He was one of the survivors of the armed conflict (1960-1996), and his father and brother were among the 250.000 who were killed or went missing due to security forces during this bloody period, according to estimates by humanitarian groups.
Sisay comes from the town of Santiago Atitlán, from the province of Sololá (Guatemala), and he wanted to share with Prensa Latina some of the experiences of the war, in which Efraín Ríos Montt and José Rodríguez were the masterminds of the killing of 1771 indigenous people according to evidence presented by the prosecution.
In Santiago Atitlán, he recalls, most of the families were involved, with one or more members in the conflagration.
“Many of the approaches to the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Movement were endorsed by the town of Santiago Atitlán because it struggled to solve problems such as land, poverty, education, discrimination, exploitation, and injustice lived in this country for hundreds of years”.
In his opinion, the terrible situation faced by citizens made them identify with the goals of the Revolutionary Movement, and said that many of those who were part of the guerrilla movement were students, peasants and workers.
“It wasn’t a crazy war, and we weren’t cannon fodder, as some say. We were well aware that we could fight for a better world” he said, having served as a sanitarian and also having sung melodies.
He remembers that he began his military life as a musician of the revolution, and as a group a lot of material was produced recounting, denouncing the repression, and the massacres committed by the army during the confrontation.
Asked if he could vocalize some fragment of one of the songs, he hummed: “Murdering army, out of power”, and states that first they chanted “Murdering army, out of Quiché” because it was one of the provinces which was most affected by the killings.
“There were many exterminations of villages, of whole towns, and we reported it and urged the military to leave the communities” as he recalls what happened during the 80s while in the guerrillas.
Of course, I was in the Guerrilla Army of the Poor, in front Ernesto Che Guevara, about seven years since the late 70s.
And what did your parents say about your decision to fight?
I had no contact with my parents during my time with the guerrillas. My father Salvador Sisay was murdered by paramilitaries in Santiago Atitlán, due to the fact that two of my brothers were in the guerrilla. One of them, Regino Cruz, was killed in combat.
Michael has a lump in his throat and his eyes glaze over; however, he finds the strength to emphasize this: “We knew it was not easy, of course the deaths of so many people so close to us are painful”.
Human rights organizations in Guatemala called for the resignation or dismissal of the secretary of the Peace and the Chairman of the Presidential Commission for Human Rights in Guatemala, Antonio Arenales.
The protesters also demanded the development and implementation of a human rights policy consistent with international obligations, a statement expresses which was accessed by Prensa Latina.
The document was initialled by groups as the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Living Memory Foundation Interiano Hector, the Myrna Mack Foundation and Serge Berten committee, days after sending a letter to President Otto Perez Molina, who would require compliance with the judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Arenales is accused of being the mastermind of actions such as closing the Peace files and is acussed of meddling in the actions of the judicial power by denying that during the Guatemalan civil war, forced disappearances and genocide were perpetrated, the latter a crime for which the former dictator Rios Montt and Rodriguez, his chief of military intelligence.
On the 25th of February, relatives of the victims placed the replica of an ossuary and photographs of loved ones outside the headquarters of the Congress, meanwhile the Working Group on Enforced Disappearance Guatemala staged a demonstration in the same place.
The director of the International Centre for Human Rights Research, Jorge Santos, asked the president of the legislature, Pedro Muadi, that the Board put on the agenda the law initiative which is expected to create the National Commission to Search for Victims of Enforced Disappearance.
However, the signatories of this social group considered that progress on justice in Guatemala is small compared to the barbarity committed by government agents during the armed conflict.
According to the note, “the government headed by a soldier (Otto Perez Molina) has militarised government institutions, has stopped actions involving memory recovery, clarifying the truth and promoting justice.
They also urged the judges of the Trial Court for High Risk Matters to not be deterred by pressure from sectors wishing impunity to prevail in this nation, and they demanded that authorities provide security for judges, prosecutors, experts, witnesses and complainants involved in the case against Ríos Montt and Rodríguez.
The National Day of Dignity for the Victims of Civil War takes place in Guatemala since the 25th of February 1999, when the Commission for Historical Clarification of the UN released the report referring to the human rights violations committed during 36 years in this Central American country.
(Translated by: Sophie Maling – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)