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Spanish Judge Asks for Extradition of Guatemalan General

A Spanish judge has requested the arrest and extradition from Venezuela of a former Guatemalan general accused of rights violations during the country's civil war.

Rights activists in Guatemala were elated by the news that a Spanish judge requested the arrest of Romeo Lucas Garcia, a former general who ruled Guatemala from 1978 to 1982. This was one of the bloodiest periods of this nation's decades long civil war.

The war ended in a 1996 peace accord after some 200,000 people, mostly Maya Indians, were killed or disappeared.

This is the second arrest warrant for a former Guatemalan official that Spanish courts have filed in the past months. Spain is also seeking the arrest of Donaldo Alvarez, who was Mr. Lucas Garcias Interior Minister.

Both are sought in relation to a fire at the Spanish embassy in 1980 in which 37 people died, including three Spanish citizens. The fatal blaze began when police clashed with peasant protestors who had occupied the embassy to denounce military massacres in their communities.

No one was ever investigated for the incident in Guatemala. Maya activist and Nobel peace prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu filed a criminal complaint in Spain in 1999. Her father was one of the peasants who died in the fire.

“We have done a lot of work to find and identify General Lucas Garcia,” she says, “and I am completely certain in what country he lives. I just hope authorities there aren’t protecting him.”

Mr. Lucas Garcia, who resides in Venezuela, is rumored to suffer from Alzheimer's. Rights activists applauded the Spanish courts decision to request his extradition and determine for itself whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.