27 AUGUST 1983, Page 17

Guatemalan murders

Sir: Your correspondent Patrick Marnham, in an article on Guatemala (13 August), states, 'At least under Rios Montt many fewer Indians were killed'. In fact, under the Brigadier-General large-scale massacres of indigenous peasants intensified in the countryside. In May 1982 a group of Indians entered the Brazilian embassy in Guatemala City to call world attention to these massacres, and to reports by peasant organisations and Indian' and Christian groups, such as the Justice and Peace Committee, which gave details of men being beheaded, women being burned to death and children being battered to death against rocks.

In a Special Briefing issued in July 1982, Amnesty International gave details of 66 incidents, which took place between March and June of that year, when an estimated 2,186 people were murdered, often with great brutality. In one incident in Alta Verapaz 70 tortured corpses were found after the entire male population of the village of Pampacche had been dragged from their homes by soldiers.

Jane Sherwin

Co-ordinator for Central America, British Section, Amnesty International, London ECI

Patrick Marnham writes: For the last year I have drawn attention in the Spectator to the massacre of Indians by the Rios Montt government. The point is that following a military victory over the guerrillas last December the massacres came to a halt. This was an improvement on the behaviour of the preceding Lucas Garcia regime.