Finding Oscar (2016) Movie Script

President Rios Montt and
I have had a useful exchange
of ideas on the
problems of the region
and on our bilateral relations.
This is a very normal
scene for an exhumation.
However, it's just as special
as every other exhumation.
These are at least three people.
Three lives, three families.
We are here at the
families' request
with their trust in what we're doing.
Many people come to
the site with the hope
that they will be able to
learn what really happened
to their loved ones.
The hope that the body of that
loved one will be identified
and eventually
given back to them
so that they can bury it
properly in a dignified way.
Forensic Anthropology
is the application
of physical anthropology
techniques to a criminal setting.
To establish certain things
like the age, the sex,
but most importantly what
makes it actually forensic
is trying to understand
how the person died.
Although the recollection of
evidence serves the purpose
of justice, it serves the
purpose of truth just as well.
After we recover the body,
we have to analyze that body
and compare it to the information
of the missing person
that was forcibly disappeared
or extralegally executed.
And that's what happened here.
These communities were
targeted as a strategy
to get rid of them.
We have about 2,000 bodies
stored in these cardboard boxes.
The FAFG has conducted over
From all the investigations
we carried out,
the Dos Erres investigation
really stands out.
Usually we are looking
to identify the dead,
but here we were
looking for the living.
We were looking for Oscar.
If you talk to people who
know about what happened here,
the Oscar story became
kinda the poster child
of the past in Guatemala.
The Civil War in Guatemala was
one of the longest civil wars
in Central America.
It started in the '50s
when they deposed a
democratically elected president
that was basically engineered
with the help of
the United States.
It was right on the heels
of the Cuban revolution,
so everybody's thinking that
Guatemala is gonna become Cuba.
The question before
us all is can freedom
in the next generation conquer
or are the Communists
going to be successful?
That's the great issue.
Jacobo Arbenz was the
first elected leader
to be overthrown by the
United States government.
And it created tremendous and
very violent repercussions
inside the country that
lasted for decades,
and in some senses still
reverberate in Guatemala today.
The Guatemalan
conflict stands out
for the sheer volume of deaths,
the brutality of the military,
the one-sidedness
of the conflict,
basically the Guatemalan military
against leftist guerillas.
And so the US does see
in a Cold War prism,
so you have a US trained,
US backed military.
We've been slow to
understand that the defense
of the Caribbean
and Central America
against Marxist/Leninist
takeover is vital
to our national security in
ways we're not accustomed
to thinking about.
What we can do is help to give
them the skills and supplies
they need to do the
job for themselves.
The US continued to support
the Guatemalan military always
with this idea that the
military was the best
and first bulwark against rising
Communism in Latin America.
When Efrain Rios Montt
took over in a coup
in March of 1982,
he basically brought
in a new set of rules
of fighting the war.
By that time,
there were already red
flags waving over Guatemala
about the human rights crisis
that was unfolding
in the country.
There were already these
mutilated bodies showing up
in the streets.
And it was very
clear by July of 1982
that the peace had accelerated
immensely under Rios Montt.
And that hundreds of
villages were being razed
to the ground, and
tens of thousands
of people were being killed.
That was the story of 1982.
And there was report
after report coming out,
trying to get to
the bottom of this.
Who was doing this, why.
With the White House
sending people to say,
you know, it's the fog of
war, it's very unclear,
the guerrillas are very violent.
They're very brutal.
We believe they're the
ones doing the massacres.
We believe they're dressing
up in military uniforms
and massacring people.
December 1982, Reagan and
Rios Montt meet in person
for the first time.
and Gentleman,
the President of the
Republic of Guatemala,
Efrain Rios Montt,
and the President of the
United States of America.
Reagan is openly admiring
of the head of state
of Guatemala and says
that he thinks Rios Montt
has received a bum rap from
human rights organizations
on the abuses that are
taking place under his regime
and that he offers the
best democratic alternative
that Guatemala could hope for.
I know that President
Rios Montt is a man
of great personal
integrity and commitment.
I have assured the President
that the United States
is committed to support his
efforts to restore democracy
and to address the root causes
of this violent insurgency.
President Reagan made those
comments about Rios Montt
on December 4th, 1982,
which was just two
days before a unit
of Special Forces in
Guatemala, the Kaibiles,
entered the village
of Dos Erres.
Weeks before the
Dos Erres massacre
there's an ambush carried
out by leftist guerrillas
on the Guatemalan military,
and it's a victory
for the guerillas,
and they are able to
kill some soldiers
and make off with
20 or 21 rifles.
And that's seen as a humiliating
defeat by the military,
and the order goes
out that we need
to find the perpetrators of
this ambush, recover the rifles,
and teach them a lesson.
The intelligence that
comes in suggests
that this guerrilla unit
that committed this ambush
may be somewhere in the
vicinity of Dos Erres.
The rapid reaction force,
this squad of twenty Kaibiles
with a support team of
additional commandos is sent
to attack Dos Erres, find the
guerrillas, find the rifles,
and punish those responsible.
This is one of several
documents that we obtained
about the Dos Erres massacre.
This actually is a cable
that the US Embassy
in Guatemala City sent
to the State Department
in Washington
about the first intimations
that something had happened
in Dos Erres in the Peten.
The cable is written
in late December 1982,
so it's some weeks after the
massacre has taken place.
Source said there have been
three theories, all rumors,
concerning the
incident in Dos Erres.
One, the army arrested
all the inhabitants
and took them into the jungle.
Two, the army took the men
to the army base in Poptun,
and the women and children to
the army base in San Benito.
Three, the army killed
everyone in the village,
dumped them into the well,
and covered the well over.
Though no bodies
have been found,
all the people have disappeared.
Parallel to the
massacres that were taking place
in the countryside, the
Guatemalan government also tried
to eliminate people that
it perceived as a threat,
as an enemy of the
state inside the cities.
We're talking about people
in the universities,
the scholars, the students.
We're talking about
lawyers, and journalists,
and artists, and writers.
And the way the government
dealt with urban enemies was
to disappear them.
People were targeted,
because they decided
to attempt to
change the country.
The bodies were usually
buried in clandestine locations,
sometimes on the
same military bases
where they were tortured.
Those disappeared people grew
into an enormous
population of the vanished.
By the end of the war,
the Truth Commission
says there were
some 40,000 disappeared people.
I would say that the
army inadvertently
and unintentionally
created activists
whose beloved ones
were disappeared,
taken away and
who couldn't stand
not doing anything about it.
A lot of
family members began
to get together and
form organizations.
One of those
organizations is FAMDEGUA,
Families of the Detained and
the Disappeared of Guatemala.
FAMDEGUA was one of the
first groups that went in
and tried to sort of
document what happened
in the countryside at a time
when in Guatemala
nobody dared to do it.
And they're lead by
a very impressive woman
who is still today
looking for her brother.
learned of the massacre
at Dos Erres, they
decided to investigate.
To help all the family members
look for their missing.
The villagers had
been told not to go in there,
and they were all
terrified to go back
and try to dig
through the rubble.
So the area remained a ghost
town for more than a decade.
Anthropology allows you
to use very specific techniques
to document evidence,
and then later reproduce this
evidence in a court of law
to explain it to a judge, to
explain it to the prosecutor,
to explain it to the family.
In the
case of Dos Erres,
you have one of the
earliest exhumations
ever done in Guatemala.
She's investigating this
at a time where the powers
that committed these atrocities
are very much still
active and strong.
And the military really
hasn't been touched.
Many people felt
that there would be justice.
That the worst of the worst
would be brought to account.
But impunity in Guatemala is
as intrinsic to that culture
as its volcanoes and its coffee.
It's powerful.
It's intransigent.
It's very hard to break.
Rios Montt decided in November
of 1982 to use the Kaibiles
as this kind of
mobile killing unit.
Through this policy,
Rios Montt really unleashes
these commandos, the Kaibiles,
who are among the best-trained
and the most famously
brutal in the hemisphere.
The Kaibil unit,
very much modeled itself
on the US Special Forces.
They're designed to
terrorize the populous.
Going into certain areas
where they feel the guerillas
are the most active.
Particularly indigenous areas
and this scorched-earth policy
of massacre, you know,
as a tool of warfare.
She's actually on the radio
in these military controlled
areas where there has been
so much killing and
brutality appealing
to people who know about
this to come forward.
And then she gets
this incredible tip,
one of the soldiers
who was involved
in the massacre
wants to talk to her.
Fabio Pinzon
is not a full-fledged Kaibil.
He's actually a cook.
He's always felt like within
this elite, hard as nails group
that he was treated
as an underling.
So he's breaking this
incredible code of silence,
and that could get him killed.
So she's got this remarkable,
first hand confession
from a soldier,
which in the annuls
of the Guatemalan dirty
war is extremely rare.
Pinzon gives her
investigation a jolt forward.
And he convinces
another soldier,
and this guy who is an
actual full-fledged Kaibil,
Cesar Ibanez, also
to speak to her.
We welcome change
and openness,
for we believe that freedom
and security go together.
That the advance of human
liberty can only strengthen
the cause of world peace.
Mr. Gorbachav, open this gate.
Mr. Gorbachav, tear
down this wall.
The Guatemalan civil
conflict went on for 36 years,
and it really only
finally came to an end
in the mid 1990s
for two reasons.
Number one, the Cold War
ended, the Berlin Wall fell,
and it didn't make as much
sense to continue to fight,
or to back a war that was
so centrally organized
around anti-Communism.
In December of 1996,
the government signed the
final peace agreement,
which ended the
war for, for good.
Finally, you had talks
in Oslo, Norway that led
to the signing of an
accord about human rights
that included the creation
of a truth commission.
The Truth Commission
had recommended
that the government take
on the responsibility
of finding the disappeared,
of identifying mass graves,
of exhuming bodies as
part of its reparations
to affected communities.
But the government
was not inclined
to participate at that level.
Sara Romero's
a young, rookie prosecutor
who's assigned this case.
Her first year
out of law school,
Sara Romero gets thrown
this case I'm sure
because nobody else
wanted to handle it.
She tries to start
investigating what happened
in Dos Erres.
Her focus is getting the
testimony of these two soldiers,
which is going to be
absolutely crucial and unique.
The soldiers' testimony is
very important for two reasons.
Number one, it's extremely rare
to have soldiers confessing
to having participated
in a massacre,
the actual participants
to describe it.
Number two, they open the door
to an even more
remarkable, powerful piece
of potential evidence,
which is that they describe
that two little boys
survive the massacre,
and were taken away by soldiers.
Sara Romero knows that
she's got potentially rare
and powerful legal
ammunition here,
where she can actually
maybe build a case
against the military
for the massacre,
so she needs to
find these two boys.
Oscar has no memories
whatsoever of Dos Erres.
As far as he knows, he's
brought up by this family
and taught to revere this
lieutenant who was his father.
You talk to people in that town,
he's someone who's seen
as a heroic figure,
who died shortly after
bringing Oscar back.
Sara Romero runs into
a series of dead ends.
The family is not very helpful.
There's great resentment
that she could be
investigating the Lieutenant
and suggesting that
he's something other
than this heroic military man.
So Sara Romero goes out
and does her detective work
and actually finds
Santos Alonzo,
the Kaibil that took the other
little boy from Dos Erres.
She doesn't have this
high-powered squad
of cops accompanying her.
It's pretty much her and
an assistant going out
to this remote, still
dangerous area trying
to investigate this massacre.
She starts asking around, and
the military starts hearing.
Oh, why does the prosecutor
want to talk to Ramiro?
A lot of these kids
who were abducted
by soldiers were brought back
to homes often in rural areas.
And raised, not
necessarily as part
of the family like Oscar was.
That's kind of unique.
They were raised almost
as indentured servants.
Ramiro was
raised in an abusive household.
His nightmare did not end
with the Dos Erres massacre,
which he was old
enough to remember.
Salome Hernandez and his
brother have the epic misfortune
of arriving in the
middle of this massacre,
and being grabbed and taken
by the rest of these people.
But Salome is one of
the few who manages
to escape and survive.
This is where things
start to go bad.
One of the lieutenants
the second in command,
Rosales Batres, rapes a woman.
And when he does that, other
soldiers follow his lead.
This operation degenerates
into barbarity.
This goes on for hours, so
at some point in the morning,
some of the women who
have been raped are forced
to feed the soldiers.
The morning sort of builds
and the commanders are talking
to one another and
they're on the radio back
to supervisors elsewhere,
but at some point the decision
is made that they are going
to interrogate the villagers
in the center of town.
Basically they
start going into the school
and into the church and pulling
out the men and the women
and children and taking
them down to this well.
They have set
themselves up by the well,
and the people
are brought there,
and one of the first
killed is a small child.
By the afternoon,
the massacre is over,
250 people have been killed.
So the well is full,
and the village is
littered with corpses.
And five survivors appear.
Five children, three
girls, and two little boys.
And so for whatever reason the
soldiers decide they're going
to take them with them.
They start the hike
back out of the village.
The girls sadly meet
a horrible fate.
They rape them and they
kill them the next day.
But the boys they
take back with them.
These little boys are
relatively light skinned
and they have green eyes.
And that kinda makes them
stand out in this region,
which is mostly indigenous.
This cable is
dated December 31,
so it's just the day after
the US Embassy organized
a flyover of the
Dos Erres village.
This cable describes what
the embassy officer saw
when they went to the region
where the massacre
had taken place.
On December 30,
three mission members
and a third country
diplomat visited Poptun
and Las Cruces, El
Peten in an attempt
to check an alleged
massacre at Dos Erres.
Dos Erres consists of scattered
houses and groups of houses.
They are all deserted
and many have been burnt.
Army officials said guerrillas,
quote took the
people away, unquote.
At this point, the helicopter
pilot refused to touch down.
He did agree, however, to
sweep low over the area.
There were no signs of life.
It is somewhat difficult to
believe that the disappearance
and possible liquidation of
hundreds of people so close
to Las Cruces could remain
a mystery for weeks.
Based on information
reported by source
and on site observations
made on December 30,
the Embassy must conclude
that the party most
likely responsible
for this incident is
the Guatemalan army.
After reading these
cables, you would think
that that would have
led to, at a minimum,
a pronouncement on the part of
the United States government
about what was
happening in Guatemala.
And to the contrary.
It's simply, it
sank like a stone.
You had a complicity by
omission, a Reagan government
that was not willing
to call out its allies
in the Guatemalan state.
Very shortly after this,
in January of 1983,
the Reagan administration once
again went back to Congress
to try to get a new aid package
for the Guatemalan military.
That's how little the
Reagan administration took
into account reports like this.
The US government by
accepting this massacre happened
and the Scorched Earth
campaign of Rios Montt
was a tacit participant of
the massacres that continued.
The Dos Erres massacre
is very distinct,
but at the same time,
just like many others.
There are many things that we
see over and over, the rape,
the sexual abuse of
women and little girls.
The separation of the
women from the men.
The length of
detention to make sure
that people were
tortured publicly
and all of these things
happened at Dos Erres.
The Dos Erres Massacre
was one of 629 massacres
that have been documented
by the UN sponsored
Truth Commission.
There are an
estimated 200,000 civilian
dead in Guatemala.
There are
hundreds of other massacres
like this with great impunity.
These massacres are not
quote unquote solved
and no one is ever punished.
If the government isn't ready,
and there's no political
will to actually prosecute,
there will be no prosecution.
That's very common in Guatemala.
There's this
crescendo of activity,
which you would expect to lend
to some kind of
immediate resolution,
and instead, the case
ends up in legal limbo
for almost another decade.
Around 2009, there is some
progress with the case,
the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights,
an external regional body,
acting on legal actions filed
by FAMDEGUA rules in their favor
and issues a judicial order
that Guatemala should
pursue this case,
and it also makes
public the list
of those commandos
charged in Guatemala.
Now things come full
circle and the US,
and Immigrations
Customs and Enforcements
in particular has an interesting
unit that they have set up
to pursue war criminals
from all over the world.
And ICE starts going through
its records and its documents,
and it identifies a
number of the commandos
as long time US residents.
I received an
investigative referral.
It was from the Human
Rights War Crimes Unit
in Washington D.C.
They came across
Gilberto Jordan's name
and knew that he
was in the country.
That's one of the first
things I wanted to do was just
to see where is the man living
that's been accused
of these crimes.
You want to try to see what
does this person do day to day,
what is their life like now?
He had a nice little home.
Appeared to have a nice family.
Mr. Jordan was working as a
cook at a high-end country club.
At one point one of his
fellow employees told me
he was the best employee there.
He's got three kids.
He's got a son who has
himself joined US Military
as US citizen, and
served in Iraq.
What I first did is
I get his application
for naturalization.
This is the form you fill out
when you want to become
a United States citizen.
ICE can't prosecute
these guys for war crimes.
But in order to prosecute
for immigration crimes
it essentially has to
prove that they lied
when they got their
citizenship or their residence.
And essentially build a
miniature war crimes case
against them, even if
it's just to convict them
of a crime as seemingly
prosaic or mundane
as lying on your
citizenship application.
On this form, they ask you
specifically were you ever
in a foreign military.
Mr. Jordan had put no.
They asked if he had
committed any crimes,
even for which he
had not been charged.
He had put no.
So him being in the
military is important,
but what is more important is
that I place him
at that massacre.
It's a tricky thing.
He talks about it
with the prosecutors,
and they tell him look,
we've got this information
from Guatemala,
the Inter-American
court all that,
but it's going to be very hard
unless you get a confession.
One of the things
I'm told is that a lot
of the killing started
when he threw an
infant into the well.
I need Mr. Jordan to admit
his role in the massacre.
The decision is made.
Let's go knock on his door
and let's see what happens.
We go outside Mr. Jordan's
house in the morning.
We go to the door and
we're knocking on it.
We're armed.
I'm going to the house of
someone who was highly trained.
He's a Special Forces soldier.
So, Mr. Jordan
won't open the door.
We're a little nervous.
They stop
his wife on the street
and they get his
wife to call him.
And sure enough,
Jordan has been dreading
this moment for years.
And Jordan says to her,
they're here to kill me.
She goes, no they're
the cops, it's okay,
you can open the door.
He says, they've got guns.
She says, yes but
they're the cops,
it's okay, you can open up.
We sat down at his kitchen
table and we started to talk.
We started with the
military things.
Do you know so and so?
And he'd say "yeah
oh I knew him.
"I worked underneath him, he
was my commanding officer."
He's upset.
I can see he's visibly upset.
It's almost like he had
been waiting, dreading,
but accepting that that
moment was going to happen,
and someone was going to
come and ask him about this.
He just starts talking about it.
Mr. Jordan breaks down and
starts talking about the well.
So we asked him, you know,
who went into the well.
And his response was
todo, meaning all.
Everybody went into the well.
He described to us
that he was crying,
he was upset at
what was happening
and that he threw the
baby into the well.
Gilberto Jordan pled guilty
to the crime of
naturalization fraud.
He didn't fight it.
In the United States,
all of the sudden,
one of the named Kaibiles
is in jail for 10 years.
That was like an electric
shock in Guatemala.
It made people believe that
perhaps this could happen,
that there could be some
justice in this case.
ICE generates evidence, they
generate Jordan's confession.
So now you got a confession
in the US legal system.
And they send all this
information to Sara Romero.
Now, she's got even
more ammunition.
The other critical catalyst
that pushed this case
forward was the naming
in December of 2010
of Claudia Paz Y Paz
to be the attorney
general of Guatemala.
Once Claudio Paz Y Paz was
appointed as Attorney General,
one of the first things she
did was empower the prosecutors
to resume the Dos
Erres Investigation.
The other important factor
of the case at this time was
that we developed DNA
capacity in Guatemala.
So we decided to go and exhume
the bodies for a second time
and try to identify by
comparing the DNA profiles
of the skeletons with those
DNA profiles of the families.
So Sara Romero now
has an attorney general
who's supporting her,
she's got this
information from the US.
She's got Pinzon and Ibanez.
She's got Ramiro's story.
So she's determined
now to try again
despite all the time
that's past to find Oscar.
And she goes
back to talk to the doctor
who she'd talked
to years earlier
and this time he's a
little more helpful
and he tells her look, Oscar
is in the United States.
I don't have a number for
him, but I know he's married.
I'm trying to remember
his wife's name.
Her nickname is La
Flaca, the skinny one.
It's almost comical to
think of a prosecutor going
into a pretty big town,
Zacapa, and knocking on doors
and asking for La
Flaca, and finding her.
How do you tell someone you're
not who you think you are.
And your life up until
now has been a lie.
So Oscar decides to go
ahead and do the DNA test.
And Fredy Peccerelli comes up.
We had no idea that this
would eventually lead us
to a little town
outside of Boston.
I actually have to say
that I was surprised
by everything about Oscar.
About his demeanor,
about the way he looked.
He looked whiter
than I expected.
He has very light eyes,
almost green eyes.
He was very at ease.
He didn't look worried.
I think he still
didn't believe it.
We took Oscar's DNA
sample back to Guatemala,
to the DNA lab of the FAFG,
and we had to compare it
to the sample of Ramiro,
the other boy.
And then also to all the
families in Dos Erres.
About a month and a half,
maybe two months went by,
and I got the results and the
first thing I thought of is,
wow, we have to call him.
So, I called his
home, and he answered.
I said Oscar we
have the results.
Ramiro, the other boy,
is not your brother.
And he said oh I knew that.
However, his DNA matched
that of an older man
that was looking for his
family among all the bones.
And that he was still alive,
so I told Oscar we
found your father,
your biological father.
And he didn't say anything
for a couple of seconds.
Castaneda, that day
of the Dos Erres massacre,
happened to be working
in fields outside
of Dos Erres and he survived.
The next step is how are
we gonna tell Tranquilino,
because he was looking for his
family among the skeletons,
hopefully to be able
to rebury the bodies.
But he was never looking
for a living relative.
So we brought
Tranquilino to the room,
and I had Oscar on a computer
via the internet and I said,
"Oscar, this is Tranquilino.
"Tranquilino, this is Oscar."
And Aura Elena
says to Tranquilino,
"Do you know who that is?
"That's your son."
Tranquilino calls Oscar
by the name he remembers
was Alfredo, Alfredito
which is a diminutive.
What the Lieutenant had done,
right, in sort of this act
of mercy that accompanies
this act of brutality
is not only had he
spared this boy,
but he preserves the
name Alfredo Castaneda,
which is his real name.
So he's Oscar Alfredo
Ramirez Castaneda.
After Tranquilino got a visa
from the United
States government,
we made arrangements for him
to fly up here, and meet Oscar.
Oscar's DNA profile
matching Tranquilino
and proving that they
were father and son,
thereby putting Oscar at
the scene of the crime,
and having him now be living
evidence of what happened.
That was all presented at two
different trials in Guatemala.