Were They Murdered?
By Magali Rey Rosa, Prensa Libre newspaper, March 14, 2014

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March 31 will mark the second anniversary of the tragedy in which Nahomy, Ángel and Juan Carlos, Biology students from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), died within the facilities of the nickel mine in El Estor. According to the version of Lemuel, the biologist who brought them on their last trip in search of crocodiles, they accidently drowned from falling in the water in a calm lake. Ángel’s girlfriend, María, sustains that it is impossible, since both of the young men were very athletic. Supposedly, they had been wearing life preservers, but when the bodies were found, they wore none. After just a couple of hours searching for them, Lemuel returned to go to sleep serenely; the rest of the students were locked up so they couldn’t continue their frenetic search for their friends… and like this, there is a long list of unusual incidents that fed Marías doubts in 2012. Now she just wants to understand what happened.

This week I spoke with the parents of Nahomy, Juan Carlos and Ángel for the first time. They have doubts that are more serious now. Juan Carlos’s body showed an injury on his forehead by a blunt object, which someone forgot to include in the autopsy report, as part of the relevant information for determining the cause of death. The severity of the lesion found did not correspond with an injury caused by a supposed accidental fall in the water. Were it the case that he was injured when falling, the crime of the person in charge of taking care of the students would be for manslaughter, the thesis sustained by the office of the prosecution.

The parents of the students suspect – for many reasons – that their children were assassinated.

They do not accuse anyone, they demand their right to know. That is why they continue to push forward the legal case, with all of the exhaustion, frustration, sorrow and the true cost of doing so. They know that nothing will return their children to them, nor will it return happiness to their lives again; and they know that searching for justice in the Guatemalan legal system can be maddening and that they have to confront powerful lawyers in the process. However, they feel that they must do it, for the memory of their children.

Despite everything, including the shady circumstances of the case, what causes them most indignation is the attitude of the UVG Chancellor and professors in dealing with the tragedy that took away the lives of their children. Instead of trying to understand or to somehow console them or provide psychological support to these parents destroyed by pain, the authorities treated them without any consideration. Their sole concern is to prevent this from causing problems to the university, to the extent that they required them – as a condition for the payment of the students’ life insurance – to sign a settlement through which they renounce their right to any legal demand against the UVG, a strategy that did not work.

That attempt indicates their fear that the truth be known, but it does not explain why no one from that university is interested in finding out how or why three of their young students died during a university organized field-trip, and in highly dubious conditions.