Guatemala seeks former president on genocide charges

GUATEMALA CITY,  (Reuters) – Authorities in Guatemala  declared former president Oscar Mejia a fugitive yesterday  after ordering his arrest to face charges of genocide during  the 36-year civil war in the Central American country.

Oscar Mejia

Mejia, 80, is wanted for ordering massacres in the Ixil,  Quiche indigenous region when he served as chief of the  military in 1982-1983, the war’s bloodiest years under former  dictator Efrain Rios Montt, the government said.

A court put out an arrest warrant late on Wednesday for  Mejia, who led a military coup against Rios Montt and served as  president between 1983 and early 1986.

Police raided four homes in the capital Guatemala City but  could not find Mejia, prompting the Attorney General’s office  to announce that it had declared him a fugitive.

The 1960-1996 civil war between government forces and  leftist guerrillas left dead or missing nearly a quarter  million people, mostly Mayan.

A United Nations-backed truth commission after the war  found the army had committed hundreds of massacres.

Guatemala elects a new president next month.

Right-wing candidate and retired general Otto Perez is  leading the race to replace leftist President Alvaro Colom,  whose administration has started cracking down on suspected war  criminals.

The prospect of a military man taking the reins again in  Guatemala has stirred up memories of the civil war. A poll on  Wednesday showed the contest is tightening.

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