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To Save Her Life

Disappearance, Deliverance, and the United States in Guatemala

Dan Saxon (Author)


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Part human rights drama, part political thriller, part love story, this riveting narrative chronicles the disappearance of one woman as it tells the larger story of the past fifty years of violence and struggle for social justice and democracy, and U.S. intervention in Guatemala. Maritza Urrutia was abducted from a middle-class neighborhood while taking her son to school in 1992. To Save Her Life tells the story of her ordeal which included being interrogated in secret by army intelligence officers about her activities as part of a political opposition group. Chained to a bed, blindfolded, and deprived of sleep, Maritza was ultimately spared because her family was able to contact influential intermediaries, including author Dan Saxon, who was in Guatemala working for the Catholic Church's Human Rights Office. Here Saxon brings to life the web of players who achieved her release: the Church, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Congress, numerous NGOs, guerrilla groups, politicians, students, and the media. Reaching back to 1954, when Maritza's grandparents were activists, the book is a study of the complex and often cruel politics of human rights, and its themes reverberate from Guatemala to Guantánamo to Iraq.
Map of Guatemala
List of Abbreviations

1. Thursday, July 23. 1992
2. Thursday Morning and Afternoon
3. Friday, July 24, 1992
4. Saturday and Sunday, July 25-26. 1992
5. The Catholic Church in Guatemala, 1524-1992
6. Monday and Tuesday, July 27-28, 1992
7. Wednesday, July 29, 1992
8. Thursday, July 30, 1992

9. Friday, July 31, 1992
10. Saturday, August 1, 1992
11. Sunday, August 2, 1992
12. Monday, August 3, 1992
13. Tuesday, August 4, 1992
14. Wednesday, August 5, 1992
15. Thursday, August 6, 1992

The Aftermath
Selected Bibliography and Further Reading
Dan Saxon is a prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
“Rarely does an academic book read so well as this one; equally rare is the first-rate suspense novel that gets the facts right.”—Choice
"Dan Saxon has written a compelling and provocative book about the checkered history of United States involvement in Guatemala and the politics of human rights activism. Read this book and you will understand why the way in which we respond to human rights crimes often says more about our humanity than the abuses themselves."—Eric Stover, author of The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in The Hague

"Dan Saxon's moving portrait of human courage and political interest illuminates the personal struggle of one woman against the broad sweep of Latin American history. It is rare in my experience for one book to offer both page-turning suspense and penetrating analysis of human rights policy. To Save Her Life carries it off brilliantly."—Jim Goldston, The Open Society Justice Initiative, The Open Society Institute

"The massive intrusion of the United States in the government of Guatemala begun in 1954 is the basis for this fascinating story about a woman, Maritza. She was eventually able to emerge from captivity after torture and many humiliations. The author, intimately acquainted with life in Guatemala, tells the story of this woman and her family with humor, excitement and captivating details about the history of Guatemala. For anyone involved in the tragic history of Central America and the evolution of liberation theology, this readable book will be helpful and even indispensable."—Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Professor, Georgetown University Law Center

"Human rights is a complicated business, and Dan Saxon's book explores many of our complexities in microcosm. Through the story of the campaign to save Maritza's life, Saxon illuminates the muddled U.S. policy in Central America at the end of the cold war; the inter-institutional rivalries and misunderstandings among organizations in the U.S. and Guatemala; and above all, the human caring that motivated so many human rights activists in the 1980s and 1990s. This is a magnificent work of history and humanity."—Patrick Ball, The Benetech Initiative

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