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TITLE:  GUATEMALA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Guatemala's 1985 Constitution calls for election by universal 
suffrage of a one-term President, a unicameral Congress, and 
municipal officers; it mandates an independent judiciary and a 
human rights ombudsman, who is elected by and reports to 
Congress.  Midway through his 5-year term, after rising street 
protests, President Jorge Serrano suspended several sections of 
the Constitution and dissolved Congress and the Supreme and 
Constitutional Courts on May 25.  After extremely negative 
domestic and international reaction to this extraconstitutional 
move, Serrano was peacefully and constitutionally dismissed on 
June 1.  Congress and the courts were called back into session, 
and on June 5, Congress, as prescribed by the Constitution, 
elected then Human Rights Ombudsman Ramiro de Leon Carpio to 
finish Serrano's presidential term, which ends in January 1996.

The armed forces operate with considerable institutional and 
legal autonomy, particularly in security and military matters.  
President de Leon Carpio, as Commander in Chief, replaced two 
Defense Ministers with officers of his own choosing.  The 
43,000-man army, which has responsibility for national 
security, has fought a leftist insurgency for more than three 
decades.  The National Police (12,000 strong) and Treasury 
Police (2,000) report to the Interior Minister and share 
responsibility for internal security with the army.  A target 
of frequent criticism by human rights groups, the "Hunapu" 
anticrime task force patrols--composed of National Police, 
Treasury Police, and Mobile Military Police (PMA)--were 
eliminated during the year.  However, in December, as part of a 
Christmastime anticrime effort, limited joint patrols were 
reinstituted in some communities.  The new President appointed 
a civilian as National Police chief in August, as well as other 
civilians to senior positions in the police and Ministry of 
Interior, and removed all military personnel from the police on 
August 27.  Some 500,000 men serve in voluntary civil 
self-defense committees, commonly called Civil Defense Patrols 
(PAC's), some of which conduct counterinsurgency patrols in 
rural areas.  The Human Rights Ombudsman and the Catholic 
Archbishop's Human Rights Office report that some PAC members 
were compelled to join the patrols, in violation of the 
Constitution.  Security forces and especially PAC'S committed 
numerous serious human rights violations in 1993.

The agriculture-based, private sector-oriented economy was 
projected to grow approximately 4 percent in 1993, which would 
produce an increase in per capita income of about 1 percent.  
Inflation was expected to reach 12 percent.  Guatemala has 
negotiated a shadow agreement with the International Monetary 
Fund, despite fiscal and monetary difficulties.  There is a 
marked disparity in income distribution and poverty is 
pervasive, particularly in the large indigenous community.

Although there were improvements in the human rights situation 
in 1993, serious abuses occurred frequently.  Statistics 
prepared by the Archbishop's Human Rights Office showed an 
increase in extrajudicial killings as of mid-December and a 
substantial increase in forced disappearances, with no 
improvement in other categories.  Many of these violations 
occurred in the latter half of the year.  The civil patrols, 
military, and police continued to commit a majority of the 
major violations, including extrajudicial killings, political 
kidnapings, and death threats.  The seriousness of the 
continuing violations was underlined by the circulation in 
March of a "death list" containing 24 names and another in 
October with 23 names.  However, no one on either list was 
kidnaped or killed.

The election of President de Leon Carpio, the highly respected 
former human rights ombudsman, raised hopes there would be a 
rapid improvement in the human rights situation.  The new 
President encouraged human rights groups and showed a 
willingness to investigate abuses and to make structural 
changes, such as dismantling the "Archivos" presidential 
intelligence unit and restructuring the police, including 
creation of a special police unit to investigate all cases of 
forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other 
violations of a political nature allegedly committed by the 
police.  Nevertheless, these changes failed to reduce the 
actual number of abuses allegedly committed by government 
forces.  The 33-year-old internal insurgency continued to be a 
major cause of human rights violations.  Both the security 
forces and the guerrillas committed numerous and serious human 
rights abuses.  Guerrilla abuses included extrajudicial 
killings, kidnapings, forced labor recruitment, widespread use 
of mines and explosives in civilian areas, and the use of 
children in combat.  Guerrilla attacks on infrastructure 
targets continued throughout the year.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Politically motivated killings continued in 1993, and with few 
exceptions the Government failed to investigate them fully or 
to detain and prosecute the perpetrators of extrajudicial 
killings.  Full-year statistics from the Human Rights 
Ombudsman's Office listed 14 cases of extrajudicial killings, 
with 146 other cases under investigation.  This compares with 
48 confirmed extrajudicial killings in 1992, with 318 under 
investigation.  The Archbishop's Human Rights Office reported 
239 extrajudicial killings up to mid-December 1993 as compared 
to 204 in 1992 but did not break down the figures according to 
the responsible organization.

The security forces and persons associated with or protected by 
the army, such as the Civil Defense Patrols or military 
commissioners, committed a number of these killings, many of 
which took place in areas of guerrilla conflict.  The 
Ombudsman, the Attorney General, and human rights groups have 
found evidence of killings by PAC's.  PAC leaders are feared in 
many rural communities.  They enjoy army backing and often 
immunity from prosecution.  Likewise, members of the security 
forces are rarely held accountable for human rights violations.

Civil patrols continued to be especially responsible for human 
rights violations, including the killing of human rights 
activists.  PAC's threatened and killed members of the Runujel 
Junam Council of Ethnic Communities (CERJ), a rural-based human 
rights organization dedicated mainly to opposing involuntary 
service in PAC's.  Tomas Lares Cipriano, a CERJ and United 
Peasants Committee (CUC) member in Joyabaj, was killed on April 
30 by PAC members, according to family members and witnesses.

Ten persons, from two separate families, took refuge in the 
Santa Cruz del Quiche CERJ office on June 10 after being 
threatened with death for not participating in PAC's and for 
being CERJ members.  On October 14, 3 of the 10 left the CERJ 
offices under police protection and resettled in a town without 
a PAC.  The other seven returned to their original community in 
early January.  Charges against CERJ leader Amilcar Mendez for 
allegedly providing explosives to guerrillas in October 1992 
were dropped in March.  Captain Anibal Roberto Landaveri, 
Commander of the Chiul, Quiche, stockade, was arrested in May 
for having three CERJ members beaten on his base.  He was 
dismissed from the army and tried for illegal detention, abuse 
of authority, coercion, and causing injuries.  In addition to 
being dismissed, he was found guilty and sentenced to 2 1/2 
years in prison and payment of damages to those harmed.  
However, the sentence was suspended by the military court, 
which has the discretion to do so when a light sentence is 

On August 3, Huehuetenango PAC members fired on marchers 
demanding the dissolution of the civil patrols, killing Juan 
Chonay Pablo and wounding two others.  Five PAC members have 
been questioned by the authorities for Chonay's murder, with 
one still remaining in jail.  Ten arrest warrants for other PAC 
members remain outstanding.  Witnesses subsequently reported 
receiving threats from PAC members.  PAC leader Efrain Domingo 
Morales, from the town of Xemal in the same area, was murdered 
by unknown persons in mid-September.  A surviving family member 
reported that PAC members killed two peasants from Xemal, 
Colotenango, on September 26.

Former Corporal Nicolas Gutierrez Cruz, convicted in the 
January 17, 1992, killing of four persons in Ciudad Peronia, 
exhausted his legal appeals on July 23 when the Constitutional 
Court denied his request to void his death sentence.  In early 
October, President de Leon Carpio commuted his sentence to 
30 years, the maximum legally possible.  A fellow ex-soldier 
convicted in the killings escaped on May 9, 1992; in May 1993, 
an appellate court sentenced an army enlisted man to 2 years in 
prison for negligence in allowing the escape.  On March 19, the 
then Human Rights Ombudsman de Leon Carpio accused army troops 
of responsibility for the August 31, 1992, kidnaping, torture, 
and murder of Huehuetenango peasant Lucas Perez Tadeo.  
Although the army promised a full investigation, no results 
were reported by year's end.

On May 1, civil patrol members in Jocopilas surrounded a house 
and killed 11 inhabitants (as well as an unborn child).  Many 
of the 11 were known as criminals in the community and, the day 
of their deaths, are said to have robbed one family and raped 
three women.  Police arrived prior to the killings but left 
after being intimidated by the local PAC.

On the Government's appeal of an earlier acquittal, Quiche PAC 
chiefs Manuel Perebal Ajtzalam and Manuel Leon Lares were 
sentenced to 30 years in prison for the February 17, 1991, 
killing of Juan Perebal Xirum and his son and the injuring of 
another son.  Those attacked had testified against Perebal in 
the case of Sebastian Velasquez Mejia, a community leader 
opposed to the PAC's who was kidnaped and later found dead.

Persons associated with the security forces were responsible 
for vigilante killings.  According to the Casa Alianza, an 
organization that fosters protection of the human rights of 
street children, street children Henry Yubani Alvarez and 
Francisco Tziac were shot in downtown Guatemala City on April 
17 and 22.  Casa Alianza believes that a private security guard 
killed Alvarez and off-duty military commissioners wounded 
Tziac, both shot possibly due to petty thievery.  On May 11, a 
congressional bodyguard shot a student protesting at the 
Congress.  He died a day later; the bodyguard who allegedly 
killed him remains a fugitive.

There was some progress in certain past high-profile cases.  
Former government security agent Noel de Jesus Beteta Alvarez 
was sentenced in February to 30 years in prison for the 1990 
murder of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang and the 
unrelated beating of a minor.  The conviction is now being 
appealed, with plaintiff Helen Mack also seeking prosecution of 
the alleged military "intellectual authors" of the crime.  On 
September 1, Myrna Mack's former workplace was broken into and 
death threats left against Helen Mack.  On September 23, Beteta 
briefly escaped from jail but was recaptured 5 hours later and 
charged in the escape.

On May 11, an appellate court sentenced Captain Hugo Contreras 
to 20 years for planning the 1990 kidnaping that led to the 
death of U.S. citizen Michael Devine and confirmed the 30-year 
sentences for six enlisted men.  After hearing the verdict, 
however, Contreras escaped from military custody and remains at 
large.  While the circumstances of his escape suggested 
complicity by the military, the only punishment was a 2-year 
suspended sentence given to an enlisted man for not being at 
his post when Contreras escaped.  Senior officers accused of 
covering up the case have not been brought to trial. 

On August 18, an appeals court sentenced 22 former police 
officers, who formed part of a "Hunapu" patrol, to 30 years in 
prison for the April 10, 1992, death of university student 
Julio Rigoberto Cu Quim and for injuring six other students.  
Earlier, on July 22, seven PMA members of the same patrol were 
given sentences of 14 years (4 commutable) for the crime.

There was no progress in resolving numerous other cases of past 
extrajudicial killings, including the 1988 "white van" case, the
1989 disappearances and murders of university students, the 1990
Hector Oqueli Colindres and Gilda Flores killings, the 1990 
disappearance of Maria Tiu Tojin and her daughter, the 1991 
murder of police detective Jose Luis Merida Escobar, the 1991 
disappearance of Diego Domingo Martin, or past kidnapings and 
murders of various CERJ members.  On May 5, an appeals court 
upheld a lower court decision to dismiss charges against six 
military defendants for the 1991 "Traileros" killings in 
Taxisco.  The decision was appealed.  The Government's frequent 
inability to control or sanction those responsible for human 
rights offenses is a major impediment to human rights progress.

     b.  Disappearance

The Archbishop's Human Rights Office reported 46 forced 
disappearances during 1993, as compared with 11 in 1992.  
Seventeen were either labeled or presumed to be political in 
nature.  Reports linked many political disappearances to 
persons connected with the armed forces.  The Ombudsman's 
Office listed 2 cases of forced disappearances, with 29 others 
under investigation at year's end.  This compares with the 
Ombudman's 1992 statistics of 10 confirmed forced 
disappearances and 62 cases still under investigation.  The 
Government did not identify or prosecute the perpetrators of 
any of these disappearances.

In August the wife of guerrilla Efrain Bamaca claimed he was 
being held in a clandestine prison after results of an 
exhumation of his supposed grave proved negative.  The army 
denied this, though it has admitted in the past to housing 
former guerrillas who cooperate with the armed forces on 
military bases.  One of these ex-guerrillas, Angel Osorio, was 
killed on August 19 by members of the Guatemala National 
Revolutionary Unity (URNG) guerrilla coalition when he was 
stopped at a guerrilla roadblock after leaving a Quiche 
military base to visit his family.

Guerrilla forces kidnaped San Marcos PAC members Margarito 
Lopez and Obdulio Zapeta on August 7 and Diego Chel Matom, an 
army enlisted man riding a bus in Quiche 3 days later.  In 
early December, the press reported that 10 persons dressed in 
the manner of URNG guerrillas approached Ramona Munoz and 
Maritza Gil as they were working on their Santa Rose farm and 
took them to nearby mountains under threat of death.  The 
whereabouts of all these persons were unknown as of year's end.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution protects the integrity and security of the 
person.  However, as in past years, many bodies were found 
throughout Guatemala bearing signs of severe disfigurement or 
postmortem mutilation.  The Human Rights Ombudsman's Office 
listed seven cases of torture in 1993.  The Archbishop's Human 
Rights Office listed nine cases of torture through 
mid-December.  In one case, a male student was picked up by 
three unidentified men on March 27, beaten unconscious, held 
for 3 days, and asked about student leaders.  In April a female 
victim was also beaten unconscious but apparently was not asked 
any questions.

There were other credible reports of mistreatment by security 
forces, including use of excessive force by police at the time 
of arrest and of abusive treatment of persons in rural areas by 
the army, Civil Defense Patrols, military commissioners, and 
police.  The Government often failed to investigate or take any 
other action in response to such reports.  Although action was 
rarely taken, cases of rape traced to individual soldiers were 

Casa Alianza, the organization dedicated to street children, 
reported in March that street child Julio Cesar Reyes was 
picked up by two persons he recognized as policemen and burned 
on his arm 29 times with a cigarette.  On May 23, a street 
child reported having acid thrown at him by the police.  There 
were numerous other reports of policemen beating or illegally 
detaining street children; the authorities rarely took action 
in any of these instances.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Despite legal safeguards, there were frequent credible reports 
of arbitrary arrest by the security forces, incommunicado 
detention, and failure to adhere to the prescribed time limits 
for legal procedures.  A court-issued arrest warrant is 
required unless a person is caught in the act of committing a 
crime.  Police may not detain a suspect for over 6 hours 
without bringing him before a judge.  The law provides for bail,
access to lawyers, and limits to 20 days the time anyone may be 
held.  After that period, a detainee must be charged or freed, 
and the authorities must produce detainees on court request.

Some persons detained illegally reported having been held at 
safe houses allegedly operated by security forces.  Those 
responsible for illegal detentions routinely ignore writs of 
habeas corpus.  The Archbishop's Human Rights Office charged 
that prisoners are sometimes not released in a timely fashion 
after completing their sentences due to the failure of judges 
to issue the necessary court order.

Investigations during the Serrano presidency into the 
activities of former Izabal department governor Lilian Vasquez 
de Guzman and alleged corruption by former Health Minister 
Miguel Montepeque appeared politically motivated.  Montepeque 
was subsequently cleared of charges; Vasquez de Guzman went 
into self-imposed temporary exile in mid-February.  The problem 
of politically motivated investigations lessened after the 
accession of de Leon Carpio to the presidency.

Exile is prohibited under the Constitution and is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is ineffective and often unable to ensure a 
fair trial (see below).  The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary composed of a Constitutional Court, a 
Supreme Court, appeals courts, and several courts of special 
jurisdiction, such as labor courts.  However, military courts 
have jurisdiction over military personnel, including military 
commissioners who commit crimes while on official business, 
thus limiting the ability of civil courts to prosecute persons 
under military control in human rights abuse cases.  PAC 
members are civilians and not under military jurisdiction.

Civilian trials are public after the first 15 days, which are 
dedicated to an initial investigative phase that is closed.  
Defendants have the right to be present at trials and to legal 
representation.  An appeals court automatically reviews 
convictions.  The Criminal Procedure Code is being changed to 
introduce oral proceedings (in both Spanish and indigenous 
languages) open to the public and to establish a viable public 
defender program.  To allow more time for training and 
compliance, however, in December the effective date of the new 
Criminal Procedure Code was postponed until July 1994.

Most human rights violations are not investigated; security 
force personnel are reluctant to investigate cases involving 
colleagues.  Police are also relatively few in number and lack 
resources and training.  Judges are susceptible to intimidation 
and corruption and suffer from low pay, bad working conditions, 
and low morale.  The Supreme Court and some lower court judges 
came under public pressure to resign for corruption and 
politicization of the legal system.

Some judges succeeded in being excused from hearing prominent 
cases by alleging they had received death threats.  A total of 
12 different judges were excused from the Myrna Mack Chang 
case, for example.  The appeals court judges who heard the 
Mack, Devine, and "Traileros" cases reported having received 
threats in 1993.  In addition, officials from the Attorney 
General's and Human Rights Ombudsman's offices, including the 
Ombudsman himself, have received threats.

Charges continue to be made publicly that the Supreme Court 
pressures lower court judges to decide cases in line with its 
wishes.  In January the Constitutional Court ruled that the 
Supreme Court practice of arbitrarily transferring justices was 
unconstitutional, limiting one means of interfering in lower 
court cases.

There are no known political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of home, 
correspondence, and private documents, but these provisions are 
not always respected.  Elements of the security forces continue 
to monitor private communications.  Many human rights monitors 
reported receiving threats in the form of surveillance, 
telephone calls, and anonymous letters.

On March 26, the Guatemalan postal workers union and the Human 
Rights Ombudsman exposed a secret government mail interception 
unit located at the central post office.  The Ombudsman 
attributed responsibility for the letter-opening operation to 
the presidential intelligence unit known as "Archivos," which 
was later disbanded.

Officials enforcing the military draft continued to enter homes 
and places of business without legally required court orders.  
The army attempted to curb such abuses in Quiche by setting up 
a draft board consisting of the zone military commander, the 
local representative of the Human Rights Ombudsman's office, 
and other civilian leaders.  Under recruitment practices also 
adopted in other departments, potential draftees receive three 
induction notices, after which they are arrested if they do not 
report for enlistment.  Under Guatemalan law, such arrests must 
be effected pursuant to a court order.

Credible reports of forced recruitment continued, however, 
particularly in late January.  On July 27, in what was said to 
be the first case of its kind outside a city, Jalapa peasant 
Juan Engel Morales Lima filed suit claiming he was a victim of 
forced recruitment.  In September Alvaro Enrique Madrid Matta 
was released from the army due to his being a minor after the 
Human Rights Ombudsman filed suit on September 14, asserting he 
had been forcibly recruited in August.

The Constitution requires that PAC service be voluntary.  
However, army officers, military commissioners, and PAC leaders 
often pressure men in areas of conflict to become PAC members.  
There were credible reports that some who refused to serve were 
killed or suffered other abuses.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

Guatemala's armed internal conflict entered its 33rd year in 
1993 and continued to be a major cause of human rights 
violations by both government and guerrilla forces.  After a 
promising first half of the year, peace talks collapsed in 
early May.  Human rights issues and the timing of a proposed 
cease-fire were primary areas of disagreement.  The de Leon 
Carpio Government sought to renew the peace talks under a 
format allowing greater participation by other groups in 
Guatemalan society.  Talks resumed under U.N. auspices in 
January 1994.

Communities of People in Resistance (CPR) claimed army 
harassment throughout the year, including late evening 
helicopter overflights and restriction of commerce.  On 
February 27, Episcopal Conference Secretary Bishop Ramazzini 
announced that some 500 Guatemalans had fled to Mexico to avoid 
army operations in Cuarto Pueblo, Quiche.  They later returned.
On August 23, two former PAC members stated that PAC leaders 
and a military officer had forced them earlier in the year to 
harass a CPR.  In September President de Leon Carpio met with a 
CPR delegation to discuss their complaints.  CPR leaders 
announced the intention of their communities to live openly, 
establishing permanent settlements in 1994.

Bombings conducted by unknown perpetrators continued, with 
targets including former President Serrano's Solidarity Action 
Movement party headquarters and the headquarters of the 
Christian Democratic Party.  Four banks were also bombed, and 
numerous rural electrical towers were blown up in January and 
February.  Further bombings occurred in September, apparently 
tied to a political struggle involving efforts to remove 
allegedly corrupt Congressmen and Supreme Court officials from 
office.  Commercial institutions, Christian Democratic Party 
headquarters, the Guatemalan Jurists Association, and the 
offices of the Mutual Support Group (GAM--a human rights group 
active in the removal effort), were targets.  Shots also were 
fired near GAM leader Nineth Montenegro de Garcia's home on 
September 11; some congressional deputies and the Supreme Court 
president also reported death threats.  No one was apprehended 
for these attacks and threats.

Guerrilla forces continued to recruit children into their 
ranks.  Government troops found a 10-year-old child guerrilla 
after an armed engagement near Raxhuja, Alta Verapaz, on 
March 9.  The wounded child was evacuated to a Guatemala City 
military hospital.  In another instance, on June 17, 
13-year-old Mario Ixcal was captured near La Libertad, Peten, 
after being wounded in an army-guerrilla clash.  Treated and 
released to the Ombudsman's office, Ixcal said his URNG unit 
contained two other young boys.  Documented cases of civilians 
being injured by guerrilla mines also occurred in 1993.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression.  However, 
radio and television station owners charge that licensing and 
renewal procedures have been used to threaten stations critical 
of the Government, security forces, or powerful individuals.  
When Serrano was President, newspapers also complained about 
government interference, especially efforts to silence 
criticism of the President, his family, and alleged wrongdoing 
by security forces.  On February 4, newspaper columnist Marta 
Altoaguirre's father's automobile was attacked by a group of 
heavily armed men.  Although neither her father nor driver were 
injured, Altoaguirre, an outspoken critic of then President 
Serrano, characterized the attack as an effort to intimidate 

While journalists assert that they operate more freely under 
the de Leon administration than they have at any other time in 
recent history, threats and attacks on journalists continued.  
On July 3, Jorge Carpio Nicolle, El Grafico publisher and a 
political party leader, was shot and killed by a group of armed 
men while traveling along a highway in Quetzaltenango.  On 
December 24, Victor Manuel de la Cruz, a reporter for Radio 
Sonora, was shot and subsequently died in Guatemala City.  Both 
cases remained unsolved at year's end, although the Government 
claims motivation for the attacks was criminal, not political.

On August 1, unknown individuals fired on the offices of the 
daily newspaper Siglo XXI.  Despite President de Leon's 
personal interest, this case also remained unsolved at year's 
end.  Five days later, three police officers threatened two 
journalists covering a student disturbance.  The new police 
director disciplined the three officers, and one is currently 
awaiting trial for this threat.  In mid-August, a television 
journalist who interviewed two senior URNG officials received 

On October 8, Oscar Masaya, director of a cable television news 
program, was severely beaten in Guatemala City.  On October 28, 
10 journalists were beaten by unknown individuals when they 
attempted to cover a press conference being given by activists 
occupying the Congress.  During November the weekly Cronica 
reported receiving a threat that it should pay protection money 
to an alleged URNG representative.  On November 25, newspaper 
editor Carlos Rigalt Cervantes was shot and pursued by persons 
in a car that moments earlier had struck the auto he was 
driving.  A number of journalists, including the director of 
Tinamit magazine, also reported receiving death threats 
throughout the year.  Several were included on a 24-person 
"death list" that appeared in late March or on a separate list 
that appeared in early October.

Newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations were 
subjected to censorship when President Serrano announced his 
May 25 extraconstitutional actions.  Radio and television 
stations also were forced to broadcast standardized government 
programming for extended periods.  Security forces seized 
several thousand copies of the Cronica magazine issue reporting 
Serrano's actions, which were found burned by a roadside in 
late July.  A number of journalists refused to cooperate with 
authorities during the coup; they were not harmed as censorship 
quickly broke down and a free press returned after Serrano's 

Despite harassment, the news media reported all major human 
rights stories and publicized communiques from the URNG, 
leftist groups, and others opposed to the Government or its 
policies.  Both major press associations denounced incidents 
restricting freedom of the press and vowed to continue coverage 
of sensitive topics.  Journalists admit, however, that 
self-censorship stemming from fear of reprisal continues to 
impede full investigative reporting on a variety of topics, 
including alleged government human rights violations, 
corruption of government officials and influential politicians, 
aspects of narcotics trafficking, and issues affecting the 
economic interests of powerful individuals.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution guarantees the right of peaceful assembly and 
association, but authorities banned rallies and broke up a 
demonstration following Serrano's May 25 coup.  Prior to the 
coup, there was a plethora of demonstrations, some involving 
violence between police and marchers.  Some demonstrators also 
claimed later harassment by security forces in retribution for 
their participation in the marches.  Street demonstrations were 
a factor in focusing public disapproval on Serrano's actions.  
With his exit from office, constitutional guarantees of 
peaceful assembly and association were restored.

Freedom of political association is guaranteed under the 
Constitution, although organizations are nominally required to 
obtain legal status, a cumbersome and expensive procedure.  In 
mid-December, the Government announced a streamlining of these 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

No state religion exists.  Religious freedom is constitutionally
guaranteed and is respected in practice.  Religious personnel 
are sometimes threatened for political reasons.  About 70 per 
cent of the population is nominally Catholic, but many other 
faiths operate freely, especially evangelical Protestantism.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict foreign travel, nor does it 
revoke citizenship for political reasons.  Movement inside the 
country was unrestricted except where the army and PAC's 
limited travel in some areas of conflict.  Guerrillas continued 
to establish roadblocks, assault private citizens to demand 
"war taxes," attack and drain petroleum trucks, and limit 
travel in certain rural areas.  

Repatriation of refugees continued.  By the end of 1993, 5,135 
refugees had been repatriated to Guatemala.  In December a 
large group of approximately 1,300 refugees returned to a 
conflict-torn zone that was originally their home.

On August 25, a representative of the Guatemalan refugee 
community in Mexico, Joaquin Jimenez Bautista, was beaten by a 
crowd including PAC members in Todos Santos, Huehuetenango.  
Jimenez had returned to Guatemala on August 17 as part of a 
refugee group searching for resettlement sites.  On the day of 
the beating, he had left the group, returning for a visit to 
his former village.  Crowd members later formally charged that 
Jimenez was a known guerrilla, who participated in murders in 
that town in the 1980's.  Jimenez was briefly detained by 
police after a military patrol prevented the mob from lynching 
him.  Jimenez was released by order of the Minister of 
Government and returned to Mexico on August 26.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Guatemalans have the right to change their government by 
peaceful and democratic means.  Universal suffrage by secret 
ballot exists for those 18 years of age and older; there are no 
property or literacy requirements, but members of the armed 
forces and police may not vote.  The last national elections, 
which international observers found free and fair, were held in 
January 1991.

Following the removal of President Serrano and Vice President 
Espina, Ramiro de Leon Carpio was elected President by a 
congressional vote and sworn in on June 6, as prescribed by the 
Constitution.  Congress elected Arturo Herbruger, who was head 
of Guatemala's independent Supreme Electoral Tribunal until 
retiring in early June, as Vice President on June 18.

Several women hold prominent political positions, including 
three Cabinet posts.  Six of 116 members of Congress are 
female; 2 women are Supreme Court justices.  A few women also 
hold important positions in political parties.  Of the over 300 
municipalities in Guatemala, women serve as mayors in only 5 
(there had been no female mayors prior to the May elections in 
276 small municipalities).  There are no legal impediments to 
women's participation in politics, but females are 
underrepresented in the political arena.  As of March 1990, 60 
percent of registered voters were men and 40 percent women, 
despite women being slightly more numerous than men in the 
general population.

Indigenous people enjoy equal rights under the Constitution, 
and some have attained positions as Congressmen, army officers 
(including one general), government officials, and judges.  
Nevertheless, pervasive discrimination (see Section 5) limits 
opportunities for indigenous people to assume prominent roles 
in politics.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights groups are permitted to operate, but members 
suffered threats and violence from security forces and PAC's.  
A greater tolerance for their activity exists since the de Leon 
administration took office.  As noted in Section 1.a., members 
of the human rights organization CERJ were killed and 
threatened, and CERJ's Guatemala City office was broken into on 
May 8.  CONAVIGUA, an indigenous widows' organization prominent 
in the advocacy of women's and human rights issues, also 
received threats.  Prior to the midyear change in 
administrations, President Serrano and members of his Cabinet 
criticized both local and international human rights groups, 
accusing them of intentionally distorting Guatemala's human 
rights record for political purposes.  High-ranking government 
officials working in the fields of human rights and 
jurisprudence complained publicly and privately of receiving 
threats stemming from their interest in resolving cases related 
to human rights violations, official corruption, and drug 

Relations between the executive branch and the Ombudsman's 
office were tense at times in the first half of the year, 
though, after the election of de Leon Carpio as President, 
matters improved considerably.  The Ombudsman's office 
continued to enjoy widespread public support and respect; 
Congress elected Jorge Mario Garcia Laguardia as the new Human 
Rights Ombudsman to replace de Leon Carpio.  The new Government 
made clear its willingness and commitment to receive 
international and domestic human rights groups.  Senior 
officials met numerous foreign and international officials and 

The Peace Brigades, an international human rights monitoring 
organization, was unable to obtain government recognition 
despite persistent efforts.  The absence of legal status did 
not, however, prevent Peace Brigades or other human rights 
organizations from operating openly.

On June 17, union activist Elizabeth Recinos was kidnaped, along
with a companion.  Though the companion was quickly released, 
Recinos was held for 4 days, drugged, and beaten.  President de 
Leon condemned the kidnaping, and the police conducted an 
investigation, though no arrests were made.  The police 
initially labeled this a "self-kidnaping," although there were 
more credible claims that the action was meant as a threat to 
unions and human rights groups.  On July 11, union official 
Walter Manuel Najera Molina was kidnaped and interrogated about 
union activities for 3 hours by four armed men, during which 
time he was beaten.  During his questioning, Najera was asked 
about various political and human rights leaders, whom his 
captives linked to the guerrillas.

On September 1, a member of a group advocating a purge of 
alleged corrupt congressional and Supreme Court officials, Olga 
Marina Ruano Cruz, was abducted and beaten before being 
released a day later.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Despite legal protection, women face job discrimination and on 
average receive significantly lower pay than men.  They are 
primarily employed in low wage jobs in the textile industry, 
agriculture, retail business, and the public sector.  A 
mid-1991 U.N. study reported that women, although slightly more 
than half the total population, make up only 24 percent of the 
economically active population.  More working women than men 
are employed in the informal sector of the economy, where pay 
and benefits are generally low.  A 1989 survey reported that in 
Guatemala City women are underrepresented in high-income 
categories and overrepresented among poorly paid workers.

The Constitution asserts the principle of equality between the 
sexes.  Nonetheless, not all domestic laws have been modified 
to take into account this constitutional provision or to reflect
the numerous treaties bearing on the rights of women to which 
Guatemala has adhered.  (Provisions of such treaties take 
precedence over domestic law.)  In some cases, laws remain 
discriminatory against women, such as the Penal Code's 
provisions on adultery.  Only women may be charged with 
adultery, while men fall under a different statute, which is 
more limited, makes it more difficult to prove, and carries a 
lesser penalty.

CONAVIGUA reported that violence against women, including 
domestic violence, remains common but receives little attention.
There is no specific law against domestic violence, although it 
is considered to fall under other statutes.  Criminal sexual 
violence often goes unreported by victims, and relatively
few rape cases come to court.  The Ombudsman's office has only 
recently begun collecting statistics on this problem.


When signing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, 
the Government stated its commitment to children's human rights 
and welfare and pledged to revise its laws in line with the 
Convention.  The Human Rights Ombudsman's office, along with a 
commission of 25 governmental and nongovernmental organizations 
(NGO's), was revising the current Code but at year's end had 
not completed the task.

The abuse of street children (see Section 1.c.) is a serious 
problem in major cities.  Estimates of street children range 
between 1,500 and 5,000, with the majority of these youths 
concentrated in Guatemala City.  These children are often 
recruited into thievery or prostitution rings.  The Government 
and a number of NGO's have youth centers, but the funds devoted 
to them are inadequate for the problem.  In August the 
Government opened a school in San Jose Pinula for the 
rehabilitation of street children.  

An accord between Casa Alianza and the Attorney General's office
was not renewed in 1993 due to problems involving the suspension
of the then Attorney General.  On August 16, the new civilian 
police director met with Casa Alianza as one of his first public
acts and expressed his commitment to the rights of street 
children and his intention to punish police officers and others 
who abuse them.  Casa Alianza announced after the visit that it 
and the police will coordinate programs to combat street 
children's drug addiction and abuse of the children.  The police
director also assumed personal responsibility for the 
Department's Minors' Division, and the Ministry of Government 
established a separate division to handle street children 

     Indigenous People

Indigenous people comprise one-half of the population but 
remain largely outside the country's political, economic, 
social, and cultural mainstream.  Indigenous people suffered 
most of the serious human rights abuses described throughout 
this report.  Rural indigenous men were more likely than urban 
dwellers to be drafted by the army or forcibly recruited by 
either the army or guerrilla groups.  Although indigenous 
people are accorded equal rights by the Constitution, in 
practice they have only minimal participation in decisions 
affecting their lands, culture, traditions, and allocation of 
natural resources.

Rural indigenous people have limited educational opportunities 
and thus have limited employment opportunities.  Illiteracy is 
prevalent in indigenous communities.  Many indigenous people do 
not speak Spanish.  Linguistic barriers hinder interaction with 
the Government and limit access to public services, including 
the judiciary, because few officials speak indigenous 
languages.  Indigenous persons arrested for crimes are often at 
a disadvantage due to their lack of Spanish.  The Public 
Defender's Office is charged with providing judicial 
translating services but is not sufficiently staffed to cope 
with the problem.  Under the new Penal Code, the Government 
will be required to provide translating services to all in need.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution provides that the State should protect 
disabled persons.  Nonetheless, physically disabled persons are 
discriminated against in employment practices, and few 
resources are devoted to combat this problem or otherwise to 
assist people with disabilities.  There is no legislation 
mandating accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and the 1947 Labor Code, as amended, provide 
workers freedom of association and the right to form and join 
trade unions.  The Labor Code was amended in late 1992 to 
facilitate freedom of association, to strengthen the rights of 
working women, to increase penalties for violations of labor 
laws, and to enhance the role of the Labor Ministry and labor 
courts in enforcing them.  All workers have the right to form 
or join unions, including public sector employees, with the 
exception of members of security forces.  In February a decree 
interpreting "essential services" in such a way as to restrict 
organizing public sector workers was withdrawn, following 
protests by public sector employees and the Minister of Labor.  
After national police officers were unsuccessful in their 
attempts to form a trade union or association during most of 
the year, the new Director opened a dialog with representatives 
of this group.  Between 5 and 8 percent of the work force is 
organized.  The 890 unions in the country are independent of 
government and political party domination.

The Labor Code amendments simplified the process for unions to 
obtain legal status, which had been criticised as excessively 
cumbersome, by eliminating a number of provisions, including 
one that required the nation's President to sign the final 
papers.  Complaints by trade union leaders about continuing 
problems with the recognition process, plus concerns expressed 
by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee of 
Experts, prompted the new Minister of Labor to seek revisions 
to this procedure.  In November the Labor Ministry issued 
revised internal regulations covering the approval of new trade 
unions.  This reduced the number of steps needed within the 
Ministry to grant approval, established strict timetables for 
consideration of union applications, and made clear that 
noncompliance with this timetable could lead to dismissal of 
guilty bureaucrats.

Experience with these new regulations during the last 2 months 
of 1993 seems to indicate they helped accelerate the approval 
procedure.  For example, the application by workers at a 
bottling company in La Mariposa received final approval in a 
record 5 weeks.  During the last half of 1993, most of the 
backlog of union applications was eliminated and several 
previously controversial union applications were approved, such 
as the union representing Coca-Cola workers in Puerto Barrios, 
several unions representing "maquila" (drawback, or in-bond 
export) workers, and the long-pending application by the union 
representing workers in the Bank of the Army (Banco del 

Workers have the right to strike, but Labor Code procedures 
make legal strikes cumbersome.  The ILO Committee of Experts 
criticized the requirement that two-thirds of the workers vote 
to approve a strike and the prohibition of strikes by 
agricultural workers at harvest time, as well as those deemed 
by the Government to affect the national economy seriously.  
The few strikes that did occur were generally called without 
legal authorization, and in practice the Government made no 
effort to intervene on the basis of illegality.  Nonetheless, 
the lack of legal sanction for a strike can be used as a threat 
against strikers.  Organized labor's structural weaknesses, a 
reluctance to organize forcefully, the paucity of membership 
funds, and a poor overall economic situation with high 
unemployment and underemployment limit the duration of 
virtually all strikes.

The law protects workers from retribution for forming and 
participating in trade union activities, but compliance with 
the law varies.  While some employers accept unionization, many 
employers routinely attempt to circumvent Labor Code provisions 
in order to resist union activities, which many view as 
exceedingly confrontational and disruptive.  Enforcement of the 
right to form and participate in trade union activities is 
further hindered by an incompetent legal system and the 
inadequate level of penalties provided by law for violations.  
Fines for violating the Labor Code were increased when the Code 
was amended in 1992.

Trade union leaders and individual workers reported that 
workers were threatened with the loss of their jobs or physical 
harm for their interest in forming a union.  The International 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) alleged that a wave 
of illegal and arbitrary mass firings and intimidation took 
place at the beginning of the year, including the dismissal of 
515 union members at the State Forest and Wildlife Office and 
the firing of 25 workers from the National Agrarian Reform 
Institute for joining a union.

One union leader was discharged in late 1992 by a state-owned 
enterprise for participating in a seminar sponsored by the 
American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial 
Organizations despite clear contract language that would permit 
such training.  Although a lower labor court acted quickly and 
ordered the company to reinstate this leader, there was no 
final action on his case during the year.  This case was 
unusual because union leaders and other industrial relations 
observers agree that labor courts are generally slow to hear 
complaints, as well as to issue decisions related to complaints 
by workers and unionists that their rights to form and join 
trade unions are not protected.

Trade union leaders and members were among those subjected to a 
variety of abuses, such as threats, assassination attempts, 
kidnapings, and physical harm (see Section 4).  A number of 
trade union officials or members were kidnaped during the 
year.  They were generally questioned about the activities of 
well-known union leaders, often physically abused (but not 
killed), and then released.  Since many of these incidents 
happened during the period just after Ramiro de Leon Carpio 
became President, these attacks seemed intended as a warning to 
trade unionists and other leaders about their increased 
exposure in political affairs.

Public sector union leaders, as well as unionists in the 
high-profile maquila sector, also reported receiving threats 
against themselves and their families, usually coinciding with 
union demands for improved benefits.  The ICFTU charged that 
many trade unionists were forced into or sought exile.

By law, union leaders may serve only one term in a particular 
union office, but, by rotating union positions, the same 
persons can stay on union executive boards for extended periods 
of time.  The Constitution and the 1992 Code amendments protect 
the right of political participation for individuals, including 
trade union leaders.  During 1993 trade union leaders became 
more involved in national political affairs, particularly 
during the political turmoil following the resignation of 
former president Serrano and the move to purge Congress and the 
Supreme Court.

Unions may and do form federations and confederations and join 
international organizations.  With very few exceptions, trade 
unions depend on assistance received from international 

An active "solidarity" movement claimed approximately 100,000 
members in over 350 companies.  Unions may legally continue to 
operate in workplaces which have solidarity associations, and 
workers have the right to choose between the two or belong to 
both.  The Government views these associations as civic 
organizations which need not interfere with the functioning of 
trade unions, since the amended Labor Code stipulates that 
trade unions have the exclusive right to bargain collectively 
over work conditions on behalf of workers.  Unionists charge, 
however, that solidarity associations are promoted by 
management to avoid the formation of trade unions or to rival 
existing labor unions.  There are credible reports that, at 
times, democratic principles are not adhered to in the 
formation and management of some of these associations, and 
workers are unable to participate fully and freely in 
decisionmaking.  Similar credible charges are made against some 
trade union organizations.

At the request of trade union leaders, the independent Human 
Rights Ombudsman, through his Office for Economic and Social 
Issues, receives complaints related to trade union activities.  
Union leaders and workers filed a number of complaints with the 
Ombudsman during the year, but no results were apparent by 
year's end.  In June members of the ILO Committee on the 
Application of Conventions noted the serious situation of 
violence and insecurity that exists in Guatemala, including 
murders and abductions "with the participation of the army and 
death squads," as well as the "difficult transition towards 
democracy" under way in the country and asked for "total and 
unconditional respect" by the new Government to their 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively but 
are often denied this right by antiunion actions of employers.  
The practice of collective bargaining is limited, moreover, by 
the weak structure of the union movement, the lack of 
experience with this practice, and by the preference of 
management in many cases to avoid formal ties with trade 
unions.  While some well-written collective contracts are 
honored by both management and the unions, other contracts were 
openly ignored and violated by both parties.  Most workers, 
even those organized by trade unions, do not have collective 
contracts to cover their wages and working conditions.  Wages 
received by the bulk of the work force tend to be the minimum 
wages established by a bipartite commission, which operates 
under the guidance of the Ministry of Labor.

Workers cannot be dismissed for participating in the formation 
of a trade union; complaints in this regard must be filed with 
the labor inspectors for resolution.  The Labor Code provides 
for the right of employers to fire workers for cause and 
permits workers to appeal their dismissal to the labor courts 
but does not require the reinstatement of any worker fired 
without cause.  The revised Code prohibits employers from 
firing workers for union organizing and protects them for 
60 days following the official publication of approval of the 
union.  It also prohibits employers from firing any member of 
the executive committee of a union and protects them for an 
additional 12 months after they are no longer on the executive 
committee.  If a member is fired for cause, this can only be 
made effective after a trial and a court resolution has been 

Labor courts responsible for enforcing labor laws continued 
generally to be ineffective.  Efforts to restructure and 
modernize the labor court system made no headway.  A heavy 
backlog of labor cases continued to clog the courts.

The scarcity of labor inspectors, the lack of adequate training 
and resources, and structural weaknesses in the labor court 
system resulted in only minimal enforcement of the Labor Code.  
The Ministry of Labor hired 37 new labor inspectors in 
mid-September and provided them with training and resources to 
carry out their functions.  Some were assigned to rural areas 
to give greater attention to the lack of protection of worker 
rights for rural workers.  In the second half of the year, the 
Ministry of Labor significantly stepped up its inspections and 
the number of cases it filed in the courts for failure to 
comply with the labor law.  

Labor laws and regulations apply throughout the country, 
including in the few export processing zones (EPZ's).  The laws 
governing EPZ's are not discriminatory on the subject of 
organizing trade unions or collective bargaining.  While union 
leaders often blame employer pressures and unofficial 
restricted access to the EPZ's for their virtual inability to 
organize workers in these zones, labor conditions in these 
zones are no different from those found outside the zones.

Workers and trade union leaders charge that all workers, 
including those in EPZ's, receive low wages, work long hours 
without legally required overtime pay, and toil under poor 
working conditions.  While Labor Ministry inspectors filed 
numerous complaints before the labor courts on these charges, 
few of these cases were resolved due to inefficiencies within 
the court system, corruption and political chicanery, and legal 
maneuvering to prolong the hearing process.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution bars forced or compulsory labor, and the 
practice does not exist.  Human rights and indigenous groups 
continue to charge that coerced participation, particularly of 
indigenous peoples, in the PAC's violates prohibitions against 
forced labor.  There were credible reports of isolated 
instances of unpaid PAC members being used to provide free 
manual labor, but no systematic pattern of such practice was 

     d.  Minimum Age for the Employment of Children

Although the Constitution bars employment of minors under the 
age of 14, children below this age are regularly employed in 
the formal and informal sectors of the economy.  Laws governing 
the employment of minors are not effectively enforced, due to 
the shortage of qualified labor inspectors and structural 
weaknesses in the labor court system.  Only 5,000 minors have 
legal permission from the Labor Ministry to work.  Thousands 
working without legal permission are open to exploitation, 
generally receiving no social benefits, no social insurance, no 
pension or vacations, and no severance pay and are paid below 
the minimum wage level.  The Labor Ministry has a program to 
educate minors, their parents, and employers on the rights of 
minors in the labor market.  Economic necessity, however, 
forces most families to have their children seek some type of 
employment to supplement the family income.

The Constitution provides for compulsory education for all 
children up to the age of 12 or to the sixth grade.  The 
statistics on illiteracy, however, clearly demonstrate this law 
is not enforced.  The national illiteracy rate is 52 percent, 
with rural areas showing a rate of 85 percent.  The bulk of 
those who cannot read or write are women, particularly 
indigenous women.  Child labor is largely confined to small or 
family-type enterprises, to agricultural work, and to the 
informal sectors of the economy.  There are no export 
industries in which child labor is a significant factor.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages are set by law.  Due to a variety of factors, 
most importantly the oversupply of labor and the limited demand 
for it, the minimum wage for most unskilled and semiskilled 
workers is the prevailing wage ceiling and not the more 
commonly accepted wage floor.  Widespread, credible reports 
indicated the minimum wage is commonly, if illegally, not paid 
to significant numbers of rural and urban workers.  

The minimum wage was last increased in late 1991, when it was 
raised by 78.5 percent.  The minimum wage for commercial and 
industrial workers is $2.42 (14 quetzals) for an 8-hour 
workday, including a required hourly bonus.  The minimum wage 
for farm workers is $2.00 (11.60 quetzals) per day, including a 
mandatory bonus.  This minimum wage does not provide a decent 
standard of living; government statistics indicate that it 
should be at least three times higher than the current level.  
An estimated 80 percent of the population lives below the 
Guatemalan poverty line, including approximately 70 percent of 
those employed.  A bilateral committee representing labor and 
management is named each year to make recommendations for 
increases in the minimum wage.  In the event that agreement is 
not possible, the Government may decree such increases.

The legal workday is 8 hours and the workweek is 44 hours, but 
a tradition of much longer hours remains in place due to 
economic conditions.  The amended Labor Code continues to 
require a weekly rest period of at least 24 hours.  Trade union 
leaders and human rights groups charge that workers are 
commonly forced to work overtime, often without premium pay, or 
given drugs to help them work longer in order to meet work 
requirements.  Labor inspectors report that numerous instances 
were uncovered of such abuses, but corruption and 
inefficiencies in the labor court system inhibit adequate 
enforcement of the law.

Occupational health and safety standards are inadequate.  As 
with other aspects of the labor law, enforcement of standards 
that do exist is also generally inadequate.  Workers have the 
legal right to remove themselves from dangerous workplace 
situations, and the law provides them with protection for their 
continued employment.  However, few workers are willing to 
jeopardize their jobs by complaining about unsafe working 
conditions.  Training courses for labor inspectors in health 
and safety standards were provided, but this area is not 
perceived as a high priority for the resource-poor ministry.  
Legislation requiring companies with more than 50 employees to 
provide on-site medical facilities for their workers is not 
effectively enforced, even though many large employers do 
provide such facilities.

[end of document]


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