Serge Berten

In 1975 Serge came as a young student study with the Scheut Fathers and a degree of social worker to Guatemala. Serge was born in Menen, but rooted in Guatemala. Once installed in Guatemala, Serge radically choose the side of  ‘la gente comun en el campo‘, the common people of the country side, without wasting big words and theories. As his commitment to the peole increased and a permanent structure in the United Peasent Comité (CUC) was established, Serge became more silent.

During his last vacation in Belgium, he didn’t say much anymore. He talked about the classes he thought, mainly adult education. In his last letter of December 16th, 1981, he wrote that many people where shot and killed. He attributed it to the upcoming elections.

(c) Family Berten

(c) Family Berten

I shouldn’t worry about him, that was his last sentence, his last words. (Agnes, Serges mother in a newspaper interview in “De Morgen” of april, 10th 1986 ). The repression against the people’s organisations, under the purview of General Lucas Garcia ( 1978 – 1982 )  excelerated.  The CUC as a nationaly structured union of peasent laborers, was outlawed. It approached the Guerrilla amry of the Poor (EGP) one of the four guerilla organisation in Guatemala. In January 1980, about forty cadres of the CUC and student leaders peacefully occupied the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City. At the command of Lucas Garcia, the building was torched with napalm. The occupants died a horible death, amongst them, Rigoberta Menchú’s father. (In 1992 Rigoberta was awarded theNobel Peace Price). During the frist days of January 1982, the militaries interest in Serge became apparent.  On January 19th, 1982 he was brutaly and cowardly obducted together with two compañeros. The political and military leaders diened any involvement from the state or military. The Belgians Governements opportunistically also kept silent.

“Four years ago, Serge Berten was apprehended  by paramilitairy groups. The parents received no news since. Also at Foreign Affairs no word of  explanation.” (De Morgen, april 10th, 1986 )

Today Guatebelga takes up the legal fight against this criminal silence.