Guatemala: Adriana Portillo: “I would like to find my daughters or their corpses”

By Alba Trejo

 Guatemala, June (SEMlac). - Adriana Portillo is one of the Guatemalan women
 most seriously affected by the war. Her two daughters aged 10 and nine went
 missing in 1981, when the army raided the house where the two girls were
 being looked after by their grandfather. She has had no news of them ever
 since.

 Portillo told SEMlac that she hopes they were adopted or are working as
 servants somewhere.

 According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, over 50,000 people
 went missing during the armed conflict in Guatemala, including children who
 were enslaved, used as servants, adopted, or killed.

 Why did you take the case of your daughters out of the country?

 Six family members had been going missing. My brother had been killed. I was
 terrified.

 What happened on that day?

 My daughters had gone out with their father and his brother. We would all
 meet again at a birthday party. They were probably killed there, I don’t
 know.

 What were police and army forces looking for?

 The house was the meeting place for members of the Revolutionary
 Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA). My father was in charge of caring
 for the wounded and for those trying to escape repression.

 Did your girls and the rest of the family go missing on that very day?

 Some eye witnesses say that a pickup broke into and came out of the house
 garage completely covered. Some others say that two women and two girls were
 taken out of the house by force and were crying for help.

 What do you think about it?

 My daughters were fully aware of the situation in the country and of what
 the army was doing. So, they may have been killed, but my little sister may
 have given in adoption. My father was beaten to death.

 What do you expect to find every time you come back to Guatemala?

 I have been looking for my daughters for 31 years. I don’t know if they were
 killed or adopted.

 How do you remember them?

 It is very difficult for me to speak about them. Rosaura was shy, but was
 always smiling, and loved dancing. Glenda was more extrovert and very
 inquisitive. One day, she asked me: why are there poor and rich people? Why
 do some children have so many toys and we don’t have any?

 Do you still hope they are alive?

 I spent three years looking for them in the streets. I just want to know
 whether they were killed or adopted.

 What have you done all these years?

 What haven’t I done? I have been working as a human-rights activist since
 1984. I have met with the United Nations Committee against Torture. I have
 asked the U.S. government to provide me with information, but I was told it
 was state secret.

 I have found National Police declassified information; I have met with local
 authorities; and I have been waiting for the prosecution services to advise
 me of their actions, but so far nothing has come up.

 How have you dealt with the absence of your daughters?

 I have been on psychiatric treatment ever since. If I don’t take my pills, I
 cannot sleep. I have even tried to commit suicide.

 On the other hand, I think I am a privileged person because many families in
 a similar situation have not been able to speak out at the forums I have. I
 feel I am the voice of those who have not been able to do so.

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