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Undocumented Guatemalan tied to mass sexual assaults in the 1980s found hiding in MA

Members of the Clovis, N.M., Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics team handcuff a U.S. airman during a hostile threat exercise at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 20, 2012. (Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece/U.S. Air Force)

An undocumented Guatemalan accused of sexually assaulting indigenous women before they were slaughtered in a 1982 massacre was caught hiding in Massachusetts, federal authorities said.

Francisco Cuxum Alvarado, 64, was found in Waltham on April 30 nearly a year after Interpol sent a notice looking for him, according to a federal affidavit. Alvarado told a federal immigration agent that he was a member of the Rabinal civil defense patrol, one of several militias that helped Guatemalan armed forces in the massacres of the indigenous Maya Achi people in the early 1980s.

Alvarado, who was once deported after illegally entering the country in 2004, was arrested on April 30 and charged with illegal re-entry, a felony. He was arraigned Tuesday on the re-entry charge and detained.

“Mr. Cuxum Alvarado is in Massachusetts illegally, evading accountability for human rights violations in Guatemala,” U.S. District Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said. “While many immigrants come to this country seeking a better life, Mr. Cuxum Alvarado came here illegally, to escape a dark, criminal past. This case highlights the important work of Homeland Security Investigations and [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] in identifying and removing war criminals, human rights violators, and other dangerous aliens who illegally seek a safe haven in the United States.”

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According to the affidavit, authorities in Guatemala charged Alvarado in May 2018 with crimes against humanity for allegedly participating in the mass sexual assault of Maya Achi women of Rio Negro on May 13, 1982.

The 1982 attack was one of several in the Rio Negro massacres that left more than 400 Maya Achi people dead. Hundreds of others were forcibly evicted.

Most of the men had been killed or had fled by the time Guatemalan armed forces and civil defense patrols entered the village on May 13, 1982. The soldiers forced the remaining women and children to march out of the village, according to the affidavit.

The women and children were threatened, beaten and raped by soldiers and civil defense patrol members. Then they were hanged, stabbed with machetes or shot in an area called Cerro Pacoxom. At least 70 women and 107 children were murdered, according to the affidavit.

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Years after the country’s civil war ended, Guatemalan investigators looked into Alvarado’s alleged role in the 1982 attack. In 2018, the Guatemalan government charged him in the mass sexual assaults, the affidavit states.

It is unclear when Alvarado re-entered the United States, but he could not be located in Guatemala when he was charged. The Guatemalan government obtained an Interpol notice about Alvarado on May 28, 2018, asking law enforcement agencies worldwide to provisionally arrest him pending extradition.

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Matthew Langille, a special agent with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, wrote in the affidavit that Alvarado admitted to being a member of the Rabinal civil defense patrols between 1980 and 1984, during the time of the attacks.

“Homeland Security Investigations looks forward to the disturbing and egregious allegations against this individual being openly and fairly adjudicated in federal court,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI in Boston.

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© 2019 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.

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