GUATEMALA CITY – Prosecutors in Guatemala presented charges on Friday against a former soldier deported last week from the United States for his alleged involvement in the slaughter of more than 200 people more during his country's grueling civil war.
Victims' relatives hope Santos Lopez Alonzo will be held accountable for the onslaught that wiped out the small village of Las Dos Erres in 1982.
Guatemalan prosecutor Hilda Pineda said Lopez Alonzo was a truck driver for the elite Guatemalan army unit that carried out the killings in Las Dos Erres. She said he guarded women and children being held inside a church while other soldiers interrogated and killed the men, who were accused for stealing missing guns.
Pineda, who presented the charges before a judge, said Lopez Alonzo is accused of murder and crimes against humanity.
During the hearing, Lopez Alonso listened closely as they read out the names of the more than 200 people killed.
The now-64-year-old Lopez is among four former soldiers accused in the massacre who were arrested after heading to the United States. Two are now serving time in U.S. prisons for immigration crimes related to the killings and one was deported and sentenced to more than 6,000 years in prison. Five former soldiers have been sentenced in the case.
In an earlier interview at a California immigration detention facility, Lopez said he guarded women and children during the massacre but killed no one. He said he didn't fear Guatemala's investigation of the killings, but was afraid he would be tortured in his country as payback for assisting the U.S. government with its prosecution of one of his ex-comrades. He fought his deportation but a federal appeals court last month refused to block his return to Guatemala.
Authorities issued arrest warrants for 17 soldiers, including Lopez, but the cases languished for years.
In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded Guatemala prosecute the perpetrators. The U.S. began arresting the former soldiers, including Lopez, the following year.
Lopez also acknowledged taking a 5-year-old boy from the village, claiming he saved him and raised him as a son.
Ramiro Osorio Cristales grew up to become a key voice for victims. He received asylum in Canada, testified against some of the soldiers about his memories of the killings and cut ties with Lopez, who Osorio says mistreated him for years.
At least 200,000 lives were lost in Guatemala's civil war before it ended in 1996.