Remains of Seventh Individual Listed in Notorious Guatemalan “Death Squad Diary” ID’d
By Alexandra Smith
The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) has confirmed the identification of a seventh individual listed in the notorious “Death Squad Diary,” or Diario Militar, a document made public by National Security Archive Senior Analyst Kate Doyle in 1999. The remains of José Zenon Hernández Cuzanero were exhumed in 2011 from an ossuary containing thousands of unidentified corpses at La Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City, and identified earlier this month.
The Diario indicates that Hernández, listed as number 112, was killed in Guatemala City on April 23, 1984, while attempting to flee his military captors. He was struck, the Diario says, by three M-16 bullets. The cemetery’s register confirms this fate, noting that his unidentified body was discovered on a public road, having sustained bullet wounds penetrating his chest.
According to FAFG, a DNA match led to the identification of José Zenon Hernández Cuzanero, whose family members contributed samples of their own DNA in the hope that it would help lead to his discovery.
According to the family, Hernández left the family’s village for the capital in late 1983, hoping to avoid persecution by the military. When he never returned, they assumed something had happened to him, but did not rule out the possibility he had fled to another country. Hernández’s brother, Paul Hernández Cuzanero, also disappeared, but has not been found.
The first two victims associated with the Diario Militar, Amancio Samuel Villatoro and Sergio Saúl Linares Morales, were identified by the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation in November 2011. Their skeletal remains had been exhumed at a former army detachment in Comalapa, Chimaltenango, in 2003 (also reported on the Archive’s website). Another four victims, whose remains were found in the same at the same site, were identified in March 2012: Juan de Dios Samayoa Velásquez, Hugo Navarro Mérida, Moisés Saravia López, and a fourth whose identity has not yet been officially confirmed.
The identification of José Zenon Hernández Cuzanero, the seventh person among 183 victims of the Military Diary to be restored to his family, affirms the importance of documents in the fight for justice in Guatemala, denying again the military’s attempt to erase an individual and a history.