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Kaibiles: training in Guatemalan hell

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José Luis Castillejos
Lima, Peru, October 4, 2005 (Notimex).- Kaibiles, Guatemalan Army's " killing machines " - a mix of American " rangers ", British " gurkhas " and Peruvian commando - are trained in " El Infierno " ( Hell ), a military school northern Guatemala.

" El Infierno ", kaibil training center and especial operations located in the Poptun area, 257 miles from Guatemala's capital, you can only be there with an Army's invitation, this Notimex's correspondent was there a few years ago.

The members of this elite force are subject of extreme survival eight-week training, they always have present the motto:

" Kaibil, if I go forward, follow me; if I stop, pressure me. If I back up, kill me ".

The machine guns' rattling, a thick dust and smokescreen and young painted-face kaibiles carrying a M-16 rifle on their chest and the bayonet fixed, receive the visitor in a field filled with landmines and " pica-pica " plants, which cause an endless stinging.

The strident cannonshots and the gunpowder smell frighten off the birds, meanwhile the men wearing hardship clothing move having their chest on the ground between the thick jungle foliage, dust and mud.

It is a skills display that these soldiers - indigenous most of them - have developed as result of an exhausting training and privations which turned them in exceptional strength soldiers.

These men, whose basic weapon is surprise, know how to resist and have been trained as " killing machines " who react before " strange forces or doctrines attempting against the country ", according to military sources consulted by Notimex.

The training for becoming a kaibil has three stages: the first one is 21 days of theory instructions and practical training, where the military and moral levels of the candidates are assessed.

The second stage takes place in the jungle for 28 days and after a hard training, the kaibil must know how to act skillfully during an irregular war and be able to cross water currents, swamps, crags, carrying out demolition and to detect and deactivate landmines.

During the last stage, the candidate to kaibil, used to eat snakes, ants and roots and to collect dewdrops in leafs, must execute annihilation attacks, intelligence maneuvers, enemy territory penetration and air refueling.

They called it " El Infierno " because the 38° centigrade degrees and the intense humidity of the place have made many to give up.

The common visitor melts in this area located in the middle of the Peten Guatemalan jungle, where just a few get in, in the case of military men, many of them fall exhausted before the hostile environment and the brutal training.

Those who give up would never be able to wear the purple beret and the emblems of the elite force created in the 70s to fight the Guatemalan insurgency.

As part of the course, which only a third of the candidates finish, the future kaibiles have to be two days without sleeping inside a river with neck-high water.

Kaibiles are able to break the enemy's will and their mysticism is present in every Latin American army, the lieutenant of the 42 Promocion " Kaibil Balam Internacional ".
in that time, Julio Alberto Soto Bilbao, said to

The elite group was created on December 5, 1974 to fight against the now disappeared group National Guatemalan Revolutionary Unit ( URNG ), who for four decades had on the rack the government of this Central America country.

The soldiers were named Kaibil Balam, a king of the Maya empire who could never been captured by the Spanish conquerors, with this spirit, it was also organized with a political-military objective: to recover Belize.

Some of the kaibiles' postulates are convincing war mottos, such as " always attack, always move forward " and " A kaibil's attack will be planned in secret, security and astuteness, because a kaibil is a killing machine ".

As part of their training, they are taught to take care of puppies which they kill later to eat them, they are also trained to cut a chicken's head with a bite.

It is speculated that during the counter-insurgent war they ate human flesh from their enemies killed in the battle.

The soldiers from this elite group show the insignia proudly, it is bow-shape with black background and golden edging with the word " KAIBIL " in yellow capital letters ,

The black color means night operations, the yellow the ones in daytime. The yellow edging, the first training week, the black background the second week of training and the letters the following 42 days.

At the end of the training, the commando eat alligator, lizard and deer roasted meat and they are allowed to take by force the current Guatemalan Minister of Defense and throw him to a pond with crocodiles.

As part of the course's finishing ritual, every one of the military men take the " Bomb ", a mix of tequila, whiskey, rum, beer, mineral water and gunpowder which is served in a bamboo glass, in its exterior and towards the upper border is tied to a bayonet.

They have to carefully drink it, because with a " Bomb " they got drunk and could get their forehead cut with the bayonet, which sticks out from the glass.

Since this moment, they can show the kaibil coat of arms, which is a climbing croll, which means union and strength and a dagger in the image's center, it represents honor, and a handle with five notches in reference to the five senses.

One of the mottos read at the entry of the Military Area 23 in Potpun is " Welcome to hell ", the candidates who spend eight weeks there can confirm it. NTX

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Kaibiles. AFP
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