alioto vive!
The 60 minute documentary, Alioto Vive!,  is about a Guatemalan law
student, Mario Alioto Lopez, who was shot and kicked to death by a riot
control unit of the national police in November, 1994. He had been
participating in city-wide demonstrations against an increase in the
municipal bus fare. His killing took place in full view of the national media.

when the legal proceedings were only beginning to take shape. 1996 was
the year that the 30 year civil war in Guatemala came to a close and the
question of impunity and how to break out of the wartime mentality that
characterized the Guatemalan government was crucial for the new peace to
take hold. The Guatemalan way of governing had come to be based on fear.
Threats were common and people were killed in ways that left little to the
imagination as to what might happen if the threats were ignored. Prominent
political figures from both the national stage and communities throughout
the country were frequently killed and the investigations led nowhere when
they were carried out at all.

The documentary 'Alioto Vive!' took it's name from graffiti that one would
run across in all parts of Guatemala City, even 4 years after the death of
Alioto. The graffiti represented something unique --- a legal case which was
rarely spoken of but which everyone understood as a symbol for the search
for a way out of the civil war mentality that had characterized the
generations since the 50's. More specifically it was a symbol of the search
to end the mantel of impunity for those who had conducted the 'dirty war'
through the courts. The documentary filmmakers often had occasion to
mention that they were working on the story of a young law student who
with the name Alioto and in general that important people were brought
with the name Alioto and in general that important people were brought
before the courts.before the courts.

shoot into crowds of people, but the obvious had to be put into words and
actions to sink in. The essential ingredient in the 'dirty war' strategies of so
many years standing had been to create fear through the visible use of
deadly force. It was recognized as wrong and there were other banner cases
in the fight to use the judicial system and they were discussed and debated
in great detail, the Myrna Mack case, the Jorge Carpio Nicolle investigation
(1993), the Efrain Bamaca case and to come, the Bishop Gerardi case, but
Alioto's case existed at a more fundamental level than the great debates.
One found this case on the walls of the city in bold letters --- ALIOTO
A summary of the incident and the resulting legal struggle:

On November 11, 1994, a multi-service riot control unit under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior entered the campus of the University of San Carlos to deal forcibly with a student
demonstration which was part of a week long series of demonstrations which had taken place throughout the city. Citizens were protesting a rise in bus fares and the failure of the government to
recognize and negotiate in terms of the economic hardships that a fare increase would cause. The government had been escalating its use of force during the week of demonstrations by calling in
military units to participate in the patrolling and on the evening of the 11th a joint police/military, Rapid Response unit entered the San Carlos campus which historically has enjoyed a special
autonomous status which is off limits to the military. The Rapid Response unit or FRI (Fuerza de Respuesta Inmediata) opened fire during the course of their confrontation and a number of
students were injured, including the law student Mario Alioto Sanchez who recieved a bullet in his thigh.

The events leading up to and including the wounding of the students were well documented by both news cameras and video taken by persons who had been asked by the students to act as
witnesses. Police communications on short wave were also monitored and there is video of the police charging towards the place where the profusely bleeding Alioto had fallen. A medical kicked
as he lay on the ground in a pool of his own blood. His autopsy revealed that he died of a combination of loss of blood and the beating which he had recieved.

The media had taken a critical attitude to the progressive militarization of the administration's response to the bus fare demonstrations and the use of rifle fire on unarmed students was clearly
going to be costly in general political terms. President De Leon Carpio had formerly been a popular human rights procurator and hopes were high that he would act definitively against the
prevailing impunity of all things related to security. The death of the student activist, Alioto, became a rallying point for the popular movement and thousands of people marched through the
streets, following the Alioto coffin from the university to the cemetery. The government's immediate response was typical of its reliance on repression. Two students close to Alioto were
kidnapped on their way home from the funeral and interrogated. Death threats against other student activists began in the following week.

Investigations were called for and the evidence implicating cabinet level decisions was such that the dismissal of the Minister of the Interior, his Vice-Minister and the head of the Natonal Police
seemed eminent. They were dismissed in early january, 1995, but not before legal proceedings were opened against them as the intellectural authors of the shootings. The student's association,
AEU, and the law student's association, together with the family of Alioto, sought to make the case against those responsible for the assasination as a test of the legal system's ability to deal
with the entrenched privilege of the security forces, that is, the problem of impunity.

The evidence was quite clear from the well documented actions of the police and soldiers in the FRI to the decision making process. Ninety some police were initially charged with excessive use
of force, and at the level of 'intellectural authoriship' even the government's own special investigative body, COPREDH, found that there had been a Security Council level order for the FRI to
immobilize student demonstrators by firing at their legs (both Alioto and the medical student who fell nearby were shot in the legs).

into relief through the appeal process available through the Commission and the Inter-American Court in Costa Rica. The scrutiny offered through the Interamerican system, together with the
pressure from Alioto's family and USAC students, were the most important factors in advanccing the case against the 'intellectual authors' in the use of force resulting in Alioto's death.

Inspite of the unusual combination of popular and international attention this case recieved it did not come to trial until mid 1997. The police official most directly involved was found guilty of
homicide and sentenced to 30 years and the high level 'intellectual authors', were found guilty of authorizing the operation which resulted in Alioto's death. They were each sentenced to 10 years
in prison. They immediately initiated an appeals process and all with the exception of the police officer were out of prison in 2 months.

The war had come to a negotiated conclusion in 1996. Hopes were high that real change was going to take place at an institutional level, but the legal system moved slowly. There were many
challenges to the security forces entrenched impunity, such as the disappearance of University of San Carlos students in 1989, the Myrna Mack Chang case, the murder of street kids by police,
but this case stood out in the clarity of the evidence and in how close it was to the lives of the ordinary citizen. That is the subject of this video.
the filmmakers:
jim morrison
maria firmino castillo
Alioto, as a University of San
Carlos law student, had been
working with an international
team of lawyers in northern
Quiche .
His report on one of the communities was presented to the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington after
his death. The team he was working with were able to assure that
his own case was promptly reviewed by the Commision.
Arturo Albizures and Boris Hernandez of Communicarte provided
crucial assistance in the making of Alioto Vive!. The footage of
Alioto's death and of the funeral processions came from
Comunicarte's archives.

Comunicarte's  sense of mission to document the popular movement
and train a new generation in documentary storytelling  is
unparalleled. See
una entrevista con Edwin
Barrios, docente con el
Ministerio Publico
The Alvaro Colom
apologizes to the Alioto
for the death of Mario
Alioto Lopez. Nov.
18, 2011.
El processo legal encontra de la impunidad despues
de 20 años del muerte de Alioto ---
el juicio por el
genocidío encontra del Rios Montt.....