A Harvard Law School graduate whose husband, a Guatemalan guerrilla leader, was abducted in March 1992 has published a book about her ordeal.
In Searching for Everardo: A Story of Love, War and the CIA in Guatemala, Jennifer K. Harbury, who graduated from the law school in 1978, writes about her struggle to find Efrain Bamaca "Everardo" Velasquez.
Jose Pertierra, one of Harbury's lawyers, said his client's struggle to find Everardo has drawn enormous attention to human-rights abuses in Guatemala.
In an interview, Pertierra said "150,000 people have been killed in Guatemala in the past 30 years but the only thing people in the U.S. knew was that volcanoes and Indians were there."
"Harbury put Guatemala on the map and focused the debate on prisoners of war," he added.
The book is targeted to "people who are interested in serious non-fiction," said Ida Veltri, a publicity manager at Warner Books, Harbury's publisher.
Harbury will appear on the Charlie Rose show on PBS and will appear at bookstores in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and New York on a publicity tour.
Harbury met Everardo in Guatemala while investigating human-rights abuses there; the two were married in Austin, Tex., in September 1991.
At the time Everardo was the highest-ranking member of the military wing of the URNG, the United Front of Guatemalan Guerrillas, a Mayan rebel group.
Everardo disappeared on March 12, 1992 after the group of rebels he was leading was attacked by a Guatemalan army patrol. The Guatemalan army maintained that Everardo committed suicide to evade capture, but Harbury believed her husband was alive and being held in a clandestine torture center.
Harbury's claims were strengthened after another guerrilla, Santiago "Carlos" Lopez, claimed he saw Everardo alive.
To attract attention to Everardo's disappearance, Harbury staged a 32-day hunger strike in Guatemala City in October 1994. The hunger strike drew world-wide attention to human-rights abuses in Guatemala.
In April 1995, President Clinton ordered an investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) role in Everardo's murder. The inquiry was started after Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), now a U.S. senator, released documents suggesting Everardo had been murdered by a Guatemalan general on the CIA's payroll and that agency officials attempted to cover up the death.
"The U.S. knew Everardo had been captured and where he was and what information he was providing the Guatemalan army a few days after his capture," Pertierra said. "The U.S. claimed it had no knowledge about Everardo until Torricelli came forth."
"Harbury's case has forced the CIA's hand in Guatemala and the agency has punished several CIA people in charge of Guatemala," Pertierra said.
Since Torricelli's revelation, Harbury has been pursuing Everardo's case on several legal fronts, Pertierra said.
Harbury denounced the Guatemalan government at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in March 1996 and filed a civil-rights suit against officials in the CIA, State Department and National Security Council, according to her book.
The Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the government of Guatemala had illegally detained, tortured and murdered Everardo, Pertierra said. As a result of the judgement, the Guatemala government is liable for damages to Harbury, he said.
The Guatemalan government has refused to accept the judgement and the case has been sent to the Inter-American Court in Costa Rica and is set for an international trial in early 1998, Pertierra said.
Lawyers working on Harbury's case have been attacked, Pertierra said. He said his own car had been a target of a fire bomb.
As Everardo's widow, Harbury can act as a special prosecutor on her husband's murder case in Guatemala, Pertierra said.
"The government of Guatemala has been adamant about refusing to accept her marriage and got a judgement from the Constitutional Court, the highest court in Guatemala, saying her marriage would not be recognized in that country," Pertierra said.
"A marriage valid in Texas is valid everywhere and the OAS made a finding that she was Everardo's wife," he noted.
Proceeds from the book will go to the Everardo Foundation, which was founded by Harbury to help implement the Guatemalan peace accords signed on Dec. 29, 1996, Pertierra said. The Guatemalan peace accords marked the close of 35 years of bloodshed in Guatemala and ended the longest civil war in Latin America.
"Money [from the book] will be used so people can start development projects in their villages," Pertierra said.
Harbury's struggle to find Everardo, as outlined in her book, also contributed to a more favorable set of accords, Pertierra said.
"This case showed the international community that the Guatemalan army needed to be purged," Pertierra said.
"[The case] has led to a reduction in the size of the army and the purge of human-rights violators in the military."
Despite Harbury's efforts and book, the Guatemalan government has not turned over Everardo's remains.
"We were told that Everardo was buried on a military base, which we have not been able to excavate," Pertierra said. "A Guatemalan government lawyer showed up [at the burial site] and stopped the exhumation because the two goons surrounding him had automatic weapons."
"If the army gives up Everardo's remains, it will show he was brutally tortured and that would be embarrassing to the army," Pertierra said.
"They don't want those bones to talk because we know they brutally tortured him, so much so that he spent the last days of his life in a full body cast," he said.
Harbury's father, Henry, said he was proud of his daughter, in a telephone interview from New Hampshire.
"[Harbury] is trying to help the people of Guatemala and has created an awareness in this country concerning events in Guatemala," he said.
Jennifer Harbury is currently practicing law part time for Texas Rural Legal Aid in Weslaco, Tex., Pertierra said.
Her book is published by Warner Books and will be sold in bookstores nationwide starting March 27, Veltri said.
Harbury and officials of the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment yesterday