Five Guatemalan soldiers are under fire after a video surfaced showing them taking turns beating and kicking two minors.
The video went viral, and Guatemalans on social media expressed anger and outrage at what many called "an abuse of authority" by the soldiers. The clip struck a nerve in the Central American country that suffered decades of recorded abuses by the military during the Guatemalan Civil War.
The clip lasts 1:43 minutes.
The two teens allegedly ran from a military convoy and defied an order to stop. They were detained and taken to an alley or narrow street, where a bystander recorded the footage.
The minors are seen standing with their backs against a wall in a town in Chimaltenango department, in central Guatemala, on July 26. A group of soldiers with rifles slung over the backs take turns slapping, punching, kneeing, and even drop-kicking the young men.
"I am sweaty now and it's your fault," one of the soldiers is heard saying as he slaps and punches one of the boys. "You just saw us and took off running."
The soldiers are seen throwing punch after punch. At one point one of the young men vomits, causing more anger from the attackers.
The video began circulating last Friday.
Guatemala's federal prosecutor's office on Monday identified those involved as members of the Mariscal Zavala brigade of Guatemala's army. Corporals Melvin García and Misael Chin, as well as soldiers Luis Pacheco, Ismar Lopez, and Oscar Ramirez took part in the beating. So far none have received charges.
Guatemalan human-rights officials and an agency in charge of investigating crimes against women and children said were are investigating. The army's spokesman, meanwhile, said the two boys were "probably" members of a gang. But the teens in the video do not have cropped hair or tattoos, visual hallmarks of Central America's powerful street gangs.
While the clip caused outrage among some Guatemalans and human rights advocates, others approved of the soldiers' actions, arguing they were doing their job. Guatemala has experienced an uptick in crime in recent years, and some Guatemalans say the army is the only viable outlet to combat the violence.
President Otto Perez Molina, a former general, took office in 2012, winning election largely on his promises to apply "an iron fist" against criminals.
Another former general, Efrain Rios Montt, faces charges of genocide for ordering the massacre of indigenous Guatemalans during his term as president in the early 1980s.
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