same smuggling operation to a rural area outside town, according to family farmers in a petition delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City in 1992 and addressed simply “Senores D.E.A.” “[B] efore sunrise, one of the planes that transports cocaine crashed when it couldn’t reach the runway on the Rancho Maya,” reads the document which the peasants either signed or inked with their thumbprints. The document names the military commissioners along with seven local officers, including four local army colonels whom the farmers said supervised them. One of the civilian military commissioners the peasants named was Rancho Maya owner Byron Berganza. More than a decade later, in 2004, DEA special agents finally arrested Berganza, along with another Guatemalan civilian, on federal “narcotics importation conspiracy” charges in New York City. Last year, the DEA in Mexico City also helped arrest another Guatemalan, Otto Herrera, who ran a vast trucking fleet from the Zacapa area. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft described Herrera as one of “the most significant international drug traffickers and money launderers in the world.” Yet, not long after his arrest, Herrera somehow managed to escape from jail in Mexico City. Not one of the Guatemalan military officers the farmers mentioned in their 1992 petition has ever been charged. As the DEA’s Senior Special Agent Glaspy explained, “There is a difference between receiving information and being able to prosecute somebody.” In 2002, then-Chairman Ballenger forced the Bush administration to take limited action to penalize top Guatemalan military officials thought to be involved in drug trafficking. “The visa of former Guatemalan intelligence chief Francisco Ortega Menaldo was revoked,” confirmed State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher in March 2002, “under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act related to narco-trafficking, and that’s about as far as I can go into the details of the decision.” By then, Ret. Gen. Ortega Menaldo NOVEMBER 18, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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