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TITLE: GUATEMALA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                           GUATEMALA


Guatemala's 1985 Constitution calls for election by universal 
suffrage of a one-term President and a unicameral Congress.  It 
also mandates an independent judiciary and a Human Rights 
Ombudsman, who is elected by and reports to the Congress.  On 
June 5, 1993, Congress elected then Human Rights Ombudsman 
Ramiro De Leon Carpio to finish the presidential term of Jorge 
Serrano, who had been constitutionally deposed from office 
following his attempt to seize full power.  President De Leon 
launched an anticorruption campaign that led to a political 
confrontation with the legislature and Supreme Court, both 
widely seen as corrupt.  This confrontation was finally 
resolved with a January 30 referendum on constitutional 
changes, which led to new congressional elections in August and 
the October replacement of the Supreme Court.

The armed forces operate with considerable institutional and 
legal autonomy, particularly in security and military matters.  
With the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedures Code, 
military personnel accused of committing common crimes are 
subject to trial in civilian courts.  The 43,000-man army, 
which has responsibility for national security, has fought a 
leftist insurgency for more than three decades.  The Minister 
of Government oversees the National Police and the Treasury 
Police, which share responsibility for internal security with 
the army.  In March President De Leon appointed the then head 
of army intelligence as Vice Minister of Government, reversing 
a trend he began upon taking office of removing military 
personnel from civilian law enforcement positions, but he 
removed him at the end of the year.  The Government announced 
the establishment of a civilian intelligence service, intended 
to diminish presidential reliance on military intelligence.

An estimated 430,000 men serve in civil self-defense committees 
called Civil Defense Patrols (PAC's), some of which conduct 
counterinsurgency patrols in rural areas.  Although these are 
ostensibly voluntary, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the 
Catholic Archbishop's human rights office reported that in some 
regions PAC members were compelled to join the patrols, in 
violation of the Constitution.  Security forces and especially 
PAC's and civilian military commissioners--who are the 
intermediaries between the PAC's and the armed forces--
committed numerous serious human rights violations.

The Government and the leftist Guatemala National Revolutionary 
Unity (URNG) insurgents resumed peace talks in January and 
reached a human rights accord in March.  Many human rights 
monitors criticized the Government for being lax in fulfilling 
its commitments under the March accord.  The agreement, which 
took force immediately, led to the November introduction of a 
U.N. human rights verification mission into Guatemala.  At 
year's end, peace negotiations were continuing.

The agriculture-based, private sector-oriented economy was 
projected to grow by approximately 4 percent in real terms in 
1994, which would produce an increase in per capita income of 
about 1 percent.  Inflation was expected to exceed 10 percent.  
There is a marked disparity in income distribution, and poverty 
is pervasive, particularly in the large indigenous community.

Both government authorities and guerrilla groups committed 
serious human rights abuses during the year.  While human 
rights activists now have greater freedom to report, comment, 
and denounce abuses, statistics prepared by the Archbishop's 
human rights office, utilizing media reports and interviews 
with victims, show a substantial increase in human rights 
violations, especially extrajudicial killings.  The Ombudsman's 
office, which compiles data based on personal interviews with 
victims and their families, noted that reports of human rights 
complaints increased from 1993.  PAC's, military commissioners, 
members of the army, police, and guerrillas, as well as 
leftwing and rightwing extremist groups, all committed major 
violations, including extrajudicial killings, political 
kidnapings, death threats, and forced recruitment.  Political 
killings, for example, continued at an alarming rate, and the 
Government failed to investigate them adequately or to bring 
perpetrators to justice.  Government forces and unknown 
perpetrators increased attacks on labor union leaders and 
members, involving killings, death threats, physical abuse, and 
other forms of mistreatment and harassment.  Guerrilla abuses 
included kidnapings, the widespread use of mines and explosives 
in civilian areas, forced recruitment of children, and reprisal 
attacks against persons who refused to pay extortion.  Both 
legal and societal discrimination against women continued, as 
did societal abuse of children and discrimination against 
indigenous peoples.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Politically motivated killings continued and, due to the lack 
of political will and law enforcement resources, with few 
exceptions the Government failed to investigate them fully or 
to detain or prosecute the perpetrators.  Individual members of 
the security forces (military, PAC's, military commissioners, 
and the police), leftist guerrilla and rightwing extremist 
groups were responsible for political and extrajudicial 
killings.  The Human Rights Ombudsman's office listed 287 cases 
of possible extrajudicial killings.  The Archbishop's human 
rights office reported 355 extrajudicial killings in 1994, 
compared with 248 in 1993 and 204 in 1992.  The Church office 
labeled 42 of the extrajudicial killings as definitely 
political and 237 as presumed political.  Neither human rights 
office broke down the figures according to the organization 
believed to be responsible, but both government security forces 
and leftist guerrilla forces committed such offenses.

PAC leaders and military commissioners are feared in many rural 
communities.  They enjoy army backing and, often, de facto 
immunity from prosecution.  The Archbishop's human rights 
office reported that the executive branch failed to carry out 
arrest warrants against 24 military commissioners and PAC 
members for their involvement in human rights crimes.  With the 
exception of the arrest of a few PAC members accused of 
involvement in the 1993 Jorge Carpio murder, the authorities 
rarely held PAC members accountable for their crimes.

Despite being aware of the locations of various PAC members 
wanted for involvement in the 1993 Colotenango killing of Juan 
Chonay Pablo and the 1993 Quiche killing of Tomas Lares 
Cipriano, the Government failed to carry out the majority of 
the arrest warrants.  In the Juan Chonay Pablo killing, which 
occurred during an anti-PAC demonstration, the authorities 
issued 15 arrest warrants for PAC members but arrested only 
2 persons.  They released one for insufficient evidence linking 
him to the crime; the Public Ministry requested the release of 
the other under personal bond.  Three more persons turned 
themselves in, but the authorities released two of them for 
lack of evidence.  At the end of the year, no one was in jail 
awaiting trial.  In March the Inter-American Commission on 
Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Government take 
precautionary measures to protect witnesses and victims' family 
members.  In July based on new evidence of continuing 
harassment of these individuals, the IACHR requested the 
Inter-American Court of Human Rights to order the Government to 
take additional precautionary measures and to dissolve the 
local PAC.  The Court accepted the request in November and 
ordered the Government to take these additional measures, which 
the Government agreed to do.  However, the Court did not agree 
to order the Government to dissolve the PAC's.

In the Lares Cipriano killing, the authorities charged six PAC 
members with murdering him after he resigned from their 
patrol.  The authorities arrested two persons, later released 
under personal bonds, dismissed all charges against another 
person who turned himself in, and did not carry out arrest 
warrants against the remaining three persons.

On May 31, a joint military-police operation arrested four San 
Pedro Jocopilas PAC members and military commissioners wanted 
for alleged involvement in the July 1993 murder of newspaper 
publisher and former presidential candidate Jorge Carpio.  
However, judicial authorities later released all four, citing 
insufficient evidence tying them to the crime.  The Carpio 
family appealed the release and criticized the Government for 
failure to carry out the arrest warrants for six other PAC 
members wanted in this case.  On June 26, unknown perpetrators 
killed a PAC member accused of having participated in this 
matter.  On September 7, three other PAC members and military 
commissioners wanted by the authorities turned themselves in.  
On October 12, the Quiche Department Police Chief, who had 
ordered the capture of four PAC members, was murdered.

On December 5, attorneys presented their closing arguments in 
the Jorge Carpio murder trial.  Only one jailed defendant and 
two other defendants currently on bond were present for the 
hearing.  Both sides will have an opportunity to present new 
evidence prior to the trial court's decision.  Members of 
Carpio's family have been threatened since his death.  On June 
25, unknown armed persons rammed Karen Fischer de Carpio's car; 
when they determined she was not in the car, they left death 
threats against Fischer with her driver.  Fischer subsequently 
left Guatemala with her children for the United States where 
she remained for several weeks.  After returning to Guatemala, 
Fischer met with the then Vice Minister of Government, a 
military officer and formerly the director of military 
intelligence, whom she later claimed had threatened her if her 
family did not desist from assertions that senior military 
officers were behind the Carpio murder.

The Archbishop's human rights office reported that army 
personnel or former PAC members killed retired army officer 
Lieutenant Diaz on June 20.  The killers, who apparently had 
participated with Diaz in the 1981-82 Rabinal massacres, 
allegedly murdered Diaz to prevent him from publicly commenting 
or testifying on the massacres.  The Church office asserted 
that the deaths of two other Rabinal residents, a military 
commissioner and the son of the landowner where exhumations 
were taking place, were orchestrated to send a message to the 
Rabinal community to remain silent.  There are credible reports 
by the media and the Archbishop's human right's office that in 
July the army conducted house-to-house inspections and 
interrogations in the community and told male residents in a 
community meeting not to participate in the exhumations.  While 
not admitting these events took place, the authorities 
transferred the senior officer who allegedly called the meeting.

On April 1, Constitutional Court president Epaminondas Gonzalez 
Dubon was killed while returning from Holy Week religious 
processions; the motive behind the crime remains undetermined.  
Initially, many believed that the murder was an intimidation 
attempt by those wishing to destabilize the De Leon 
administration or a reprisal directed at the judge for his 
anti-Serrano role in May 1993.  On April 26, the Government 
announced the arrest of 12 persons, members of an alleged car 
theft ring, 4 of whom were said to have participated in the 
shooting.  Only two remain in jail awaiting trial; the 
authorities released the others due to insufficient evidence.

On November 11, during a University of San Carlos student 
demonstration against an increase in national bus fares, 
student activist Mario Sanchez Lopez was killed after police 
pursued demonstrators onto the barricaded university grounds in 
response to student-made Molotov cocktails and shots fired from 
the interior of the university.  According to the government 
autopsy, Lopez died of gunshot wounds from unknown assailants.  
However, credible eyewitnesses' reports and photographs also 
detail the police beating Lopez.  These eyewitnesses also 
reported that nonstudents had provoked the confrontation with 
the police.  Soon afterward, the Prosecutor General called for 
the courts to carry out arrest warrants for the police officers 
who participated in the disturbance.  However, the trial judge 
sent the case back to the prosecutor's office requesting more 
information.

Unknown persons have also targeted journalists for killing and 
acts of violence (see Section 2.a.).

On August 24, police killed 2 persons and wounded 11 when they 
used excessive force to dislodge striking workers from a ranch 
known as "La Exacta" in Coatepeque.  A third person allegedly 
disappeared; his body was found some distance from the ranch 
the following day.  The workers had taken over the ranch in an 
attempt to pressure their supervisors to comply with a labor 
court order that the employers obey labor laws, pay workers the 
minimum wage and overtime, as well as grant vacation, sick 
leave, and other mandatory bonuses.  Rather than comply, the 
owners reportedly fired approximately 79 employees.  After 
initially saying the police had acted in accordance with the 
law, President De Leon later expressed his regret for the 
tragedy, saying he had misspoken earlier based on preliminary 
police reports and that a full investigation would be made.  On 
September 15, residents found the body of another peasant who 
had participated in the strike.  The Archbishop's human rights 
office reported that this person was kidnaped and then killed 
in reprisal for his participation in the strike.  Initially, 23 
police officers were brought before the court but were later 
released pending investigation.  To prevent possible 
retaliation against the workers, the judge also ordered that 
the police stay away from the ranch.

The Archbishop's human rights office said the URNG's "united 
front" was responsible for the early September murder of army 
reserve junior officer Amarildo Sanan Hernandez in 
Chimaltenango.  Guerrillas stopped Sanan, who was dressed in 
civilian clothes, at a roadblock, where he drew a revolver to 
defend himself.  A guerrilla shot Sanan in the leg; he then 
attempted to crawl away, but the guerrillas fired at him again, 
immobilizing him.  As Sanan lay unable to move, the guerrillas 
searched him and discovered a military leave document, 
whereupon they struck him with fatal machete blows across the 
face and neck.

There was some progress in certain past high-profile cases.  On 
February 8, the Supreme Court confirmed the 25-year sentence 
given to former government security agent Noel De Jesus Beteta 
for the 1990 killing of Myrna Mack.  The Court left legal 
proceedings open against the alleged intellectual authors of 
the crime, former senior military officers who appealed the 
decision to the Constitutional Court.  In December the 
Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Helen Mack, Myrna's 
sister, that the case against the intellectual authors may 
proceed.  However, it failed to overrule a Supreme Court 
decision denying her request that it order the release of 
executive branch documents concerning her sister's murder.  The 
executive branch maintained it did not have any files not 
already in the hands of the court.

On May 18, the court of appeals confirmed the 2-year suspended 
sentence and $40 fine against the corporal whose absence from 
post facilitated the May 1993 escape of Captain Hugo Contreras, 
who had just been convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison 
for killing U.S. citizen Michael Devine in 1990.  Captain 
Contreras remains a fugitive.  On September 6, the Supreme 
Court confirmed the 30-year sentence given the five enlisted 
men convicted in the Devine murder.  However, the Government 
never brought to trial the senior officers believed to be 
involved in covering up the crime.  Two relatives of witnesses 
who testified at the Devine trial (one civilian and one 
soldier) were killed; another (a soldier) was shot in the leg 
under suspicious circumstances.  The dead soldier was found 
with his tongue cut out, hands mutilated, and a bullet wound in 
his skull.  Additionally, two other relatives have been targets 
of intimidation.

The Blake family, who in 1993 filed a petition with the IACHR 
accusing the Government of institutional responsibility for and 
coverup of the 1985 abduction and murder of U.S. citizens 
Nicholas Blake and Griffith Davis by PAC members, continued to 
pursue their case.  In December 1993, a Blake relative met with 
President De Leon and sought unsuccessfully a settlement in 
lieu of petitioning the IACHR.

On March 18 and August 22, the Constitutional Court dismissed 
appeals filed by 21 former "Hunapu" anticrime task force police 
officers over their lengthy (more than 20 years) prison 
sentences, which had been previously confirmed by the Supreme 
Court.  The officers had been found guilty in the 1992 death of 
university student Julio Rigoberto Cu Quim and injury to six 
other students.  The case remains under Supreme Court review.

The IACHR reported that, on September 11, a leading witness and 
survivor of the 1988 "white van" case, Oscar Vasquez, was 
killed along with his son.  In this case, which remains before 
the Commission, Treasury Police personnel are accused of having 
kidnaped, tortured, and assassinated civilians in 1988.  During 
a subsequent investigation, a judge involved in the case was 
abducted and his assistant killed.

There was no progress in resolving numerous other outstanding 
extrajudicial killings, including 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, the 1992 kidnaping, torture, and murder 
of Huehuetenango peasant Lucas Perez Tadeo, the 1993 shooting 
of street children Henry Yubani Alvarez and Francisco Tziac, 
the 1993 shooting of student protester Abner Abdiel Hernandez 
Orellana, or past kidnapings and murders of various members of 
the Runujel Junam Council of Ethnic Communities (CERJ), a 
rural-based human rights organization.  The Government's 
frequent inability to deter, prosecute, or punish those 
responsible for such offenses is a major impediment to human 
rights progress.

     b.  Disappearance

The Archbishop's human rights office reported 41 forced 
disappearances, as compared with 45 in 1993.  It labeled 1 
disappearance definitely political and classified 32 as 
presumed political.  Victims included a human rights activist, 
union employees, private sector employees, entrepreneurs, 
farmers, a soldier, a policeman, and others.  The Ombudsman's 
office received 60 complaints of forced disappearance.  The 
Government did not identify or prosecute the perpetrators of 
any of these disappearances.

Sister Dianna Ortiz returned to Guatemala in January and again 
in November to press authorities to take action on her 1989 
kidnaping and torture case.  In January she accompanied 
Guatemalan officials on judicial inspections of the Guardia De 
Honor barracks and the old military academy.  Ortiz identified 
the latter as the place where she was sexually abused and 
tortured.  Shortly after entering the facility, Ortiz was 
overcome by emotion and unable to identify the specific site of 
the violations, which she says occurred in the basement of the 
facility.  However, the inspection team failed to discover any 
subterranean levels.  The army maintains none ever existed.  A 
previously filed petition on this case remained pending before 
the IACHR at year's end.

On January 12, Lorenzo Quiej Pu, a member of CONDEG, an 
organization dedicated to helping Guatemalans who have been 
internally displaced due to the armed conflict, disappeared 
after leaving his home.  Members of CONDEG and Quiej family 
members reported that prior to the disappearance, they had 
received threats stemming from the organization's occupation of 
privately owned land.  The authorities charged no one with this 
disappearance.

The whereabouts remain unknown of San Marcos PAC members 
Margarito Lopez and Obdulio Zapeta, army enlisted man Diego 
Chel Matom, and farmers Ramona Munoz and Maritza Gil who were 
allegedly kidnaped in 1993 by guerrillas.  Reliable reports 
link the guerrillas to various kidnapings for profit, including 
that of wealthy industrialist Fraterno Vila.

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

The Constitution provides for the integrity and security of the 
person.  However, as in past years, many bodies were found 
throughout the country bearing signs of severe disfigurement or 
post mortem mutilation.  The Human Rights Ombudsman's office 
listed 18 potential cases of torture in 1994.  The Archbishop's 
human rights office listed 17 cases of torture, compared with 
18 cases in 1993.  In a typical case, unknown armed men 
kidnaped a law student in January after he left work, then beat 
him, burned him with cigarettes, and left him unconscious.

There were credible reports of mistreatment by security forces, 
including sexual abuse of minors and adults, and use of 
excessive force by police at the time of arrest.  Additional 
reports indicated that, especially in rural areas, the URNG 
guerrillas, the army, civil defense patrols, military 
commissioners, and the police at times used excessive force 
against the civilian population.  CERJ reported that Juan 
Osorio Vasquez filed a legal complaint alleging that on July 
21, PAC members had accused him of being a guerrilla, kidnaped 
him, tied a rope to his neck, hung him from a beam, and left 
him for dead.  Family members later arrived and rescued Osorio.

Some peasants in areas of conflict around Huehuetenango have 
alleged to the army that members of "Comite De Unidad 
Campesino," a farm workers' organization composed of indigenous 
people, have threatened them with death due to their allegiance 
to the army.

Casa Alianza, an organization dedicated to assisting street 
children, reported five instances in which National Police 
abused street children between January and late December.  On 
March 3, Casa Alianza filed charges against four police 
officers accused of inducing street children to steal for 
them.  The police never formally charged the accused and 
instead transferred them to another part of Guatemala City.  On 
July 14, the National Police referred a case of police abuse 
against a minor to the courts after concluding that five 
policemen had abused their authority in the March 4 beating of 
Luis Antonio Roldan Izeppi.  Casa Alianza also filed charges 
against the National Police for an August 15 incident in which 
three policemen sprayed paint thinner at the face of sleeping 
street child Luis Alfredo Bonilla Juarez.  On December 11, 
three National Police officers chased six street children, who 
were attempting to steal another street child's shoes, to Casa 
Alianza offices.  The police caught up with four children at 
the door step, beat them, and arrested one child.  There were 
numerous other reports of policemen illegally detaining street 
children; the authorities rarely took action in any of these 
incidents.

Casa Alianza also reported that private security guards 
routinely abuse street children and that this abuse has led to 
the death of seven children.  While a number of cases of 
national and private police abuse remain pending, there have 
been no successful convictions.

     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.  The law requires a court-issued arrest 
warrant unless a person is caught in the act of committing a 
crime.  Police may not detain a suspect for over 6 hours 
without bringing the case before a judge.  The law provides for 
bail and access to lawyers.  The authorities arrested 17,823 
persons in 1994; of those, 3,872 persons remain in jail 
awaiting trial, which represented 71 percent of the total 
prison population.

The security forces routinely ignore writs of habeas corpus in 
cases of illegal detention.  There are no reliable data on the 
number of arbitrary detentions.  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.

The Constitution prohibits exile and it is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is ineffective and often unable to ensure a 
fair trial.  However, defendants have the right to be present 
at trials and to legal representation.  An appeals court 
automatically reviews convictions.  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.  The Supreme Court 
appoints judges; the Congress appoints magistrates, or 
appellate court judges, from a list prepared by a selection 
committee composed of judges, lawyers, and university deans.

The new Criminal Procedures Code, which took effect on July 1, 
effects significant changes in the way criminal trials are 
conducted.  These include new provisions for a public defender 
to provide legal counsel to the accused, especially important 
in the new oral trial setting.  The new Code also modified the 
Military Code of Justice to extend jurisdiction by civilian 
courts over military personnel for offenses "not essentially 
military in nature."  These reforms will be phased in once the 
Government drafts specific implementing rules or regulations.  
Prior to the Code's enactment, military courts retained 
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 are not under military jurisdiction.

The following factors hampered the Code's implementation:  A 
lack of funding for education, political differences between 
the executive and judicial branches, intransigence by many 
members of the criminal bar, constitutional challenges, and 
inadequate preparation by law enforcement agencies.  As of 
early December, only three oral trials had been conducted, as 
required under the new procedures.  Meanwhile, the backlog of 
criminal cases continued to mount.

Most human rights violations are not investigated; security 
force personnel are reluctant to investigate cases potentially 
involving colleagues.  Police are very poorly paid, relatively 
few in number, and lack adequate resources and training.  
Judges are susceptible to intimidation and corruption and 
suffer from low pay, bad working conditions, and low morale.  
Officials from the Archbishop's human rights office and the 
Human Rights Ombudsman's offices, including the Ombudsman 
himself, have received threats.

There were public accusations that the Supreme Court pressures 
lower court judges to decide cases in line with its wishes.  In 
1993 the Constitutional Court ruled that the Supreme Court 
practice of arbitrarily transferring justices was 
unconstitutional, thereby limiting one means of Supreme Court 
interference in lower court cases.

Members of the judiciary also continued to receive threats in 
an attempt to influence decisions or as reprisals for past 
decisions.  In February Judge Yolanda Perez received death 
threats after she appeared at a local army base with the local 
auxiliary ombudsman for human rights requesting to see a 
serviceman reported to be missing.  Cotzumalguapa justice of 
the peace Carlos Humberto Dardon Reyes reported receiving death 
threats after he sent U.S. citizen Melissa Larson to the 
Escuintla department court house for her protection in March, 
after a mob wrongly accused her of transporting baby organs in 
her backpack.  In July third district appellate court judge and 
judicial reform activist Maria Eugenia Villasenor reported she 
and other appellate magistrates had been harassed in attempts 
to influence decisions in high profile cases.  (The third 
district court had issued rulings in a variety of cases 
involving the security forces.)  On August 29, a policeman 
assigned to protect Villasenor was kidnaped, interrogated, and 
assaulted.  Following this incident, Villasenor left the 
country for a number of weeks.

On January 19, unknown persons purposely set fire to the 
judicial records building in Santa Cruz De Quiche, which held 
numerous files regarding PAC abuses.  Quiche Judge Francisco 
Perez stated that just before the fire he received threats from 
Joyabaj PAC members attempting to persuade him to release two 
of its members charged with committing multiple crimes, 
including the deaths of numerous persons.

Corruption continues to plague the proper functioning of the 
police force.  On June 25, a live grenade was tossed at the 
residence of anticorruption transit police chief Ernesto Ruiz 
Saenz De Tejada.  Ruiz was not injured in this attack, but he 
resigned from the police force shortly afterward.

There are no known political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of home, 
correspondence, and private documents, but the authorities do 
not always respect these provisions.  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 11, a year after an arrest warrant had been issued, 
Juan Jose Garcia Orellana, a postal control officer charged 
with operating a mail espionage ring in the post office for the 
presidential security staff under the Serrano administration, 
turned himself in to judicial authorities.  The authorities are 
still gathering evidence in this case.

Through July, officials enforcing the military draft continued 
to stop vehicles and enter homes and places of business without 
legally required court orders.  Prior to August, under 
recruitment practices adopted in some departments, potential 
draftees receive three induction notices, after which they are 
arrested if they do not report for enlistment.  Under the law, 
such arrests must be effected pursuant to a court order.

On June 14, Amilcar Mendez, the founder of CERJ, filed a 
lawsuit against Defense Minister Enriquez charging that the 
armed forces' forced recruitment practices violated 
constitutional provisions regarding obligatory military 
service.  However, a court ruled the judicial branch did not 
have jurisdiction over this matter because the Minister of 
Defense had immunity from prosecution, which only Congress 
could remove.  It referred the immunity question to the 
Congress, which ruled that the case lacked legal merit, thus 
effectively dismissing the entire lawsuit.

Through July 30, the Archbishop's human rights office handled 
89 individual cases of forced recruitment.  In the same period, 
the Human Rights Ombudsman's office reported receiving 663 
complaints of forced recruitment.  The office obtained the 
release of 268 persons from military service, of whom 79 were 
minors.  On June 29, Defense Minister General Enriquez 
announced a 6-month moratorium on forced recruitment, which was 
confirmed by President De Leon during the June 30 Army Day 
celebrations.  However, the Ombudsman reported three separate 
instances of forced conscription in July.  On August 28, the 
Defense Ministry once again ordered a suspension of forced 
recruitment; since then, there were no further reports of 
forced recruitment.  The army has continued the practice of 
setting up draft boards consisting of the zone military 
commander, the local representative of the Human Rights 
Ombudsman's office, and other civilian leaders.

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 members.  
Nevertheless, PAC's do appear to enjoy some popular support; a 
majority of respondents in a recent academic survey conducted 
for the Human Rights Ombudsman in seven departments claimed to 
be pleased with the PAC membership and with the PAC presence in 
their communities.  However, some human rights monitors have 
charged that PAC members may have felt intimidated by fellow 
PAC members and did not give completely candid answers.

In June and July, CERJ filed a legal complaint on behalf of 
former PAC member Juan Antonio Chumel with local judicial 
authorities and the IACHR stating that since 1988, when Chumel 
left the PAC's, PAC members threatened and intimidated Chumel 
to the extent that he was forced to leave his community for 
fear of his life.  There are other credible reports that others 
who refused to serve in the PAC's suffered threats and other 
abuses.

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

Guatemala's armed internal conflict entered its 34th year and 
continued to be a major cause of human rights violations by 
both government and guerrilla forces.

Communities of People in Resistance (CPR), groups of displaced 
persons who have lived in remote areas to avoid army control 
since the 1980's, claimed army harassment throughout the year, 
including late evening helicopter overflights and restriction 
of commerce.  Reflecting increased security in the valleys, in 
February, a number of CPR's came down from the mountains and 
established permanent villages.

According to statistics reported by the Archbishop's human 
rights office, repeated URNG attacks against civilian 
infrastructure targets damaged electrical and communication 
facilities and petroleum storage areas.  The Church office 
reported two persons injured by exploding mines planted by 
guerrillas.  On August 22, guerrillas fired indiscriminately at 
a civilian bus injuring 11 persons and killing 1 during an 
attack against army units in Chupol, Chichicastenango.  On 
various occasions guerrillas have also burned farms and 
destroyed property of farm owners who refused to pay extortion.

Terrorist bombings conducted by unknown perpetrators continued 
throughout the year.  Before the January 30 national 
referendum, 25 explosive devices detonated or were deactivated 
in Guatemala City alone.  Several of these devices were 
accompanied by URNG leaflets.  Other bomb attacks were believed 
to be orchestrated by free-lancing rightist groups opposed to 
the referendum.  On March 6 and 7, bombs exploded at two key 
bridges leading from the capital.  The army and the URNG 
accused each other of planting the bombs.  On September 1, two 
more pamphlet bombs exploded in the capital, releasing URNG 
literature.  The home of a businessman and partial owner of the 
newsweekly Cronica was bombed in June.  (He is the brother of 
former peace talks conciliator and current president of the 
Civil Society Assembly, Bishop Rodolfo Quezada.)  On September 
22, three bombs went off in residential zones, killing one 
child who was watching cars in exchange for tips.  On several 
occasions death threat lists, including the names of human 
rights and labor leaders and newspaper journalists, circulated, 
but no one listed was injured or killed.

On August 12, a lower court judge dismissed the amnesty granted 
four recently captured URNG guerrillas.  However, these 
guerrillas were freed under a Penal Code provision, a move 
considered legally controversial.  It had been common 
government practice to excuse post-1988 crimes committed by 
guerrillas even though the Amnesty Law only applies to 
political and related crimes committed before 1988.  The 
Government appealed this decision and is considering new 
amnesty legislation to cover crimes committed after 1988.  The 
URNG claims it holds no prisoners.

The army continued to deny it has ever held guerrilla leader 
Efrain "Everardo" Bamaca or 35 other URNG prisoners of war as 
claimed by the American citizen wife of Bamaca.  According to 
army spokespersons, Bamaca was killed in battle.  The 
Government denies holding prisoners clandestinely.  The 
Government also denies reports the U.S. Government received 
that the army took Efrain Bamaca captive in March 1992.  Those 
reports indicated he had been wounded but that his injuries 
were not life-threatening.  The reports included no information 
to indicate that he was alive much beyond the first few weeks 
after his capture.  The Guatemalan Government filed a writ of 
habeas corpus on Bamaca's behalf, and the Supreme Court 
assigned the Human Rights Ombudsman to conduct a special 30-day 
investigation into the disappearance.  The Ombudsman developed 
no new leads and turned responsibility for the investigation 
back to the Attorney General.  The United Nations Verification 
Mission, MINUGUA, is assisting in the investigation.

In January the URNG and the Government resumed peace talks with 
the United Nations serving as moderator.  In late March, the 
Government and the guerrillas signed a human rights accord that 
called for the immediate establishment of a U.N. human rights 
verification mission.  Although the start-up of this 
international mission was delayed until September, the accord 
was a major step forward.  As part of its mandate, the U.N. 
team will seek to strengthen local institutions dealing with 
human rights.  In November and December, MINUGUA accompanied 
Human Rights Ombudsman officials inspecting army bases, 
witnessing the turning in of rifles by PAC members and other 
human rights-related activity.  Also in March, the Government 
and the URNG agreed upon a calendar to address the major 
outstanding negotiating issues.  In June the two sides signed 
accords on "uprooted" peoples and the establishment of a 
Historical Clarification Commission to catalog and analyze 
human rights abuses related to the guerrilla war.  However, the 
Commission will not name past violators, and its findings will 
not have judicial force.  Following signing of this accord, 
talks fell into a temporary hiatus.  They resumed in late 
October to discuss indigenous rights.  No agreement was reached 
on this issue by the end of the year.

MINUGUA reported that, on December 20, men identified by local 
residents as military commissioners and their assistants 
threatened MINUGUA officers and human rights activists during a 
meeting in Tecpan, Chimaltenango.  During the meeting, one of 
the armed men grabbed activist Eliseo Calel and beat him.  
Calel had been pressing authorities to investigate and 
prosecute those responsible for the August 1 death of 
Chimaltenango activist Pascual Serech and the August 20 murder 
of the judge handling the case, Elias Ogaldez.  Ogaldez had 
ordered the arrest of a military commissioner alleged to have 
been involved in Serech's death.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression.  There was 
no evidence of harassment from senior government officials, but 
both major press associations denounced incidents restricting 
freedom of the press.  The media reported sensitive issues such 
as corruption, as well as major human rights stories.  They 
also publicized communiques from the URNG, leftist groups, and 
others opposed to the Government or its policies.  Journalists 
admit, however, that pressure and fears of reprisal result in 
self-censorship and limits on investigative reporting.  For 
example, there is no open criticism of the military nor is 
there open discussion of important issues such as land use, 
land ownership, or similar topics that would affect the 
interests of powerful economic groups and individuals.  Reports 
on human rights and narcotic trafficking are carefully written 
and sourced so that neither journalists nor their institutions 
are put at risk.  Radio and television station owners observe 
that licensing procedures potentially give the government 
powerful leverage over their editorial policies, but they have 
not cited any instances in which the De Leon Government 
attempted to abuse this power.

Continuing acts of political violence directed against 
journalists give credence to their complaints of pressure and 
coercion at the working level.  Through November the 
Archbishop's human rights office recorded 25 separate political 
acts against the media:  2 extrajudicial killings, 5 assaults, 
and 18 intimidating acts.  On March 26, unknown men fired shots 
at newspaper reporter Marco Tulio De la Roca, killing him and 
injuring his companion.  Unknown perpetrators targeted 
journalist Hector Adolfo Barrera Ortiz, first by a bomb 
explosion outside his home and later by a kidnaping attempt 
while at work.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly 
and association.  Peaceful demonstrations were common and 
demonstrators sometimes occupied government institutions, 
including the presidential palace, government ministries, and 
the Supreme Court building.  In all these cases, the police 
acted with restraint, and the authorities negotiated a peaceful 
departure of demonstrators.  The Government did not interfere 
with political associations, although the law nominally 
requires organizations to obtain legal status, a cumbersome and 
expensive procedure.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the 
authorities respect it in practice.  Religious personnel are 
sometimes threatened on political grounds for their human 
rights, indigenous rights, and land reform activities.

     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.  The authorities did 
not restrict movement inside the country except where the army 
and PAC's limited travel in some areas of conflict.  Guerrillas 
continued to establish roadblocks to rob private citizens, 
extort protection payments from businessmen, attack and drain 
petroleum trucks, and limit travel in certain rural areas.

Voluntary repatriation of refugees from Mexico continued.  
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
(UNHCR), 6,011 refugees were repatriated to Guatemala in 1994.  
Since the initiation of the program, over 18,000 persons have 
returned, despite the lack of suitable land which can support 
the returning population.

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

Citizens have the right to change their government by peaceful 
and democratic means, through secret ballot and universal 
suffrage for those 18 years of age and older.  Members of the 
armed forces and police may not vote.  Since the return to 
democracy and civilian rule in 1985, there have been seven free 
elections.  International observers concluded that both the 
January 30 national referendum and the August 14 congressional 
elections were free and fair.

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in 
politics, but women are underrepresented in the political 
arena.  However, women do hold prominent political positions, 
including three cabinet posts.  The first President of the 
newly elected Congress was a woman, and 5 other women hold 
seats in the 80-member body.  There are also two female Supreme 
Court justices and one female Constitutional Court justice.

Indigenous people enjoy equal rights under the Constitution, 
and some have attained positions as army officers (including 
one general), judges, and government officials, including a 
Cabinet member and five members of the newly elected Congress.  
Nevertheless, limited educational opportunity and pervasive 
discrimination (see Section 5) lead to their underrepresentation
in politics.

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

The Government permits local human rights groups to operate 
freely, but the security forces, PAC's, and extremist groups 
continued to threaten and use violence against their members.  
For example, on January 24 human rights monitor Amilcar Mendez 
reported that a masked motorcyclist tried to run over his 
16-year-old daughter, Miriam Rocio Mendez, who was en route to 
the University of San Carlos.  The daughter was uninjured.  
Five months later on June 29, the Mendez family reported there 
were armed men outside his home.  However, when the police were 
dispatched to the scene, the armed men had left.  In August an 
unknown person called a Mendez relative in Guatemala City 
stating that Mendez should not return to his home in Quiche 
because he would be killed.

Rosalina Tuyuc, director of CONAVIGUA, the National Council of 
Guatemalan Widows, reported that during June and July armed 
soldiers repeatedly were stationed outside her parents' home in 
Chimaltenango.  Throughout the year, the army has accused Tuyuc 
and CONAVIGUA of being allied with the guerrillas.  The army 
also charged that one of Tuyuc's brothers is a guerrilla 
commander who engineered recent guerrilla attacks.  On June 22, 
unknown men attacked, stabbed, and robbed Sara Poroj Vasquez, 
an officer of the human rights organization GAM, "Grupo De 
Apoyo Mutuo", outside her home.  No one was apprehended for 
this attack.

Disturbed by political activities of some foreign visitors, 
immigration authorities in late November began limiting U.S., 
Canadian, and Spanish visitors to 15-day stays (as opposed to 
90 days previously).  When embassies and individuals protested, 
the Government decided to issue all foreign visitors 30-day 
stays.

Relations between the executive branch and the Human Rights 
Ombudsman, who is congressionally appointed, remain tense.  The 
Ombudsman repeatedly accused President De Leon, the previous 
human rights ombudsman, of not taking action on the numerous 
resolutions his office has issued concerning human rights.  
However, the current Ombudsman has significantly reduced his 
investigative staff, thus limiting his capacity to verify 
complaints.  On September 7, the Ombudsman called for the 
resignation of the National Police director because of 
allegations of police abuse in the La Exacta incident (see 
Section 1.a.).

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 trafficking.

Both the Ombudsman's office and the Archbishop's human rights 
office continued to enjoy widespread public support and 
respect.  Senior government officials met numerous foreign 
officials and human rights monitors.  International human 
rights monitors travel throughout the country but on occasion 
advise local military authorities of their presence to ensure 
their safety, particularly in rural areas.  Despite a 
persistent, 13-year effort, Peace Brigades International, an 
international human rights organization which accompanies 
persons whose lives may be in danger for their political 
beliefs or activities, has been unable to obtain government 
recognition.  The absence of legal status did not, however, 
prevent Peace Brigades or other human rights organizations from 
operating openly.

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

The Constitution states that all human beings are free and 
equal in dignity and rights and that the State must protect the 
life, liberty, justice, security, peace, and development of all 
Guatemalans.

     Women

The Constitution asserts the principle of equality between the 
sexes.  Nonetheless, 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.  More 
working women than men are employed in the informal sector of 
the economy, where pay and benefits are generally lower.  A 
1989 survey reported that in Guatemala City women are 
underrepresented in high-income categories and overrepresented 
among poorly paid workers.

In some cases, domestic 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 human rights 
Ombudsman's office reported receiving 30 complaints per month 
of spousal abuse committed by the male spouse.

     Children

The Constitution charges the Government with protecting the 
physical health and mental and moral well-being of minors.  
However, the abuse of street children (see Section 1.c.) is a 
serious problem in major cities.  Estimated numbers 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 nongovernmental organizations 
operate youth centers, but the funds devoted to them are 
inadequate for the problem.  An accord between Casa Alianza and 
the Attorney General's office was not renewed because the De 
Leon administration believes that the treatment of street 
children is adequately addressed in existing laws.

COPREDEH, the Presidential Human Rights Commission, has formed 
a special commission called the Permanent Commission for 
Children, composed of Casa Alianza and representatives from the 
judicial and executive branches, which met through October to 
address the problems of street children.  Relations between 
Casa Alianza and the National Police have fluctuated and only 
improved due to the repeated personal intervention of the 
police department's inspector general and the interest of the 
department's minors division, office of professional 
responsibility, and human rights office.  However, the police 
department's office of criminal investigations has been 
reluctant to release information on past alleged human rights 
abuses committed by police officers.

     Indigenous People

The Constitution states that Guatemala is composed of diverse 
ethnic groups and calls on the Government to recognize, 
respect, and promote lifestyles, customs, traditions, social 
organization, and the manner of dress of indigenous people.  
Indigenous people comprise about one-half 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 the Constitution 
accords indigenous people equal rights, 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.  Many 
indigenous people are illiterate and do not speak Spanish.  
Linguistic barriers hinder interaction with the Government and 
limit access to public services, including the judiciary, 
because few officials speak any of the 21 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 Criminal Procedures Code, the 
Government is required to provide translating services to all 
who need it in criminal proceedings.

     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 provision of accessibility for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and the Labor Code provide workers complete 
freedom of association and the right to form and join trade 
unions.  Major reforms to the Labor Code in 1992 mandated 
concrete steps to improve worker rights by facilitating freedom 
of association, strengthening the rights of working women, 
increasing penalties for violations of labor laws, and 
enhancing 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.  National Police officers have 
unsuccessfully attempted to form a trade union or association.  
Between 5 and 8 percent of the work force is organized.  The 
993 registered 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.  This was further revised when the 
Minister of Labor made administrative changes to reduce the 
number of steps needed within the Ministry for consideration of 
union applications, establishing strict timetables and warning 
officials that noncompliance with the timetable could lead to 
dismissal of those responsible for the delay.

These new regulations accelerated the approval procedure, and 
the backlog of union applications was basically eliminated by 
midyear.  The Labor Ministry has granted legal status to 63 
unions since late 1993, and only 13 applications are still 
pending.  Of the registered unions, 834 are in the private 
sector and 159 are in the public sector.  The Labor Ministry 
initiated a program to assist unions with their applications, 
to avoid some of the pitfalls still inherent in the Labor Code.

Workers have the right to strike, but Labor Code procedures 
make legal strikes cumbersome.  Labor organizers criticize the 
requirement that two-thirds of the workers must approve a vote 
to strike, the prohibition of strikes by agricultural workers 
at harvest time, and the right of the Government to prohibit 
strikes which it deems as seriously affecting the national 
economy.  Those strikes that do occur, frequently in the public 
sector, are generally called without legal authorization, and 
in practice the Government makes no effort to intervene on the 
basis of illegality.  Nonetheless, the lack of legal approval 
for a strike can be used as a threat against strikers.  Public 
sector workers held a series of work stoppages in early 1994 
and suffered no sanctions for their action.  Indeed, the 
Government negotiated and reached a peaceful accommodation with 
the public labor force.

The law protects workers from retribution for forming and 
participating in trade union activities, but enforcement of 
these provisions varies.  While an increasing number of  
employers accept unionization, many routinely seek to 
circumvent Labor Code provisions in order to resist union 
activities, which many view as historically confrontational and 
disruptive.  An ineffective legal system and the inadequate 
level of penalties for violations has hindered enforcement of 
the right to form and participate in trade union activities.  
While penalties were increased in the 1992 Labor Code reform, 
the previous Supreme Court (replaced in October 1994) delayed 
full implementation of the reforms.

Trade union leaders and members were victims of a marked 
increase in violence and abuse, such as threats, assassination 
attempts, kidnapings, and physical harm.  In one incident, 
police killed and wounded several persons while attempting to 
arrest workers who were illegally occupying a ranch (see 
Section 1.a.).  The Archbishop's human rights office reported 
that unknown assailants killed 5 unionists, injured 2, and 
threatened 36, although it is not always clear whether such 
violence is union-related.  Public sector union leaders, as 
well as unionists in the high-profile in-bond export sector, 
reported receiving threats against themselves and their 
families.  Such anonymous threats increased markedly early in 
the year when one of the federations of government employees 
held a prolonged series of work stoppages for improved wages 
and government compliance with previously negotiated 
agreements.  This dispute was peacefully settled through 
negotiations with various union representatives.

On September 30, President De Leon Carpio eliminated--allegedly 
without following legally required procedures--the moribund 
Committee of National Reconstruction (CNR), a government entity 
established to manage recovery from the 1976 earthquake.  Many 
of the 600 workers who lost their jobs occupied the Committee's 
headquarters in an attempt to force the Government to negotiate 
severance pay or find them alternative employment.  Agustin 
Monzon, a member of the CNR union, was allegedly kidnaped on 
November 7 and released only after the occupiers agreed to 
leave the site peacefully on November 18.

Unions may and do form federations and confederations and join 
international organizations.

An active "solidarity" movement claims approximately 100,000 
members in over 395 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.  The amended Labor Code stipulates very clearly 
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 some of these associations did not always adhere to 
democratic principles in their formation and management and 
that workers are unable to participate fully and freely in 
decision making.  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, and the Ombudsman has spoken out in 
public statements about labor conditions in varying sectors of 
the economy.  The Ombudsman can investigate their complaints 
and issue a statement.  He has no enforcement powers but can 
attempt to ameliorate the situation through publicity and moral 
suasion.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively.  
However, the practice of collective bargaining is limited by 
the weak structure of the union movement, the lack of 
experience with this practice, and the preference of management 
in many cases to avoid formal ties with trade unions.  While 
both management and the unions honored some well-written 
collective contracts, in other instances, both parties openly 
ignored and violated contracts.  Most workers, even those 
organized by trade unions, do not have collective contracts to 
cover their wages and working conditions, but do have 
individual contracts as required by law.  Most workers receive 
the minimum wages established by bipartite commissions, which 
operate under the guidance of the Ministry of Labor.

Employers cannot dismiss workers for participating in the 
formation of a trade union; workers file complaints in this 
regard with the labor inspectors for resolution.  The Labor 
Code provides for the right of employers to fire union workers 
for cause, permits workers to appeal their dismissal to the 
labor courts, and requires the reinstatement of any union 
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.  An employer may fire a member of the 
union's executive committee for cause only after a trial and 
issuance of a court resolution.

Labor courts responsible for enforcing labor laws continued to 
be generally ineffective.  Although two new labor courts began 
to function, efforts to restructure and modernize the labor 
court system made little headway, in part because of tensions 
between the executive and judicial branches stemming from 
President De Leon's reform efforts.  A heavy backlog of labor 
cases continues to clog the courts due to corruption, 
indolence, and lack of resources.  There is only spotty 
enforcement of the Labor Code, due to the scarcity of labor 
inspectors, corruption, the lack of adequate training and 
resources, and structural weaknesses (or the lack of political 
will) in the labor court system.  Nonetheless, enforcement is 
improving as new labor inspectors complete training and begin 
work outside the capital, allowing the Ministry of Labor to 
increase significantly its rate of inspections.  The Ministry 
has also increased the number of court cases filed for failure 
to comply with the Labor Code and has begun an educational 
campaign on worker rights, including providing some documents 
in indigenous languages.

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 unofficially 
restricted access to the EPZ's for their virtual inability to 
organize workers in these zones, labor conditions in the EPZ's 
are no different from those found outside the zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution bars forced or compulsory labor, and the 
practice does not exist.  However, human rights and indigenous 
groups continue to charge that there is coerced participation 
in the PAC's that violates prohibitions against forced labor.

     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.  
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 permission from the Labor Ministry to work 
legally.  Thousands working without legal permission are open 
to exploitation, generally receiving no social benefits, no 
social insurance, no 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.  There are 
no export industries in which child labor is a significant 
factor.

The Constitution provides for compulsory education for all 
children up to the age of 12 or to the sixth grade.  However, 
less than half the population actually receives a primary 
education.  Child labor is largely confined to small or family 
enterprises, to agricultural work, and to the informal sectors 
of the economy.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Although the law sets minimum wages, the legally mandated 
minimum wage for most unskilled and semiskilled workers is 
rarely paid to rural and urban workers.  A bilateral committee 
representing labor and management in specific economic sectors 
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.  In June the National 
Association of Coffee Growers (ANACAFE) reached an agreement 
with one trade union group representing coffee farm workers 
which increased the minimum wage for coffee farm workers by 
approximately 30 percent to $2.55 (14.50 quetzals) a day.  The 
accord also provides for both productivity training and bonus 
payments and foresees talks on modernization of the critical 
coffee sector.

Following the ANACAFE accord, the Government substantially 
increased the minimum wage in the main sectors of the economy 
in October.  The minimum wage for commercial and industrial 
workers is $2.80 (16 quetzals) for an 8-hour workday, including 
a required hourly bonus.  The minimum wage for farm workers is 
$2.55 (14.50 quetzals) per day, plus mandatory and productivity 
bonuses.  It has been estimated that an urban family of four 
needs at least $8.50 (48 quetzales) per day to live, thus the 
minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living.  An 
estimated 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty 
line, including approximately 60 percent of those employed.

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 requires a weekly 
paid rest period of at least 24 hours.  Trade union leaders and 
human rights groups charge that workers are sometimes 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 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.  
When serious or fatal industrial accidents do occur, the 
authorities generally take no legal steps against those 
responsible.  The Labor Ministry provides training courses for 
labor inspectors in health and safety standards but does not 
accord them a high priority due to scarce resources.  The 
Government does not effectively enforce legislation requiring 
companies with more than 50 employees to provide on-site 
medical facilities for their workers, although many large 
employers do provide such facilities.
(###)

[end of document]

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