Written by Lisa and Laura

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Maya Achi Survivors of Sexual Violence at a Press Confrence on January 12, 2022. Credit: Lisa

Today continued with the plaintiffs giving their testimony. Pedrina Lopez de Paz, one of the 5 women out of the 36 whose assaults are being directly addressed by this trial, gave her testimony first. She testified that in 1982 she and her family lived in Pocotiz and were neighbours to Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino, two of the men accused in this case. At the time of the Internal Armed Conflict, (IAC), Pedrina was 12 years old. During her emotional testimony, Pedrina explained that “[Benbenuto and Bernardo] took away my childhood and for this childhood, I am suffering… But I am not afraid because this is the truth.”

On August 20th, 1982, Benbenuto and Bernardo entered her home by kicking in the door and kidnapping her father and mother. Pedrina’s brother who was 10-year-old at the time, Agustín Lopez de Paz, also testified today. He remembered their father’s last words during the assault: “Goodbye children, take care of yourselves because we are not coming back.” He said when they returned to take his mother, they ripped her necklace from her neck.

Agustín Lopez de Paz, brother of Pedrina Lopez de Paz, testifying before the court and the accused, through video connection on January 12, 2022.Photo Credit: Verdad y Justicia.

During her testimony, Pedrina spoke to the difficulty of never finding her parents’ remains. She said: “My parents were disappeared but Benbenuto and Bernardo know where they left them.”One hour later, Benbenuto Ruiz Aquino and Bernardo Ruiz Aquino returned to her home and subjected Pedrina to violent acts of sexual assault, forcing a handkerchief in her mouth. They proceeded to steal everything from her home including money and clothes. Both men threatened her not to tell anyone about what had happened, or they would kill her. Pedrina expressed: “It doesn’t give me shame to say this, because I suffered it.”

After the assault, Pedrina sought refuge in the mountains and then with her aunt, Feliciana de Paz Manuel. Her aunt took her to a medical center to seek care for her injuries. Later in life, Pedrina continued to experience not only emotional but physical pain from this violence and received gynecological surgery. 

Feliciana, Pedrina’s aunt and the sister of Pedrina’s mother, also testified to the disappearance of her sister and the attack on her niece. She related that Benbenuto and Bernardo raped Pedrina and stole everything from the home such as the family’s clothes, chairs, table, the rock used to mill corn, and even the food in the pot the family had been eating. Feliciana said: “I have pain in my heart because they hurt my sister [Pedrina’s mother] and for that, I ask for justice.”

The court hearing the recorded testimonies of the survivors. Photo Credit: Verdad y Justicia.

The next witnesses were also plaintiffs, Marcela Alvarado Enriquez and Margarita Alvarado Enriquez, two sisters living in Xococ during the IAC. Both of their testimonies were previously recorded. 

Margarita Alvarado Enriquez was 20 years old and pregnant when she was sexually assaulted by civil patrollers at the church in Xococ. The violence caused her to lose her pregnancy and suffer continued pain after the violence. Her sister, Marcela Alvarado Enriquez was also pregnant when she was assaulted. She explained that because of the attack, “I am always sad.” During the assault, the civil patrollers tied up her two-year-old son. They also killed her husband, disappeared her mother, burned her home, and stole her belongings. 

Marcela was also a witness to the torture and detentions that occurred at the outpost in Xococ. Here, people would be taken, tied up, and sometimes transferred across the river to other parts of the community.

After lunch, we listened to the recorded testimony of Inocenta Alvarado Enriquez, another of the plaintiffs in the case. She was originally from Xococ, Rabinal, and a survivor of sexual violence committed by civil patrollers from her community. Her husband was assassinated and disappeared, after which she was taken to the military outpost in Xococ and suffered sexual violence. She was able to identify the accused, Gabriel Cuxum Alvarado as one of her attackers. They then stole belongings from her home and burned it. She said, “With everything that happened, we suffered so much. We didn’t have food. My children suffered. We didn’t have my husband.”

The final recorded testimony was that of Estefana Alvarado Sic, from the community of Buena Vista, which neighbours Xococ. She was taken to the military outpost in Xococ and held for two nights and three days, identifying Damien Cuxum Alvarado as one of her attackers. She was then forced to make tortillas for her captors. She said, “I could barely walk when I left, all of the patrollers took turns on top of me…I was at the point of dying in Xococ.” Her husband was also assassinated by civil patrollers, her animals were killed, and her house burned. Estefana testified, “I cried day and night. We didn’t have corn; we didn’t have food.” 

The hearings will continue will more eyewitnesses tomorrow morning. 

Read the report back for day 6 here.

Read the report back for day 8 here.