OEA/Ser.L/V/II.77 rev.1
doc. 7
17 May 1990
Original:  Spanish




For more than ten years, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been reporting yearly to the General Assembly of the Organization of American States on the evolution and development of the situation of human rights in Guatemala.  The IACHR has also prepared three special reports on the situation of human rights in that country and conducted, during the past decade, three on-site visits in 1982, 1985 and 1988, and the most recent, between January 28 and February 3, 1990.


During its 76th session, held between September 18 and 29, 1989, the IACHR took up the official invitation from the Government of Guatemala to have the IACHR conduct an on-site visit to Guatemala.  The purpose of such a visit was to conduct all investigations that it considered necessary in connection with the events of November 1988 in the village of El Aguacate (case 10,400) and to confirm “that internal jurisdiction was functioning and that, as a consequence, it had not been exhausted.”  The Commission expressed its appreciation for that invitation, designated in accordance with its rules of procedures a Special Commission for that purpose and, in agreement with the Government of Guatemala, sent a staff member of the Secretariat one week in advance, from January 22 to 28, to start negotiations for the visit.  The Commission was installed in that country between January 29 and February 3, 1990.  A description of the activities conducted by the special Commission on the occasion of that visit appears in Chapter II of this report.


During the period that this report covers, the IACHR has received the fullest collaboration from the Government of Guatemala not only for implementation of the aforementioned on-site visit but also in processing the complaints presented to the Commission.  On this point, another important fact is the significant change that took place within the Ministry of Defense, formerly suspicious of human rights bodies and on the disappearances and progress made in the area of human rights and on the disappearances and illegal executions of persons.  Likewise, through a representative, the government has attended the Commission’s meetings to report on the development of facts and events in the Republic of Guatemala.


During this same session, in the area of political rights, the Commission is pleased to find that, despite all the difficulties it has faced, the process of consolidation and institutionalization of democracy in Guatemala has made substantial gains.  The constitutional government of President Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo, which took office in January 1986 after many years of military dictatorships, will complete its term at the end of this year following five years in office.  The government will give way to the installation of a new democratic administration in Guatemala through the elections that are to be held in October of this year.  In accordance with the constitution and laws of Guatemala, this election will lead to a change of leadership in January 1991.


In the upcoming electoral process, Guatemala has more than a dozen candidates for the presidency of the Republic.  The governing party, the Guatemalan Christian Democracy (DCG), will run its Secretary General, Alfonso Cabrera.  The National Center Union (UCN), the leading opposition party, will have as its candidate its senior leader, who is also the editor-in-chief and owner of the leading morning daily, El Grafico, Jorge Carpio Nicolle.  The National Progressive Party (PAN), a center–right party–has as its candidate Alvaro Arzu, the former mayor of Guatemala City who received more votes in 1985 than President Cerezo himself in the metropolitan district.  The Unified Action Movement (MAS), associated with the Liberal International, presents once again as its candidate the Engineer, Jorge Serrano Elias, who followed President Cerezo and Mr. Carpio in third place during the last elections of 1985.  The National Liberation Movement (MLN), a right wing party, headed by Sandoval Alarcon, has designated as its candidate Miguel Ayau, the Rector of the Francisco Marroquin University.  A sector with significant political support has promoted the candidacy of the former chief of state, General Efrain Rios Montt.  His candidacy has been questioned as unconstitutional, in that no chief or caudillo of a military movement may run for the presidency.  This was recently confirmed by the Court of Constitutionality which declared that General Rios Montt could not be a candidate in such elections.  The Revolutionary Party (PR) has chosen the former mayor of Guatemala, Jose Angel Lee, as its candidate for presidency.  The Democratic Socialist Party (PSD), on the left, has as its candidate Rene de Leon Schlotter, the honorary president and founder of the party who lost the primary elections last August to Alfonso Cabrera.


During the half-year to which this report pertains, the Commission has continued receiving many complaints of violations of human rights, primarily the right to life, liberty, personal integrity and the lack of guarantees of due process.  Of these, the right to life is the one most seriously affected as a result of kidnappings, disappearances and summary executions that occur almost daily and at times with two or three victims per day.  The Commission is aware of this as a result of the many complaints it receives every day and the people of Guatemala and elsewhere also know of the situation owing to reports published in the press of Guatemala City and retransmitted abroad.  The practice of persons, as the Commission has noted with concern to the Guatemalan authorities, has surfaced again with the same alarming characteristics as noted in previous annual reports of the Commission.  Likewise, the campaigns of violence, intimidation and physical aggression and serious death threats have continued against leading figures of human rights agencies as well as trade and labor organizations and universities.


In addition, this period has been characterized by the reactivation of guerrilla activity, as the agent or the cause of violence, through many acts of terrorism and harassment in different parts of Guatemala.  Among others, the area of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, in the Department of Escuintla where military barracks No. 12 is located, was attacked by rocket fire and heavy military weaponry.  In addition, a severe confrontation occurred in the area of Quiche around the Pueblo Nuevo military headquarters left 29 insurgents and 17 army soldiers as casualties.  In addition, one helicopter was damaged, according to a source at the Cerigua agency.  There were also cases in the Department of El Peten, around the village of Las Pozas, in Sayaxche, where guerrilla forces captured and kidnapped a group of soldiers.  Also, in Chimaltenango around Balanjuyu Mountain, a campesino was hit by a claymore mine buried on the route to injure military personnel.  Information was also received that an attach occurred in the outlying area of Colonia Lo de Bran, against military police forces.  In addition, the town of quiche, located in the department of the same name, was occupied militarily by guerrilla forces, the Guerrilla Army of the poor (EGP), who launched attacks against city hall, the police substation, and the Office of the Commander of the Civil Defense Patrol.  These forces also distributed pamphlets and propaganda among the local people.  In the same area of Quiche, in the Ixcan valley, guerrilla groups conducted incursions into the towns of Pueblo Nuevo, Santa Cruz and Tercer Mundo.  Groups of repatriates living in agricultural cooperatives north of that department appear to have been murdered by guerrillas who at the same time damages infrastructural components, among them bridges and roads, to cut off that cooperative completely.  It appears that the cooperative lost 11 persons in this action.  In Huehuetanango, the subversive forces detonated a bomb which destroyed the office of the Justice of Peace at Santa Cruz Barillas.  In the Department of Suchitepequez, a group of 200 guerrillas temporarily blocked a section of the highway between Nahualate and Chicacao where they held a protest against the government and caused a traffic jam in the area.


According to reports, the guerrilla forces have shifted from conventional ambushes and collecting “war taxes” on highways in the southwestern part of the country to direct harassment of military detachments and police substations, as well as destruction of economic infrastructure in areas producing goods for export and in town located around the capital city.  In the National Congress, several deputies have guarantees and securities against actions by the guerrilla forces by pointing out that their activities are increasingly undermining the economy and infrastructure of Guatemala.


Coincident with this resurgence of antigovernment violence, the Unitary Representation of Guatemalan Opposition (RUOG), has issued statements published freely in capital city newspapers voicing their objections to descriptions of them as “terrorists” in the press and other sectors.  The term appears in articles on acts carried out by the guerrilla forces in their struggle for social justice for the people of Guatemala.  They have also stated their consternation over the repressive wave unleashed, as they say, by the government against all sectors of Guatemalan society.  Finally, they state that the RUOG adheres to the national front against violence and will not back down in its effort to demand that the international community treat Guatemala in a manner consistent with the situation of human rights.


The first serious acts of violence recorded during the period to which this report refers took place between August 23 and September 10, 1989.  The Commission was informed that ten students of the San Carlos University of Guatemala had been kidnapped.  Their names are as follows:  Silvia Maria Azurdia Utrera, Victor Hugo Rodriguez Jaramillo, Ivan Ernesto Gonzalez, Carlos Contreras Conde, Hugo Leonel Gramajo, Mario Arturo de Leon, Carlos Leonel Chuta Camey, Carlos Humberto Cabrera, Eduardo Antonio Lopez Palencia and Aaron Ochoa.  The Commission has opened case No. 10,441 in connections with these events.


Four of the kidnapped students turned up dead on September 10 and another body was found on the 21st of that same month.  As used to be the case during times which appeared to be over, almost all the bodies of the students had bullet wounds, were mutilated by having their hands cut off, and had signs of cruel tortures.  This event had all of the markings of terrorism by intimidation a display of horrors.  For this reason, the international protest that arose was joined by virtually all the nongovernmental human rights agencies, and even the European Community, which expressed its concern for this escalation and resurgence of violence and terrorism in Guatemala.


These events have continued even though a court inquiry has been started in Guatemala.  In this connection, the Minister of Defense of Guatemala, General Hector Alejandro Gramajo, has directly accused a group of army dissidents of being in the service of the extreme right and the private sector.  He stated that those groups were carrying out desperate and unlawful actions, having failed in their attempt to change the government by a coup d’etat.


Another victim of this escalation of violence, which also affected members of the government party, was Danilo Barillas, the former Secretary General of the Christian Democratic Party and former Ambassador of Guatemala to Spain, who as assassinated.


Also, on October 31, a report by a volunteer firefighters’ group revealed that the bodies of five unidentified men had been found on a farm 14 kilometers south of Guatemala City.  All the bodies appeared to have been tortured.  Also, there was information that another six bodies had been found on that same day and seven other persons had been murdered, leading to 24 victims on the last day of that month.


Added to the kidnappings, murders and appearances of bodies on public ways was a series of bombing attempts in mid-September in different parts of Guatemala.  The President of the Republic, Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, declared that such acts of terrorism were aimed at provoking a situation of instability in the country for the purpose of installing a new military regime.  President Cerezo also declared, during his speech to the Triennial Congress of the International Christian Democratic Party (IDC) being held at that time in Guatemala, that terrorists who had infiltrated state security agencies were responsible for this wave of violence which in recent weeks had caused the death of almost 20 kidnapped student leaders.  For that reason, the chief of state requested members of community organizations to not fall into traps set by people who were to sow the seed of discord and to cause the breakdown of constitutional institutions.  He called these acts a “conspiracy” being waged against Guatemalan democracy.  He stated that this constituted a great challenge “to our convictions.”  Finally, the chief of state said that the government had decided to use all its forces to deal with the terrorism event though some persons associated with state security organizations might be implicated.  The Commission is unaware of the results of the government’s investigations in this connection.


While the chief of state of Guatemala was so speaking, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was receiving hundreds of complaints and protests about the aforementioned events.  Despite the situation of extreme violence, the constitutional government managed the situation to the extent of its possibilities and refused to suspend guarantees or impose a state of siege in Guatemala.


At the end of September, while visiting New York to attend a meeting of the United National General Assembly, President Cerezo declared that during the last three years his government had attempted to created the conditions to produce a long term stable climate and it was precisely against this which the murders carried out by extreme right wing groups were working.  He called these groups fascists and perpetrators of the kidnappings, torture, and murder of trade unionists, journalists and students.  These acts had been committed to provoke instability in Guatemala and the president could not rule out that former officers of the security forces might have been involved.  The president states that he was willing to bring the perpetrators to justice but stated that for the time being more evidence than accusations, suspicions and fears was needed to charge and bring the perpetrators to justice.


Another serious event occurred late in December when a Nicaraguan citizen, Jorge Vargas, the Second Secretary at the Embassy of Nicaragua in Guatemala, was felled by six large caliber bullets fired by unknown persons who attacked him as he walked along 20th Street and 15th Avenue in zone 10 in the southern part of the capital city shortly after leaving his residence.  According to eyewitnesses, Mr. Vargas was riddled with machinegun bullets fired by several persons riding in a white car.  There was also information that prior to this the staff members of that diplomatic mission had received repeated death threats.


Continuing with events affecting the right to life, the first murder of the 1990s took place on January 12, 1990, when a Salvadoran citizen, Hector Oqueli Colindres, the leader of the Revolutionary Nationalist and Democratic Convergence Movement of El Salvador, the second in command to the Salvadoran leader, Guillermo Ungo, was kidnapped by a group of heavily armed persons as he was going to the Guatemala City airport.  These persons pulled him into the care and led him off in some unknown direction.  Accompanying Mr. Oqueli and Gilda Ampara Flores Arevalo, an attorney.  Shortly afterward the bodies of the aforementioned political leader and Ms. Flores were found.  The two bodies both had bullet wounds to the head but no signs of torture.


According to eyewitnesses who personally observed these events, the kidnappers cut off the car and forcefully removed the driver, who was Ms. Flores, and as she yelled for help, Mr. Oqueli opened the right door and tried to run away, but was chased and caught.


The Government of Guatemala, in an official communiqué, expressed its severe condemnation of this act and stated that it had assumed a serious commitment to clarify these events and not let it go unpunished.  After this, it ordered a special investigative operation that included the closing of borders and announced that it would seek international assistance in capturing the foreign commando group that had carried it out.


Following these serious events have been more cases of kidnappings, disappearances and summary executions.  In all of them there is a common thread:  they are carried out openly at any time of day or night, in any place of Guatemala, and without any concern for eyewitnesses.  The kidnappers use cars or trucks without license plates or with stolen plates.  Nobody, and even less the police, does anything to prevent such acts.  The investigations do not lead anywhere and the responsible organs blame each other for the failure of the investigation.


As for the personal liberty and integrity, the Commission has received many complaints of illegal detentions and mistreatment and torture but among all of them, doubtlessly one of the most serious is the even of November 2, 1989.  On this day, the Archbishop of Guatemala City, Prospero Penados del Barrio, charged that that very night, a United States Ursaline nun, Diana Mack Ortiz, 20 years of age, who taught at the San Miguel Acatan elementary school in the Department of Huehuetenango, had been kidnapped as she was participating in a pastoral program at Posada de Belen in Antigua, Guatemala.  When she was released 24 hours later, she decided to leave the country.  The nun had received death threats earlier and had been told to leave the country.  When she reached the United States, Sister Diana Mack Ortiz refused to make any statement to the press or to cooperate with the investigation of the case.  She refused, it was explained, because of the serious emotional trauma caused by her kidnapping and capture, the torment she had suffered as she was burned more than 100 times by cigarettes, which left indelible marks on her body, and the mistreatment and sexual taunts she suffered.


The Government of Guatemala has cast doubt on the veracity of the charges and criticized Sister Diana for not cooperating with police investigations and the Guatemalan security forces.  The chief of state himself declared that in this case there could not be any talk of violation of human rights because it had been an act perpetrated by extra-governmental groups beyond the control of the authorities.  On November 8, the following medical statement was released:  “Sister Diana Ortiz was in our offices today.  In examining her, we found that she has 111 circular second-degree burns on her back, approximately one centimeter wide, which are not healing without infection.  She also has two bruises approximately three centimeters in size, on e on the jaw and another on the left breast.  If I can be of assistance, please contact me.”  This was signed by Dr. G. R. Gutierrez who has his office at the Medical Group P.A., 1010 Roosevelt, Grants, New Mexico.


The wave of protests that rose in Guatemala included statements from virtually all sectors.  The national police force of Guatemala, however, gave assurances that it had found that the charge had been cooked up by several religious leaders and the nun herself based on some non-existent facts to draw the attention of foreign governments, the United States government in particular, for the purpose of halting economic assistance to Guatemala.  The police force categorically denied that it had been involved in these events.  The former Minister of Government, Deputy Roberto Valle Valdizan, called into doubt the credibility of the event since he found it absurd that the security forces, which have their own vehicles, would have had to use a bus for the kidnapping, according to the testimony given by Sister Diana.


Having partially recovered from the emotional impact and the physical and moral pain that she suffered, Sister Diana Mack Ortiz has decided to press charges to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to collaborate decisively in the investigation of the events.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, without prejudging the admissibility of the claim, has transmitted the victim’s description of the events, now in the public domain, to the Government of Guatemala and has requested an investigation of them.  It hopes that since the victim and surviving eyewitness to the events is willing to collaborate thoroughly with the investigation, it might be possible to identify not only those responsible for the act but also those hidden persons who directed and sponsored the perpetrators.  This case has been listed as 10.526.


On December 20, at approximately 7:00 p.m., after receiving many earlier death threats, three young female members of the International Peace Brigades who provide protection in the form of the presence of their company for persons whose lives are in danger and for nongovernmental human rights agencies, were attacked on a corner where there is a small store, one block from their house and office, located at 10-10 Calle Mariscal, Zone 11, as they were returning from their normal work day.  The attackers ran up to the young brigade members, Meredith Larsen, the United States, 23 years of age; and Rosa Jeremic and Mitchell Goldberg, Canadians, 28 and 23 years of age, respectively, and without saying a word, took them completely by surprise and began to stab them in the chest and the arms.  The attacks caused long and deep wounds.  The third brigade member, who attempted to defend her companions, was cut on the hands, wrists, and waist.  The brigade members were seen and heard shouting and attempting to escape their attackers who finally fled.  At no time did the attackers demand money or try to take their pocketbooks which fell to the pavement where they were left by the attackers who did nothing to take them.  As a result of this incident which left them seriously wounded, the peace brigade members had to leave Guatemala.  The organization did not leave, however, and continues working in Guatemala despite these events.


As background information about this event, brigade members Rosa Jeremic and Jemmy attended a march on December 8 in commemoration of International Human Rights Day.  They have stated that there was an obvious presence of security forces at this commemoration who pretended to sell ice cream but were actually taking pictures of the participants.  After the march, they were assaulted on a city bus by five men, three of whom carried revolvers.  When she yelled for help, Rosa was hit in the face. None of the other passengers was molested.


The aggression against the peace brigade members, who by definition are pacifists schooled in the philosophy of nonviolence and who, consequently, do not bear arms for personal defense of any type, is an example of the type of the violence that goes on at this time in Guatemala.  Acts of aggression, assault and intimidation like these carried out by small gangs of criminals sent and paid by unseen persons who never show their face once again make it clear what the Commission has been maintaining about the existence of true organizations of paid murders who work as “professionals” for political groups which, under the shelter to this time of a veil of anonymity and impenetrable impunity, work every day to develop and execute activities such as these.


As concerns the situation of the right to free expression, despite the government’s assertion that it has not put difficulties in the way of exercising this right, at the end of December 1989, a threat and intimidation campaign was launched against the two largest newspapers of Guatemala, El Grafico and La Prensa Libre, each of which published a full page printing the same letter of protest which read as follows:


In recent weeks, armed men have engaged in harassing spokesmen of El Grafico and Prensa Libre and have intimidated them to prevent the sale of these information organs.  Recently, these subjects assaulted a vehicle carrying copies of El Grafico, seized the newspapers and burned them.  On Thursday the 21st of the month, another similar event occurred.  An armed group intercepted a truck carrying copies of Prensa Libre, forced the occupants to get out and tied them up, and then burned the vehicle with the newspapers inside.  In addition, other unknown persons have made death threats against several workers who distribute the two newspapers.  The criminal events denounced here are a sign of an organized campaign against the two press media which have the widest distribution in the country.  The participation of men armed with machine guns and other weapons that are not of common use is proof of the seriousness of the situation.


By making this charge public, the El Grafico and Prensa Libre publishing companies protest these events and request the competent authorities to conduct an exhaustive investigation to locate the criminals and prevent further acts of the type described to protect the life, security and labor of persons who work for these two companies.  It is necessary to state that the nature and form of the attacks cause unrest because of the fate that could befall the workers.  It is for their protection and that of their families that events such as those that led to this charge must be stopped.


As a result of these incidents, aimed directly at blocking the exercise of free expression in Guatemala where, as mentioned before, even guerrilla forces are permitted to publish their official communiqués wherever they want, public opinion has widely condemned and repudiated these acts of violence against the normal activity of the press organs.  These attacks on freedom of the press which the IACHR condemns most energetically are promoted by the same intolerant and intransigent sectors that promote all the other actions of violence throughout the country.


In connection with the process of returning refugees an displaced persons from Guatemala, a job in which the Office of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has played a major role, this too has suffered a considerable decline primarily because the refugees are afraid to return to their lands to face the continuing violence in Guatemala.  Bishop Prospero Penados del Barrio, who recently visited refugee camps in Chiapas, Mexico, explained that at this time Guatemala is experiencing a situation of war and violence and, as a result, refugees feel unsafe.


Despite this, according to information from the Special Commission for Attention to Repatriates, 66 Guatemalans (15 families) succeeded in returning after ten years in exile.  These persons came from camps at Cuchumatan, Quintana Roo, San Carlos del Rio, Chiapas, Santo Domingo Las Palmas, El Paraiso and El Porvenir, in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.


Besides not being able to control the violence, the present government is also tainted by the inaction of organs in the legal system which have been called upon to investigate and punish the criminal acts described in this report.  The judges of this system simply do not conduct thorough investigations because they have been terrorized by what has happened to others who have performed investigations and acted bravely against terrorism.  As a result, these judges have become victims of those on both the left and the right.  A point that must be not ignored is that Guatemala is a country where, by the action of terrorism, fear has become a factor that shapes the everyday affairs of the people and, since real guarantees of safety are missing, everyone defends his own life and personal integrity in the best way he can.


The problem of credibility and inoperability of the judicial system thus constitutes another major problem for consolidating the democratic process and real human rights in Guatemala.  This is the case despite the bold efforts made by the president of the judicial system and of the Supreme Court, Dr. Edmundo Vazquez Martinez.  Under his direction, it should be noted, the system has made important gains.  In this area, there remains so much to do that everything accomplished so far appears to be little or nothing.  The paradoxical result is that few persons in Guatemala are more aware of this problem than Dr. Vazquez Martinez himself and probably no one else has done more to change the situation.  The IACHR, one of the agencies that has been most steadfastly critical in this area, admires his tenacity in the struggle to change the system’s defects which he himself has been pointing out since the start.


In dealing with the topic of administering justice and human rights in Guatemala, and trying to present the problem in its real proportions, the Ambassador of Guatemala to the OAS, Mr. John Schwank, stated at a conference in Washington last March:  “Why ask the judicial system to solve the problem which no one has been able to resolve yet?”  He was alluding to the problem of justice being so complex that it involves changing many other things in Guatemala, a power not in the hands of the judicial branch of government.


Some of the serious reforms being attempted now, following the recommendations of Professor Julio Maier, a United Nations Advisor, with which the IACHR also agrees, are the following:  make criminal trails public; change the system of preliminary investigations in criminal cases, by giving the lead role to the Public Ministry as the director of the investigation and to the police as its immediate auxiliary; reserve to judges the task of deciding, even during the preliminary investigation (as interlocutor), when some act of the police or the public ministry investigation violated individual guarantees pertaining to the human rights of the person charged; create a case selection system that makes it possible to remove some of the excessive burden of work by the legal service in criminal matters; using rational methods and with consensus solutions (diversion), and thereby to try efficiently the important cases that come into the system in accordance with possible human resources and materials.


The IACHR supports fully the efforts of the judicial system of Guatemala, encourages it to continue these efforts and move ahead with the technical assistance it has been receiving to this time from the United Nations Human Rights Center in the administration of justice, from the international assistance program for training in criminal investigation, with advisory assistance and financing from the Department of Justice of the United States of America, the police officer training course in Spain, financed by that country, the public employee training program in Germany, financed by the Federal Republic of Germany, the regional project on administration of justice by the Latin American Institute of the United Nations for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Criminals (ILANUD), the Harvard University project to establish model pilot courts and the bilateral AID-judicial system project to transform or improve all the agencies involved with the administration of justice.


Within the period to which this report refers, a change has also occurred in the Office of the Attorney for Human Rights.  On October 10, 82-year-old Gonzalo Menendez de la Riva, the Attorney for Human Rights in Guatemala, submitted his irrevocable resignation from the position which he had held since 1987.  His reasons were strictly personal in nature.  After this, on December 8, the Congress of Guatemala elected the attorney and university constitutional law professor, Ramiro de Leon Carpio, as the new Attorney for Human Rights.  This office, under leadership of Mr. de Leon, has given new direction to the work.  The following fundamental objectives have been set:  relocation of the headquarters in Guatemala City to a place more accessible to the public, with a library for students and professionals and a room for courses, lectures, seminars and other activities, and a new registration department to assist the public in cases that are not strictly in the area of human rights.


Another aspiration of the office is to open auxiliary offices in the 22 departments throughout the country since only eight are currently in operation, and to strengthen the Department of Education and Promotion in the area of human rights and legal mechanisms that should be turned to when these are violated, especially for Indian groups, in their own language.  Another desire is to create the Department of International Relations and the Department of Investigations which would investigate independently cases that come up and get results in cases of disappeared persons, illegal detentions, murders and so forth.


As it relates to the dialogue between the Government of Guatemala and Guatemalan guerrilla forces–after bearing arms for almost 30 years, the oldest guerrilla force in the Americas–during the second week of December, President Cerezo stated that he was willing to enter into a dialogue with them if they decided to put down their arms and rejoin legal life.  He indicated that the time was right since the Central American peoples were fed up with violence and war.  He said that he had mad a peace appeal to the guerrilla groups in an effort to get into step with the international environment toward détente and dialogue.  He added that the measures taken at the summit would be useful in controlling the situations that several countries of the area are experiencing.  For their part, the Guatemalan guerrilla forces, joined since 1982 into the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG) which embraces the Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA), the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) and the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP), stated on that occasion that it would be impossible to bring about a negotiated settlement as long as Guatemala did not recognize that an armed conflict existed.


Later on, on March 15 of this year, the President of the Republic and the Army of Guatemala publicly stated that they supported the conversations between the guerrilla forces and the representatives of the National Committee on Reconciliation (CRN), which would take place in OSLO, Norway.  Heading the delegation of the National Commission on Reconciliation, the representative of the opposition political parties, Jorge Serrano Elias, traveled to that country to provide guidance and explore ways of finding reasonable solutions to the armed confrontation which had been going on for almost three decades.  The last conversations between the Guatemalan Revolutionary Unit and the National Commission on Reconciliation had taken place in August 1988 in the Republic of Costa Rica.


As a result of these conversations, held between March 26 to 30, the parties reached an agreement between them in which:  the delegation of the National Commission on Reconciliation of Guatemala, the CRN, acting with the full backing of the Government of the Republic of Guatemala and in a conciliatory role assigned to it in the Esquipulas II Agreement, and with the delegation of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit, URNG, supported fully by its general command, with the set purpose of arriving at a peaceful settlement for the national problems by political means, and with both parties recognizing that this subject was basic to achieving reconciliation between Guatemalans and resolving national problems, agreed to start a serious process that would end with the achievement of peace and the refinement of a functional and participatory democracy in Guatemala.  To this end they will proceed to negotiate the implementation and maintenance of the activities to which this agreement refers in the search for peace, interposing their good offices and naming, in common agreement with the URNG, Bishop Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, the Chairman of the National Commission of Reconciliation, as the conciliator.  The functions of the Conciliator will be to propose initiatives to all parties, to undertake and maintain actions of dialogue and negotiation, to carry the process froward and to summarize the converging and diverging positions that appear between the parties.  The Conciliator will also have the power to propose initiatives and solutions for discussion and agreement.  The Conciliator will also have other similar functions for proper fulfillment of his mission.


Both parties have agreed to start activities leading to conditions in which peace and refinement and democracy can be fully achieved.  These would include holding a meeting for representatives of the political parties of the Republic of Guatemala and URNG representatives.  The National Commission on Reconciliation and the URNG, in common agreement, will establish the conditions to hold this meeting.  The parties will make all necessary efforts for the meeting to be held during the second half of May 1990.  In addition, the National Commission on Reconciliation, in common agreement with the URNG, will create the mechanisms to hold, preferably in June 1990, all meetings necessary between the URNG and representatives of the popular, religious and business sectors in Guatemala as well as other politically representative bodies for the purpose of finding ways to achieve settlement of national problems.


On a date that will be set in common agreement by the Government of Guatemala and the URNG, conversations will be held for the purpose of reaching political settlement of the armed internal confrontation.  The conversations will involve representatives with decision-making capacity from the Government of Guatemala and the Army of Guatemala and the general command of the URNG.  The National Commission on Reconciliation will participate in these meetings for the purposes of recording and verifying accuracy, in accordance with the functions assigned to it in Esquipulas II Agreement.


On the responsibility for the events that have been occurring and are covered in this report, the chief of state himself, Marco Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo, on the occasion of the Triennial Congress of the International Christian Democratic Party, has stated the following:  “There are some persons who seek to impose with violence the force of their ideas and there are some persons who hope to overcome, by confrontation and polarization, the unified will of the people of Guatemala.  These persons are promoting, at this time, a conspiracy against Guatemalan democracy.  This Government, which I represent, rejects any possibility of thinking that we are the causative agents of the death of political leaders who have the will to work and participate.  The people of Guatemala know me.  They know that I suffered persecution and possibility of exile.  The government that I represent will never accept an attack on the life of a student, a young person, a trade unionist, a politician, who represent the future and hope of the country, and we ask all to continue having confidence because there is a promising climate that permits the organization and struggle for the greatness of our nation.  However, I accept responsibility, as head of government of the Republic, that we have the obligation to provide the people the security they deserve.”


On the basis of the above, the Commission believes that during the period covered by this report, there has occurred in Guatemala the most serious increase in violence and human rights violations during the term of President Cerezo.


As established in Article 1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Guatemala is a State party, states are obliged not only to respect the rights and liberties recognized in the treaty, but also to guarantee their full and free enjoyment to all persons within their jurisdictions.  While it is not possible to hold the Chief of State and the Minister of Defense personally responsible for carrying out these violations, it is clear that they have once again proven ineffective in preventing, controlling, suppressing and punishing them or even exerting involvement in a number of violations.  This fact is cause for deep concern in the Commission as is the fact that no one has been arrested or tried, not even in a simple case of persons directly or indirectly responsible for the kidnapping and murders in question.  The Commission, which has always encouraged the strengthening of democracy in Guatemala, trusts that in the evolution of this process, the Government will give full respect to the human rights contained in the American Convention.


Table of Contents |Previous | Next  ]