A Name on a Cross,
The Story of a Victim
Protestors who march on Fort Benning carry crosses, each inscribed
with the names of victims of graduates of the U.S. Army School of the
Americas. John Lambiase became curious about the name on the cross he
carried in last year’s protest — Myrna Mack — and took steps to
uncover the story.
With the help of Robin Alexander, UE director of international labor
affairs, this is what he learned.
Myrna Mack Chang was Guatemala’s leading anthropologist. She was
internationally known for her study of the effects of her country’s civil
war on indigenous people.
"Mack’s work was highly controversial in Guatemala," according
to journalist Frank Smyth. "The country’s displaced population
was created by the army’s ‘scorched earth’ counterinsurgency campaign,
which began in the early 1980s. Tens of thousands of people — mostly Indians
of Mayan descent — were killed. Up to 1 million more, in a country of fewer
than 9 million, were uprooted."
The Guatemalan government was reluctant to acknowledge the consequences of
its brutal warfare in the countryside. Mack researched the forced migration,
documenting conditions and providing numbers.
A military death squad kept the petite 40-year-old under observation for
weeks. On September 11, 1990, two days after her research was published in
English, Mack was attacked outside of her Guatemala City office. She was
stabbed 27 times.
Bringing her killers to trial quickly ran into difficulties. A month after
Mack’s murder, the chief homicide investigator was gunned down. The slain
anthropologist’s sister, Helen Mack, gained international support in
her efforts to prosecute the killers.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Stroock, a friend of President George Bush
from his days at Yale and a Bush appointee, asserted that the Mack murder was
not politically motivated.
Eventually, on Feb. 12, 1993, a long investigation and trial concluded with
the sentencing of Noel de Jesus Beteta Alvarez for Mack’s murder.
Beteta was a sergeant specialist with the intelligence unit of the
Presidential High Command. Although Beteta was implicated by testimony just
six days after Mack’s murder, he was not arrested for nearly a year. The
superior officers (two general and two colonels) believed to have orchestrated
the assassination have not been tried for the crime.
In an unprecedented admission, the Guatemalan government in March of this
year conceded its responsibility for the murder of Myrna Mack and failure to
obtain justice in the case.
UE News - 12/00