I’d crossed paths with Jennifer Harbury a number of times before, so in 1994 when I heard that she was on a hunger strike in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City — in order to pressure the government to release information about her missing husband, a rebel leader named Everardo — I wanted to be there.
As a friend, I wanted to support her efforts; as a documentary filmmaker, I wanted to follow her courageous struggle to find her missing husband. A decade earlier, both of us had been close to the GAM, the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, the first organization of relatives of disappeared people in Guatemala, and now here she was going through the same kind of experience.
I began following her as she camped out in Guatemala City’s Central Plaza day after day, garnering press coverage and support from solidarity groups but precious little information about the whereabouts of Everardo, who had “disappeared” during a firefight between the guerrillas and the army two years earlier. Another rebel who’d been captured and escaped from the army had first-hand information that Everardo had also been captured alive and was being secretly held — and brutally tortured — by the military.
A breakthrough of sorts came when CBS’s “60 Minutes” profile of Jennifer reported that the CIA had in fact notified the State Department that Everardo had been captured alive. The State Department later confirmed the report. The following year, during Harbury’s third hunger strike, then-Rep. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) released classified documents confirming that Everardo had been killed while in custody in 1993 — more than a year after his capture — on the orders of a Guatemalan military officer who was also a paid CIA informant.
Jennifer stopped her hunger strikes but continued her search for the truth about what happened to Everardo, as well as to find his remains. So I accompanied her further, as she pressed on with exhumations, reams of declassified documents, endless meetings with government officials, visits to military barracks and anything else that could possibly shed light on Everardo’s fate and those responsible. I hope the resulting documentary will inspire others to not stop when the going gets tough in speaking truth to power.