WASHINGTON -- Government officials said yesterday that classified documents strongly suggest that a Guatemalan army colonel who was a CIA informer may be guilty of the 1992 killing of a guerrilla married to an American and the 1990 murder of an American innkeeper.
The State Department provided the classified documents to Congress on Friday, but, citing national security and the secrecy demanded by intelligence services, omitted these documents from thousands of papers on human-rights abuses in Guatemala that it declassified and released to the public yesterday.
The classified documents give a more damning depiction of the colonel's role in the killings than do the documents that were released.
A U.S. government official read aloud from the classified documents in a telephone interview. The official, who insisted on anonymity, said he was disturbed by the "disconnect" between the classified and public records.
The case of Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez, which came to light in March 1995, revealed the CIA's deep ties to Guatemalan military officers suspected of human-rights abuses.
The papers released to the public, while strongly implicating the colonel in the cover-up of the murder of the American innkeeper, Michael DeVine, suggest just as strongly that the colonel was not guilty of the killing.
But a March 24, 1995, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to the State Department said, "Alpirez may very well be guilty of DeVine's murder."
The cable warns against "naming Alpirez" as a suspect in the killing, saying that could lead to legal challenges of the convictions of low-level Guatemalan army officers jailed for the slaying.
The classified documents also implicate the colonel more directly in the 1990 killing of the guerrilla than anything made public yesterday.
A March 23, 1995, memo from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research links the colonel directly to the killing. The captured guerrilla, Efrain Bamaca, was married to Jennifer Harbury, an American lawyer who conducted hunger strikes and spoke out to force the U.S. government to release information on the case.
Pub Date: 5/07/96