Guatemalan Brothers Reunite 31 Years after War

GUATEMALA CITY - Brothers Alberto and Gregorio Tut Cac last saw each other in 1982, when they fled to the mountains of northwestern Guatemala to save their lives as soldiers destroyed their village amid a bloody civil war.

Alberto and Gregorio embraced for the first time in 31 years Thursday, after a non-governmental organization helped them find each other.

With the Tut Cac brothers, the Mutual Support Group has helped reunite 108 people separated during the war.

"In 2001, people looking for their loved ones began approaching us," said Mario Polanco, director of the group. "We have 1,500 cases now and of those we have helped 108 reunite."

Alberto was 11 years old and Gregorio was 19, when in June 1982 the army entered their village in the town of Ixcan.

"The army came in and burned our village and we didn't have a place to go to so we hid in the mountain," said Gregorio Tut Cac, 50. "I spent a year in the mountain."

Gregorio Tut Cac said they were 10 siblings and he has only been reunited with one.

"The (soldiers) came in shooting, I took off running, I was 11 years old," Alberto Tut Cac said.

During their emotional reunion, Gregorio told Alberto he kept having dreams about his siblings and mother and that pushed him to approach the Mutual Support Group and ask them for help.

The two brothers ended up in southern Mexico, where they lived for 13 years, but never saw each other. Both returned to Guatemala in 1995, but one went to live in the south and the other in north.

Roberta de Beltranena of Red Cross International Committee, which financially supports the reunions, said one of their goals is to help families find out what happened to their relatives.

"Our intention is to help people who suffered during the armed conflict to restart their lives and move on," Beltranena said.

About 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala's 36-year civil war, 93 percent of them by state forces and paramilitary groups.

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