Guatemala, in Central America, was the location of the ancient Mayan civilisation. After the Spanish settlement, it gained independence in 1821, and has experienced both democratic governments and dictators. From 1960 to 1996 there was a civi war between leftist groups and the right wing government. Linked to the government - groups of right wing paramilitary groups constituted infamous "Death Squads". Military advisers from the United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) were sent to Guatemala to train these troops and help transform its army into a modern counter-insurgency force, which eventually made it the most sophisticated in Central America. Torture, forced disappearances and scorched earth warfare became normal in both camps.
Both side routinely trampled over human rights - with guerilla attacks and a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths. More than 45,000 Guatemalans fled across the border to Mexico. The Mexican government placed the refugees in camps in Chiapas and Tabasco. In 1979, the U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, who had until then been providing public support for the government forces, ordered a ban on all military aid to the Guatemalan Army because of its widespread and systematic abuse of human rights. However aid continued throughout the Carter years, through clandestine channels.
Many Catholic Priests were caught in the crossfire and today we remember a Spanish Jesuit who went missing 23 years ago.Father Carlos Perez Alonso was born on October 24, 1936 in Briviesca in Burgos, Spain. He joined the Castile Province of the Society of Jesus and became an assistant pastor at the Parish of San Antonio in Guatemala as a prison and hospital chaplain in 1971. He also served as the chaplain of a secondary school, Liceo Guatemala, and as the director of Cursillos de Cristiandad. On August 2, 1981, Father Perez Alonso left a military hospital in Guatemala City after saying mass there around noon. He was kidnapped by various armed men in front of the hospital and never seen again.