Spectres of impunity or apertures for justice? The intersection and inequalities of the Rios Montt genocide trial and the Roberto Barreda femicide case in Guatemala
Lorena Fuentes (Birkbeck, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
This paper critically explores fluctuating articulations of impunity and (inequality of access to) justice that the paradigmatic cases of the Ríos Montt genocide trial and Roberto Barreda femicide trial brought to the fore in October 2013 through renewed contestations around impunity and injustice.
Paper long abstract:
On November 8, 2013, Guatemalan authorities captured Roberto Barreda in the state of Yucatan. Barreda had fled Guatemala with his two children after the disappearance (and presumed murder) of his wife, Cristina Siekavizza. The impact of Barreda's capture on the variable articulations of (in)justice within the national body politic of Guatemala—in mainstream newspapers, politicians' discourses, and civil society organisations—was extraordinary. Initial celebrations were swiftly reoriented by women's, indigenous and human rights organisations on the peripheries of Guatemala's power base. These latter articulations were grounded in questions of inequality of access to justice, the 'elite' nature of cases garnering media attention (understandably seen to fall along class and racial lines), and the near absolute impunity that surrounds 98% of femicide cases. Beyond the disparity of how the Siekavizza disappearance was treated compared to thousands of other femicide cases lay the insidious context in which the Montt trial (now awaiting consideration for amnesty) was left earlier in that very same week. This paper critically explores fluctuating articulations of (in)justice arising from these cases. Renewed contestations around historical impunity spill over into contemporary discourses of a violent post-war Guatemala. While impossible to discount the inadequacies of Guatemala's legal system, tracing the intersections of these emblematic cases provides opportunities to consider how potential 'failures' within this system— like Montt's annulled conviction, or the restricted focus on the disappearance of a light-skinned, middle-class woman— may provide openings for articulating past and ongoing injustices for both genocidal crimes and 'new' forms of femicidal violence.
The Ríos Montt trial and other aporias of justice in Guatemala