GENERAL SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In its report of June 1993,
the Commission presented a vision of the troublesome socioeconomic and
political conditions that constrain effective implementation of human
rights in that region.
Coincidentally, a recent government report synthesizes that
position as follows:
Guatemala has been a country where 10% of the population has
taken advantage of its wealth but 90% has appeared only occasionally
on the national stage, thus illustrating a generally unattended
and ignored status. This
picture showed not only an economic crisis, but also one of morality
and authority. Corruption
has permeated all levels of the public administrative structure.
A situation of low morale and discouragement has shown through
in the behavior and attitudes of public officials and the population.
In its on-site visit of September 1993,
the Commission found that, despite the Government's real efforts,
groups remain which are violating human rights or concealing such
militarization of security organizations and rural life, attacks on
trade union, political and human rights leaders, and the
ineffectiveness of the justice system continue prevailing over the
positive actions of the administration of Mr. Ramiro de Leon Carpio
and especially of the Ministry of Government, the Human Rights
Attorney and the Public Ministry, and even of military officers who
want to enforce the observance of fundamental rights.
The militarization of power continues not only through the PACs
(civil defense patrols, today called the Civilian Self-Defense
Committees or CDVCs), with more than half a million persons in several
thousand communities organized, but also in the continuing existence
of the Presidential General Staff as the military body that runs the
Office of the President of the Republic, in lack of respect for the
civilian population in anti-subversion activities, and in
institutionalized military obstruction to collaboration in the
investigation of the serious violations of past years.
For its part, the provocative action of subversive groups, even
with its reduced presence, strengthens that militarization and the
position of the armed forces.
Since June 5 when President Serrano was replaced
constitutionally by Mr. Ramiro de Leon Carpio, the former Human Rights
Attorney, the government has taken real steps both to reform its
institutions and adopt policies aimed at enhancing the effectiveness
of human rights. Several
of these are:
The affirmation of civil jurisdiction and of the Ministry of
Government over the problems involving refugees or violations
committed by the PACs;
The differentiation between the tasks of the National Police
and the return of military officers that worked with that force to
their specific activities;
The instructions of the Ministry of Government calling for
every house search to be authorized by a court order obtained by legal
Measures to expedite the return of refugees living in Mexico
and the FONAPAZ (National Peace Fund) and FONATIERRA (National Lands
Fund-INTA) programs, even though these are confined to resolving the
problems of refugees, displaced persons and returnees;
Easier procedural requirements to form civilian and trade union
The promise to withdraw the military detachment from the urban
limits of Tercer Pueblo in Quiché in compliance with the agreements
with the refugees in Mexico who want to return.
Despite all these governmental efforts, 53 "extrajudicial
executions" attributed to paramilitary groups were reported
between June 6 and October 14, and the authorities have been unable to
identify the persons responsible for them.
In his report on 1993, the Human Rights Attorney reported 160
unrejected complaints of extrajudicial deaths, of which 146 are
under investigation and 14 have already been confirmed to be such.
He reported 62 complaints of forced disappearances, of which 22
are of persons who have since turned up alive, 29 of persons who have
"not been found by investigation," 9 of persons discovered
dead, and 2 of cases already confirmed as forced disappearances.
He also reported the receipt of complaints of 54 cases of
torture, 185 of abuse of authority, 182 of threats, and 53 of illegal
detention, and an additional 174 cases of complaints of irregular
According to the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese,
between January and August 1993, a total of 774 transgressions of
individual guarantees occurred. Among
these are the extra-judicial executions of 108 persons, the murder of
another 282, 19 forced disappearances, 146 attacks, 216 persons
threatened and 3 cases of torture.
President de Leon Carpio has replied in public statements that
many of these deaths are occurring as a result of the armed internal
The climate of greater public liberties
which has opened up, as well as continuing threats against these
liberties, have led to the formation of new human rights defense
indigenous groups together created the Office for the Defense of Mayan
This office consists of a network of local assistance offices
concerned with Mayan rights in the villages and cantons, and a network
of human rights and Mayan rights committees and commissions at the
municipal level. This
autonomous office will decide on its own steps based on the thinking,
experience and work of the local Mayan rights offices in the villages
and that of the municipal committees and commissions.
Other offices that have been set up are the CONADEHGUA, the
National Human Rights Coordination Office of Guatemala, composed of
the Mutual Support Group (GAM), the Runjel Junam Ethnic Coordination
Office (CERJ), the Human Rights Commission of Guatemala (CDHG)
headquartered in Mexico, the National Council of the Displaced (CONDEG)
and the Office of the Representative of the Center for Investigation
and Studies of Human Rights (CIEPRODH), of the Guatemalan Association
of Jurists, the Widows Coordination Office of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA)
and the Human Rights Defense Commission of the Wucu'b Noj Indigenous
CONTINUING VIOLATIONS AND THREATS AGAINST SOCIAL LEADERS
Unfortunately, this period confirmed what the IACHR stated in
its Fourth Report concerning the resurgence of attacks against leaders
from different civilian, urban and rural segments of society.
Essentially this was an effort to create widespread fear among
the movements for the assertion and defense of human rights.
Attacks against defenders of human rights
self-proclaimed "anticommunist movement" issued a public
death threat against 21 leaders of human rights organizations on
Several court system officials and staff members of the Office
of the Human Rights Attorney have been threatened or assaulted.
Mario Cabrera Ramazzini, the representative of the Public
Ministry in Solola, a judge and his employees who were investigating
the death of Tomas Lares Cipriano, a member of the CERJ, have been so
On September 10, a bomb exploded in the offices of the
Association of Jurists of Guatemala, but did not cause any personal
Following the protest of December 10 celebrating the Universal
Day of Human Rights, five armed men wearing military clothing and
carrying weapons abducted, beat and then freed the GAM leader, Mario
Polanco, who had to be hospitalized.
Attacks against rural and Mayan organizations
During the second half of 1993, and especially in October and
November, members of the Guatemalan army, the G-2, military
commissioners and civil patrol members committed violations against
CONAVIGUA in Guatemala City and elsewhere in the country in what
appears to be a systematic policy of harassment for that
organization's activities in defense of freedom of association, legal
military recruitment, and the right not to participate in the CDVCs.
These attacks include the tailing and surveillance
of leaders and attacks on their facilities, and several
attacks in Colotenango, La Democracia, Chimaltenango, and Momostenango
in Nebaj (Quiché). Attacks
were also made on offices of CONIC (the National Coordinating Office
of Indian and Peasant Institutions) and CONDEG (the National
Coordinating Office of Displaced Persons of Guatemala).
Attacks on trade union leaders
All during this period, threats and attacks against trade union
leaders continued, including attacks on leaders of UNSITRAGUA (Union
of Trade Union Workers of Guatemala) and different trade unions,
including those of the employees of the Judiciary, hospitals, the
postal service and agricultural services.
There is continuing harassment of urban and rural workers who
want to exercise their right of association in trade unions.
Attacks on university leaders and faculty members
Student leaders and faculty members have also been physically
attacked for their activities in this period.
The Commission has received complaints of cases of university
teachers and leaders who have been "disappeared" and shot
at, and of other cases in which they have been forced by threats to
exile themselves and their families abroad.
At least student leader was murdered after reporting such
threats to the Office of the Human Rights Attorney.
Attacks on journalists
This selective intimidation campaign also is in operation
against the press, and the government's condemnation and the steps it
has taken to investigate this campaign have not succeeded in putting a
stop to it. From September 1993 to the end of the year, the following
events also occurred:
the murder of Mr. Jorge Carpio Nicolle, owner and director of
the newspaper El Gráfico and General Secretary of the Unión
del Centro Nacional (Union of the National Center) party, the
prosecution of which is being conducted faultily in order to prevent
identification of the culprits.
Death threats against TV Director Dionisio Gutierrez, following
his interviewing of URNG commanders in Mexico.
The journalist Oscar Granados, president of the Parliamentary
Journalists Union and coordinator of the Journalists Defense Council,
went into exile abroad with his family after receiving several death
threats and having his house looted and documents stolen.
The offices of the newspaper Siglo XXI were
machine-gunned in August. The
weapons used were of a caliber used exclusively by security forces.
Three of its journalists were threatened by police officers.
Others threatened were the director and a reporter of the
newspaper Prensa Libre, a photographer the newspaper La Hora,
and the president of the Escuintla Journalists Union.
Oscar Masaya, the director of TV Noticias, was attacked
and wounded on October 8. A few days prior to this, a threat list against journalists
On November 25, Felipe Sigal Cervantes of the newspaper Prensa
Libre was attacked and several armed persons tried to kidnap him.
He escaped with injuries.
In January 1994 threats were renewed against the journalists
and director of the opposition journal Tinamit.
Members of the families of independent journalists and persons
close to them have also been murdered, for example, MARIA EUGENIA MUÑOZ
DE MEJIA, 42, and MARIA
ALEJANDRA POLANCO MUÑOZ, 14, the wife and daughter of the journalist
Maco Vinicio Mejía. The
two were first "disappeared," and their bodies were later
found showing clear signs of torture at the beginning of 1994.
The foreign press accredited to Guatemala charged that
immigration officers were conducting investigations into the legal
status of foreign correspondents and asserted that this was a kind of
threat in that the investigation was in the hands of military
GUERRILLA ACTIVITIES BY SUBVERSIVE GROUPS
During the period covered by this report, subversive groups
have carried out a variety of actions in Guatemala.
They have destroyed infrastructure components such as bridges
and electricity towers. Among
the most noteworthy of these were:
In August, a bomb destroyed an electric system pylon close to
On October 14, guerrilla forces blew up a bridge at Tiquisate,
On October 17 and then on October 20, guerrilla forces
destroyed a bridge in Taxisco, Santa Rosa.
On November 20, a bomb destroyed the Las Ilusiones bridge in
the Department of Santa Rosa.
On November 19, guerrilla forces raised barricades in Nenton,
Huehuetenango, to prevent vehicles from going into nearby villages.
The guerrilla forces were also accused of continuing their
earlier policy of abductions and extortions.
The president of Anacafe, the National Coffee Association,
indicated, however, that during the last two years, the guerrillas had
not attempted any extortions against farm owners.
In the days leading up to the "popular consultation"
on January 30, 1994, the guerrillas set off a series of explosions at
different places in the country, causing one death and the destruction
of communications towers in a campaign to generate opposition to the
electoral process. Explosives
experts of the National Police were able to defuse on time ten other
explosive devices in different business centers.
4. REORGANIZATION OF
THE PUBLIC MINISTRY AND THE NATIONAL POLICE
Authorities of the present government administration have
confirmed to the Commission that the system of justice is obsolete and
ineffective for present needs. Within
the sphere of its competence, the Executive Branch of Government has
taken steps to make the Public Ministry more effective.
This year, the number of inspectors has been raised from 38 to
112. These persons are
assisted by a similar number of advanced law school students, who are
being provided transportation. New justice system units have been established for the sole
purpose of cases involving children, attacks against women, labor
matters, constitutional matters, environment and training.
The National Police, which is under the Ministry of Government,
has begun its own demilitarization and has started to make changes
under the present administration.
All its authorities are civilians with professional training in
security and related matters. These
persons have replaced the military personnel who had been assigned to
the police force and maintained it as an appendage of the military
structure. The Commission
was informed that as they have withdrawn, the military forces have
kept equipment and resources which were for national police force
operations, and have thereby weakened the force's action capacity.
The new police leaders have reported that their work approach
focuses on protecting citizens and that it is starting courses and
issuing directives to achieve that end.
The Commission has received official information that the
present authorized number of 11,300 police agents (many of these
positions are unfilled) will have to be tripled to 36,000 to provide
effective service throughout the country.
The Ministry of Government, for its part, has initiated a pilot
municipal police force development project.
A municipal police force has the added advantage of
strengthening local civilian authorities.
In addition, UNICEF is helping to form a police force
specialized in children's problems.
THE INSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
The process of constitutional replacement of former President
Serrano Elias led to the creation of a coalition of political forces
that is unprecedented in Guatemalan history.
These forces are combined in the National Consensus Authority
(INC) which was formed with the participation of the Coordinating
Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial
Associations, the CACIF Business Chamber, several political parties
and the Multisector Social Forum, which itself was an association of
35 trade union, human rights, indigenous and religious organizations.
The INC played the main role in bringing about a constitutional
outcome to the events of May, and its diversity and representative
nature have given the situation the potential for the restoration of
effective human rights.
Starting in August, the Executive initiated a campaign aimed at
implementing what was called the "cleansing of the legislative
and judicial branches," by securing the voluntary resignations of
congress people and members of the Supreme Court.
Following many tense situations and negotiations, an agreement
was reached in November between the Executive and the representatives
of the majority political parties in Congress to amend the
constitution and submit the reforms to national consultation at the
end of January 1994. The
reforms entail--among others--an early end to the term of office of
congress members and new elections to replace them in August,
approximately, prior to the elections for president to be held in
The consensus that the INC had developed fell apart in late
August when the position taken by the Multisector Social Forum was not
accepted. This position
called for the cleansing to cover all sectors of the government,
including the executive branch, and the armed forces.
The Forum withdrew from the INC on October 8.
The 37 constitutional reforms enter into force two months after
the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announces the election results, and 15
days later the electoral authority must call for parliamentary
elections to be held within 120 days. The
new Congress will be sworn in one month after those elections, and its
members will hold office until the new full-term congressmen are
elected in 1995.
The "popular consultation" on the aforementioned
constitutional reforms was carried out without major incident on
January 30, 1994. The
reforms were carried with an absolute majority of 377,044 votes in
favor and 70,761 against, with 84.6% of the three and a half million
qualified voters staying away.
THE NEED FOR ELECTORAL REFORM
In an eminently rural country with departments of widely
varying social composition and interests, the exclusive right of
nominating parliamentary candidates given by the Electoral Law to the
national parties makes it impossible for a group that is predominant
in one or more departments (such as several of the Mayan and Quiche
ethnic groups), but has no nationwide presence, to nominate candidates
for congress. The
Commission considers that the Guatemalan state government should
promote reforms enhancing the genuineness and representativity of the
present democratic structure and allow regional parties to nominate
candidates for congress.
On July 13, 1993, the new administration presented a proposal
to renew the peace negotiation process with the National Guatemalan
Revolutionary Unit (URNG). The
proposal consisted of separating the discussions of the armed conflict
from other discussions dealing with national problems, human rights
included. The first of
these discussions would be the responsibility of a Special Negotiating
Commission, with the collaboration of the United Nations and the OAS.
The second would be held in Guatemala as part of a forum the
representatives of different sectors in attendance.
This proposal was rejected by the URNG and by representatives
of the Catholic Church, which had mediated the preceding negotiations,
as well as by several public interest organizations.
Finally, however, on November 20 the National Permanent
Assembly of the Mayan People, made up of more than 200 organizations,
accepted membership on the National Reconciliation Commission (CNR)
and agreed to participate in the peace-making process.
This is one more indication of how independent the Mayan groups
are from the URNG, which has rejected the government's plan.
In early January 1994, the government and the URNG decided to
meet under the auspices of the United Nations for the purpose of
discussing the "new rules of the game" and agreed to restart
On January 10, 1994, the Government and the URNG agreed in
Mexico to continue their discussion of a possible agenda for
negotiations, and first of all the topics relating to human rights.
The agenda contains substantive and operational topics. The former would include the human rights situation, the
problem of land ownership, displaced populations, and constitutional
reforms. The operational
topics are a cease-fire, demobilization of the rebels and their
assimilation to the legal order.
An assembly of sectors of civil society would ratify the
agreements concluded between the Government and the guerrillas.
The talks will continue in March, and the President of the
Republic has announced publicly his aim of completing the
negotiations in 1994.
8. OFFICIAL DECLARATION OF
HUMAN RIGHTS OF OCTOBER 1993
The pre-agreements on human rights that had been reached during
the peace negotiations under the Serrano administration were suspended
under the new proposal. In
exchange, the government issued in October an Official Declaration on
Human Rights which reaffirmed its commitment to improving and
enforcing human rights, "without any agreement or understanding
with any faction being necessary for it."
The declaration continues saying that the government recognizes
and undertakes to act firmly against impunity.
To do this, it promises, among others, to present to the
legislature for adoption descriptions and drastic punishments for
cases of forced disappearance as well as extra-judicial executions.
With respect to the members of the security forces, the
declaration holds that no exclusive authority or jurisdiction can hide
behind impunity. It
agrees to cleanse the security forces and professionalize them, and to
fight against the existence of illegal bodies or secret security
With respect to the PACs, it gives the Office of the Human
Rights Attorney the responsibility for controlling voluntary
membership in them and the legality of their acts.
It declares that the government will not encourage the
formation of any new PACs and the basic groups that would be formed
must be decided by the community, under the supervision of the Human
It notes the importance of the rights of free association,
travel and movement.
The declaration points out that obligatory military service
must be in conformity with constitutional rules and must not be
discriminatory. It also
indicates the government's decision to protect those who advocate
human rights and to investigate any attacks against them, and to
assist the victims of violations and eradicate the sufferings of the
civil population which have been caused by the armed confrontation.
The official government declaration ends by recognizing the
work of the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights and the OAS, to work with the public sector of Guatemala on
strengthening, training and improving its mechanisms for protection
and defense of human rights.
PROPERTY AND COMMERCIAL RIGHTS
In its Fourth Report, the IACHR remarked that the differences
in the effective enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in
Guatemala were abysmal and constitute real discrimination against
major segments of the population, in particular, Guatemalan Mayans.
The indivisibility of these rights from civil and political
rights is made particularly clear in the Guatemalan situation.
The unequal distribution of income, essential services and land
ownership, and the lack of respect for the ownership rights of rural
persons and Mayans are the worst manifestations of this problem area.
DISTRIBUTION AND PUBLIC SERVICES, AND THE LACK OF AN APPROPRIATE TAX
University of San Carlos data indicate 2% of the
population receives 65% of the income, and that 80% of all taxes are
indirect, that is, they are levied on the entire population.
The Tax Administration Program of the Ministry of Finance
states that of 16 Latin American countries studied, Guatemala has the
lowest tax burden, approximately 7%.
Approximately 89% of all Guatemalans live in poverty and
two-thirds of these in extreme poverty.
Illiteracy reaches more than 75% of those older than 15 years
in certain departments (Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Quiche,
Huehuetenango and Totonicapan), which are precisely where most of the
violence takes place.
In the health area, the major problems are malnutrition,
maternal-infant mortality and infectious diseases.
Maternal mortality has been an ignored tragedy, and the rate
among indigenous mothers is 50% higher than the average for the entire
female population. These
women do not have access even to minimal health care.
An evaluation conducted in July 1990 found that 41.2% of
children younger than 5 years suffered from either moderately acute or
severe malnutrition. The
prevalence of goiter rose between 1979 and 1989 from 8% to 20.4% of
the population. Acute
respiratory illnesses are one of the leading causes of morbidity and
mortality. Each child
suffers 5 to 8 episodes as a yearly average and almost 10,000 deaths
owed to this cause were recorded in 1990.
Malaria has spread to 20 of the 22 departments and the number
of cases has risen from 41,771 in 1990 to 57,560 in 1992.
The growth rates for dengue are similar; for this disease, the
population at risk is 383,281. One
person dies every day from cholera and another 31 contract this
disease, according to official data.
According to SEGEPLAN (General Secretariat for Planning), 60%
of the population lacks sanitary services and disposes of their waste
in lakes and rivers. Only
38% of the population has running water service.
Among the positive advances are reductions in diseases that can
be prevented by vaccinations such as measles and diarrheic diseases. The vaccination programs that have been conducted
increasingly by the government since 1985 succeeded in raising the
vaccination coverage of children under 1 year of age from 10% in 1985
to 60% in 1990.
The present administration has designed an important program
called Health Policy Guidelines 1994-95.
According to this program, the people will have greater
involvement in decisions and resource management through their local,
municipal and departmental authorities.
The health model based on family self-care with social and
community participation would start on an experimental basis in 61
priority municipalities, coinciding with areas where the greatest
violations of human rights have occurred, that is, Huehuetenango,
Quiche, Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz.
According to these guidelines, the health model would take a
multi-cultural and multi-language approach and pay particular care to
disadvantaged groups, migrants and extremely poor villages.
At this time, health care and sanitary services give
preferential attention to urban sectors and medium and high income
groups. For example, in
Guatemala Department (the capital city area), there are three times as
many hospital beds as there are in the rest of the country.
More than 80% of all resources are concentrated in Guatemala
City and the departmental seats, in a country that is predominantly
Half of the population lacks health care and 20% to 30% receive
inadequate care, according to the government's report.
2. THE PROBLEM OF
LAND OWNERSHIP AND THE HOUSING SHORTAGE
A latifundio-minifundio system exists in Guatemala; it
has been spreading over the last decade, suggesting greater inequality
in land distribution. Of all land owners, 2.1% hold 72% of the tillable lands and
receive 90% of the agricultural credit.
On the other hand, there are 548,000 small holdings with an
average size of 1.77 manzanas, or approximately 3 acres.
Worsening this problem is a housing shortage which has been
calculated by SEGEPLAN at approximately 942,000 units, in a country of
9 million persons. This
imbalance is complicated by the displacement of more than one million
persons at the start of the 1980s because of the war and the
antisubversion relocation plans.
The Housing Bank (BANVI), which had started buying lands for
relocation of those who lost their dwellings to the 1976 earthquake,
owns extensive vacant lands which continually are the targets of
spontaneous squatting attempts because of the public sector's
inability to solve the problem.
On August 30, 600 displaced persons occupied BANVI lands in
Nimajuyu in Zone 21 of Guatemala City, and started a settlement called
Marco Antonio Diaz, in a place from which hundreds of families had
been removed in 1992. They
also started negotiations with CEAR.
In October 1993, these persons were removed by court order.
The land problem has also been the cause of many conflicts
which led to the formation of the Communities of Peoples in Resistance
(CPRs). According to statements made by expert witnesses in
Guatemala, many of the army and PAC actions against these people
stemmed from the success that agricultural cooperatives were having in
that northern region, and attempts to take their land from them and
prevent the new cooperatives from forming.
Now that the military conflict is virtually over considering
how weak the guerrilla forces are, this problem has come to the
surface again. According
to charges received, military agents are falsely informing the people
of Chajul that the CPR Monitoring Commissions are handing out land
titles to CPR members for lands owned by the people of Chajul.
This is the type of information spread at the right time to
create animosity against the cooperatives and to justify the struggle
for their legally obtained lands.
According to information received, the land ownership rights of
campesinos are not respected by the PACs.
The PACs want to take control of the lands with the assistance
of civilian and military authorities.
In the hamlet of La Esperanza Blanca Flor, Santa Cruz Barillas,
Huehuetenango, PAC members have allegedly attempted to remove campesinos
who have not collaborated with them from lands they legally own.
One special problem is army occupation of private lands in an
irregular and uncompensated manner.
In 1980, approximately 700 persons who lived in the village of
Los Cimientos were forced to leave their lands because of the war.
The army established a garrison there and has still not
addressed the community's appeals to have their lands restored to
Positive public sector actions, on the other hand, have been
seen mainly in the work of the National Agrarian Reform Institute
which reported to the Commission that during the period 1991-1993, it
had adjudicated 48,342 hectares to 88,606 persons, and had recorded
and was processing lands already in possession amounting to 94,265
hectares (93% of which were publicly owned lands) to benefit 12,500
families. Together with
CEAR, the agrarian reform had surveyed and parceled lands for
resettlement of repatriates, and had assisted in establishing 20 new
rural group businesses. It
had also given 224 rural training courses mainly in Ixcan, Izabal and
Other favorable developments were the statements of December
10th, 1993, made by the Minister of Defense, General Enriquez, who
pointed out that the ministry had requested the Ixcan Grande
Cooperative to rent land to it to establish a garrison at a
considerable distance from the local population, thereby taking a
respectful attitude toward rights of ownership and agreements signed.
3. FREEDOM OF
WORKERS TO ASSOCIATE AND LABOR RIGHTS
The campaign to intimidate workers and their leaders continues
in the effort to prevent them from exercising their rights of
association. Among the maquiladora
or assembly companies, there have been death threats and threats of
discharge against employees who want to form unions (the case of Dina
Nimamac Herrera and other employees of the Guatemalan ESDEE company).
Other cases involve charges of plants being emptied and owners
fleeing without paying compensation owed to workers and no public
sector intervention, despite court orders to do so.
A Pan American Health Organization report maintains that in
assembly plants, "work is performed in inadequate health
conditions; the situation affects women primarily."
Of all the complaints received this year at the Ministry of
Labor, 15% relate to assembly companies and, according to the officers
of UNSITRAGUA, labor leaders have been fired or threatened with death
or companies have been emptied illegally, in seven of nine labor
Because of national and international pressures,
the government has stepped up its attention to labor complaints
involving problems at assembly plants.
At the end of 1993, the Ministry of Labor approved in less than
two months the juridical personality of four assembly plant unions and
started conducting inspection rounds at textile companies.
In addition, on October 22, it created a high level
governmental commission to make sure the economic development policy
was coordinated with respect to labor law.
Symposiums have also been held with the cooperation of the
Embassy of Korea to provide information to prospective investors.
THE VOLUNTARY CIVIL DEFENSE COMMITTEES SYSTEM (FORMER PACs)
1. THE SYSTEM OF
POWER INSTITUTED THROUGH MILITARIZATION OF CIVILIANS IN RURAL AREAS:
THE ARMED CIVIL PATROLS
The Commission confirmed in its visit to rural areas the
serious infringement of the observance of human rights brought about
by the system of armed civil patrols system organized by the army
since the early 1980s for purposes of control and counter-insurgency,
and referred to the need to disband them.
Known by their initials PAC, these groups are now called
Voluntary Civil Defense Committees or CDVCs.
In addition, many international, national and community
agencies have called for their dissolution.
In his report of January 1994 the present Human Rights
Attorney, Dr. Jorge La Guardia, also asserts the necessity of
President De Leon Carpio has indicated publicly that the
disbanding of the patrols can be taken up only when the armed conflict
is over. His position has
been elaborated in a note to the President of the United States, which
is commented on below.
The Minister of National Defense, in a letter to the IACHR
dated September 1993, sets out the government's position, according to
...depending on the intensity of the conflict, areas of
subversive activity, areas of influence and pacified areas have been
defined. For that reason, Voluntary Civil Defense Committees (CDVCs)
exist in areas of activity and in some areas of influence, where they
perform armed surveillance operations to keep their communities free
of terrorist attacks or incursions.
In the pacified areas, CDVCs have been organized but they
remain inactive inasmuch as there is no need to mobilize in response
to an action against their security.
In departments where the problem has been controlled, several
committees have been demobilized and others have remained organized
for purposes of community development.
These call themselves Committees for Peace and Development (CPD),
and they do not carry out any surveillance action since none is
others have decided to disband and maintain no type of organization
since it is based on absolute voluntary participation.
Following the statements made above, the information required
is as below:
Areas of subversive activity
Areas of influence
There are CDVCs that are not mobilized but are on a state of
alert in the departments of Chimaltenango, San Marcos and Santa Rosa.
In addition, there are CPDs working in community development
Peace and Development Committees exist in departments where the
conflict has ended or has been controlled.
These committees, which are unarmed, are in almost all parts of
the country, and are working for the benefit of the community.
Confirming the note from the Ministry of Defense, the Executive
Branch of Government in its Official Declaration on Human Rights on
October 7, 1993, reaffirms its intention to keep the present committees.
It also indicates that it will not encourage the organization of
any more committees, "provided no events occur to make them
necessary," and if such events do occur, the local people could
decide to establish them in a public manner controlled by the Human
The Commission concluded, for its part, at the end of its on-site
visit to Guatemala in September 1993:
The IACHR views with grave concern the existence of about half a
million persons organized in military formation under the PACs (Civilian
Self-Defense Committees), with a capability for armed action outside
real government control. Wherever
they operate they are a source of constant friction and human rights
violations. What is more,
the Commission considers it necessary that they be disbanded or
reorganized under the rules and standards of democratic society.
The experience of other countries shows that when the
insurgencies that gave rise to them are past, these organizations, which
are factors for chaos and illegality, can become a serious obstacle to
domestic peace. There have
been cases in which PACs have become ungovernable and have openly
disobeyed orders of the judiciary and the police, and set up their own
systems of justice, while those who are supposed to control them have
refrained from abolishing and disarming them, and placing them at the
disposal of a competent judge.
The Commission thus confirmed its earlier position
after visiting civilian and military authorities, patrol chiefs and
members, and campesinos, both in cities and in rural areas, and
hearing their different opinions.
In addition to the individual excesses by the patrols, some of
which have come to the public's and the courts' attention, a matter of
concern to the Commission is the system itself that has been set up as a
power structure parallel to the constitutional civilian system.
This system sidesteps local governments and has its own
authorities and local laws, and dictates or handles justice in its own
The chairman of its coordinating committee, Juan Leon, said,
"In the court system, the court secretaries throw our reports
into the waste basket, and force us to sign papers without us even
knowing our rights because they are not in our own languages.
There are hundreds of cases of violations that have gone
unpunished. Our sons
are recruited by force."
These attacks also tend to paralyze action by the justice
burning of the files of the Court at Santa Cruz del Quiché, where
many cases of alleged human rights violations are in process.
The proposed reforms approved by Congress on the basis of the
agreement with the Executive, and which will be put to a referendum,
call for reducing the terms of office for the president and
vice-president and deputies, who will be elected for four years,
reducing the number of congress people, expanding the number of
judges on the Supreme Court from 9 to 13, for a term of five years,
after being elected by congress, from a list to be proposed by the
deans of the schools of law and the bar associations. (Cont.)
The reforms also call for changes in administrative controls
over the financial area. The reforms would go into effect 60 days after being approved
by the citizens, and 15 days after this, the Supreme Electoral
Tribunal would call for legislative elections to elect a new
congress which would hold office until January 14, 1996, at which
time the term of the present president, de Leon Carpio, would end.
Participating in the referendum would be 4.5 million
Guatemalans registered out of a total population of 9 million, of
whom more than 60% are members of 23 indigenous ethnic groups.
The Commission recalls charges made during the 1980s which mentioned
that campesinos who knew how to read and write--considered
indicative of support for subversion--were the subjects of
In November 1993, the Minister of Labor stated that previous
governments had failed to consider workers' rights for reasons of
attracting foreign investment.
She stated, "Only the threat of being excluded from the
General System of Preferences (the United States customs system) had
awakened the authorities to importance of respecting laws pertaining
to labor matters."
The Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and the National Widows
Coordination Office of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) held a 22-day vigil in
November at the Office of the OAS General Secretariat in Guatemala
City as a way of calling attention to their request to disband the
Voluntary Civil Defense Committees (the former PACs) of Joyabaj,
Quiche and Colotenango, Huehuetenango.
This public expression occurred without incident and gave
rise to many marches and public meetings.
Letter 97/S2-93, of September 20, 1993, from General Mario R.
Enriquez M. to the chairman of the Commission.
The PACs operate pursuant to Degree Law 19-86 and under the
command and coordination of the Ministry of Defense.
This decree institutes them as "organizations that are
eminently civilian in nature and an expression of the available and
Since its first special report on Guatemala, the IACHR has stated in
many individual resolutions published in its annual reports that the
PACs (today the CDVC) have been sources of human rights violations.