Prosecutors Allege Naturalized American Helped Massacre Guatemalan Villagers

Jorge Sosa, a former member of the Guatemalan army, could have his American citizenship stripped and faces years in jail for allegedly lying on his naturalization application.

Guatemalan soldiers inspect dead fighters killed during the civil war.
Photo Credit: Jean-Marie Simon/Wikimedia Commons

An American citizen was accused of participating in the massacre of Guatemalan villagers yesterday during his trial on charges of lying to U.S. officials in his application for citizenship. Jorge Sosa, a former member of the Guatemalan army, is facing the possibility of having his American citizenship stripped and being thrown in jail for 15 years if he is convicted, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Prosecutors in California said that Sosa did not disclose his role in the Guatemalan military on his citizenship application, though Sosa’s defense denies that. The prosecutors say that Sosa, as a special forces soldier, helped to kill 160 people in the village of Dos Erres while searching for stolen weapons. The massacre took place in 1982, in the midst of a brutal civil war where 200,000 people were killed. Guatemala’s government, backed by the U.S. government during the Cold War, battled leftist groups and indigenous people and committed acts of genocide.

The case against Sosa alleges that the patrol he was a part of decided to kill residents of the village after soldiers raped women and children, according to the Associated Press.  U.S. Attorney Jeannie Joseph told jurors that villagers were hit over the head with a sledgehammer during the killings, and that Sosa threw a grenade and fired his rifle at people who were thrown inside a well.

Sosa was denied asylum in the U.S. in 1985 after he claimed that Guatemalan guerillas were after him. He moved to Canada, but then returned to the U.S. and got citizenship after marrying an American. The government says he didn’t come clean on his application.

“The government will present an overwhelming amount of evidence establishing the crimes the defendant committed at Dos Erres while a member of the Guatemalan military. The government will show the defendant obtained citizenship by lying on his application and during his naturalization interview,” said the attorney, Joseph, according to the AP.

Sosa is one of four American citizens accused of involvement in the massacre. Others have been either deported or put in jail.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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