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Title:  Guatemala Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Guatemala's 1985 Constitution provides 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 (PDH),
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 suspend
the legislature and judiciary.  President de Leon's term of office ended
in January 1996.  On November 12, the first round of general elections
for president, vice president, congress, and municipal offices resulted
in no presidential candidate receiving an absolute majority.  Alvaro
Arzu Irigoyen of the National Advancement Party (PAN) won the runoff
election held January 7, 1996, and took office January 14.  Reflecting a
greater opening for political activity, 24 parties, including a broad
front coalition composed of civil sector, human rights, and labor
leaders, campaigned in the free and fair elections.

Peace talks between the Government and the leftist insurgent Guatemalan
National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) continued.  The parties achieved
significant progress but fell short of their goal of an overall
agreement by the end of the year.  The Government and the URNG
insurgents reached an accord on indigenous rights on March 25.  Although
the overall indigenous agreement will be implemented only when a global
peace accord has been signed, its human rights provisions took effect
immediately.  A 1994 Government-URNG accord led to the introduction of
the U.N. Human Rights Verification Mission (MINUGUA) into Guatemala.
MINUGUA's extensive international presence, its verification of alleged
abuses, its detailed periodic reporting, and its programs to strengthen
civilian institutions serve as deterrents to human rights abuses and
encourage greater human rights activism by civil society.

The army and police forces operate with considerable institutional and
legal autonomy, particularly in security and military matters.  With
President De Leon's mid-1994 suspension of enforcement of the
Conscription Law, forced recruitment and recruitment of minors all but
ceased.  Officially, the army has 43,000 men, although outside sources
commonly place the current numerical strength of the army at
substantially less.  The Minister of Government oversees the National
Police and the Treasury Police, which share responsibility for internal
security with the army.  President De Leon replaced the Minister of
Government and Director of National Police and placed a civilian in the
position of Vice Minister of Government, which previously had been
occupied by an army colonel, once again reducing direct military control
over the police force.

An estimated 340,000 men serve in rural civil self-defense committees
called Civil Defense Patrols (PAC's), some of which conduct
counterinsurgency patrols.  Although the Constitution requires that
service be voluntary, MINUGUA, the Human Rights Ombudsman's Office
(PDH), and the Catholic Archbishop's Human Rights Office (ODHAG)
reported that in some regions certain PAC's were still compelling
members to join or remain in the patrols, in violation of the
Constitution, and that some PAC's killed members who chose to leave
their PAC's.  In a major and controversial decision, President De Leon
decommissioned 33,000 military commissioners effective September 15.
These were generally local civilian leaders who represented the army and
served as intermediaries between the army and the civil defense patrol
members.  Security forces, especially PAC's and civilian military
commissioners, committed numerous serious human rights violations and
generally enjoyed impunity from the law.

The agricultural-based, private sector-oriented economy grew by
approximately 4.9 percent in real terms in 1995, raising per capita
income about 1 percent.  Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the leading
exports, with more than half of the work force engaged in agricultural
labor.  Inflation was 8.6 percent.  There is a marked disparity in
income distribution, and poverty is pervasive, particularly in the large
indigenous community.  Approximately 80 percent of Guatemalans live in
poverty, with 59 percent in extreme poverty.  Gross national product
(GNP) per capita is approximately $1,000 per year.

Guerrillas, as well as leftwing and rightwing extremist groups,
committed major human rights violations.  Guerrilla abuses included
death threats, the use of mines and explosives in civilian areas,
attacks on military bases located near civilian areas, forced
recruitment of minors, and reprisal attacks against the property of
persons who refused to pay "war taxes."

PAC's, military commissioners, members of the army, and police committed
major human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings,
political kidnapings, physical abuse, arbitrary arrest and detention,
death threats, and forced recruitment.  MINUGUA noted some positive
developments, including minor improvements in the administration of
justice, a more aggressive Police Department Office of Professional
Responsibility, the successful suspension of military conscription, the
virtual end of forced recruitment, and the decommissioning of military
commissioners.  Nonetheless, government policy changes and a more
aggressive stance by the Minister of Government and the Director of
National Police have been insufficient to combat the impunity commonly
enjoyed by government security forces.  The judicial system is often
unable to ensure fair trials.  Both legal and societal discrimination
against women persisted, and violence against women is a problem.
Societal abuse of children and discrimination against indigenous people


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

   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Politically motivated killings continued with disturbing frequency.
Because of the scarcity of law enforcement resources and a weak and
ineffective administrative and judicial system, as well as widespread
impunity and a lack of political will, the Government, with few
exceptions, failed to investigate killings fully or to detain and
prosecute perpetrators.  The security forces (military, PAC's, military
commissioners, and the police) and rightwing extremist groups were
responsible for political and extrajudicial killings, but with a reduced
incidence compared to 1994.

The PDH's office, which generally compiles data based on personal
interviews with victims and their families, listed 216 cases of possible
extrajudicial killings in 1995, compared with 287 in 1994.  Using media
reports and interviews with victims and their relatives, the ODHAG
reported 215 extrajudicial killings for the year, compared with 355 in
1994 and 248 in 1993.  ODHAG labeled 18 of the extrajudicial killings in
1995 as definitely political and 133 as presumed political.  For its
part, MINUGUA listed 103 extrajudicial killings for the period between
February 21 and August 21.  None of these human rights offices broke
down the figures according to the organization believed responsible, but
government security forces, military commissioners, and PAC members
committed such offenses.

President De Leon replaced the Minister of Government and Director of
National Police and appointed a civilian to the position of Vice
Minister of Government, which previously had been occupied by an army
colonel, reducing direct military control over the police force.  These
changes occurred amidst allegations of corruption involving the Minister
and charges of excessive use of force by the police, particularly
surrounding the deaths and injuries in the August 1994 "La Exacta" farm
occupation labor protest incident and the November 1994 University of
San Carlos (USAC) student demonstration (see below).

PAC members and military commissioners, who often represent the only
day-to-day central government authority in outlying areas, are feared in
many rural communities.  They usually enjoy army backing and de facto
immunity from prosecution.  ODHAG and CERJ, an indigenous human rights
organization, reported that the executive branch failed to carry out
arrest warrants against at least 30 military commissioners and PAC
members for their involvement in human rights crimes.  PAC members and
military commissioners are rarely convicted for their crimes.

No military commissioner or PAC member accused of committing a human
rights related offense has been sentenced, although at least 14 (3
commissioners and 11 PAC members) were detained and under judicial
proceedings at year's end.

In a major, controversial decision, President De Leon decommissioned
military commissioners effective September 15.  The 33,000 military
commissioners were generally local civilian leaders who represented the
army and served as intermediaries between the army and the civil defense
patrol members.  Military commissioners served as the eyes and ears of
the army in remote areas and played a central role in forced recruitment
prior to the virtual abolition of that practice.  Opinions vary as to
whether the formal abolition of these positions and decommission of the
commissioners, although important steps, will make a major difference in

The National Police attempted to carry out arrest warrants for PAC
members charged in the 1993 killing of anti-PAC activist Tomas Lares
Cipriano, but 30 armed PAC members forced the policemen to withdraw.
The Government failed to carry out arrests on warrants issued against
three other PAC members on four occasions between July 1993 and February

Nine members of the Colotenango PAC surrendered on charges of
responsibility for the August 1993 killing of Juan Chanay Pablo, an
anti-PAC demonstrator, and were imprisoned.  Members of this group had
allegedly been informed by the military that they would be released on
personal bond upon surrender to the authorities.  Of 13 accused in the
killing, 8 are in jail, 4 remain at large, and 1 has died of natural
causes.  The National Police acted to protect witnesses and staged a
reconstruction of the events in July.  An active investigation was still
underway at year's end.

On January 8, USAC lecturer Abner Esau Avenado Estrada was assassinated
by unknown individuals in Guatemala City.  Avenado had reported
receiving threats for more than 2 years prior to his death.  MINUGUA
concluded that the National Police were lax in pursuing an investigation
of the incident.

On January 27, another USAC professor, Apolo A. Carranza Vallar,
disappeared after leaving his office at the Pan-American Health
Organization.  In May Erwin Gonzalez Barrientos, a self-proclaimed
military informant, correctly identified the location of Carranza's body
and charged that the Escuintla military zone commander was the
intellectual author of the kidnaping and murder.  In spite of Gonzalez'
claims, the Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa police chief is currently under
arrest for the murder of Carranza.

The Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala, CIEDEG, charged the
Public Ministry and the National Police with a careless investigation of
the murder and mistreatment of several of its members and alleged that
the Chimaltenango police actively tried to impede it.  On June 23,
unidentified assailants brutally tortured and murdered Pastor Manuel
Saquic Vasquez, coordinator of human rights for the Kachiquel Presbytery
and member of the human rights group Defensoria Maya.  Local authorities
interred Saquic's body on June 26 in an unidentified grave.  Another
member of the presbytery, Bartolo Solis Sunin, was kidnaped,
interrogated, beaten, and released.  Pastor Saquic had been a witness to
the Solis abduction.  In August 1994, Pascual Serech, also a member of
the presbytery, was found dead.  CIEDEG suspects that military
commissioner Victor Roman Cutzal is the intellectual or material author
of all three incidents.  After the murder of the first judge handling
the Pascual Serech case, an itinerant judge from the capital closed the
case in favor of Roman.  The case against him was reopened upon appeal
to a higher court.  In August a judge issued a warrant for the arrest of
Roman, but he remains at large.  CIEDEG members have received verbal and
written threats, including an ultimatum for departure from the country.

ODHAG and MINUGUA have accused members of the army and the National
Police of directing an extrajudicial social cleansing campaign in which
they or their agents kill minors and adults believed to have committed
common crimes.  ODHAG reports that street gangs, allegedly using police
weapons, kidnaped, tortured, and fired fatal shots into the heads of
three street children from a rival gang.  The Police Department's Office
of Professional Responsibility is reportedly conducting an investigation
into these charges.

On July 15, in the town of Amatitlan, two presidential guard personnel
killed Conrodo Ramirez Garcia and wounded Candida Aquino Yansi and her
son, Feliciano Ramirez Yansi, according to the Ombudsman's office.
Military courts responded rapidly to the allegations, permitting the
case against the accused to advance expeditiously.

An army patrol led by Lieutenant Camilo Antonio Lacan Chaclan killed 11
people and wounded at least 30 on October 5.  The patrol entered the
returned refugee community of Aurora 8 de Octubre at the Xaman Ranch,
Chisec, Alta Verapaz, for reasons which have not yet been clearly
established.  After a tense standoff during which the patrol was
surrounded by an emotional crowd, the soldiers opened fire and withdrew
from the village.  Soldiers shot an 8-year-old boy in cold blood some
distance from the scene of the original shootings.  President De Leon
accepted the resignation of Defense Minister General Mario Enriquez
shortly after the shooting incident.  Lieutenant Lacan Chaclan and 25
soldiers have been indicted and remained in jail awaiting trial at the
end of the year.

On December 5, an unknown gunman killed 9-year-old Magdalena Caal Coc
and wounded 11-year-old Santiago Quix Caal in a temporary refugee
settlement in Cantabal, Alta Verapaz.  At year's end, active government
and U.N. investigations were still underway, but the motive and
perpetrators remain unknown.

Captain Hugo Contreras, the Guatemalan army officer sentenced to 20
years in prison after being convicted of ordering the operation that led
to the June 1990 murder of Michael Devine, remains a fugitive following
his May 11, 1993 escape from military custody.  It is widely believed
that some military officials facilitated Contreras' escape.  The six
enlisted men, each sentenced to 30 years for the murder of Devine, lost
their appeal in the Supreme Court in May.

Public allegations in March that army Colonel Julio Alpirez was involved
in the Devine killing led Francisco Solbal Sontay--who was convicted in
the killing--to declare that Alpirez and Colonel Mario Garcia Catalan
were involved in the murder and the subsequent coverup.  Solbal alleged
publicly that Garcia Catalan ordered the Devine murder, and also had
other participants in the killing murdered as part of the coverup.
Solbal was unable to identify for investigators the exact location of
the graves of the victims to carry out exhumations.  Based on these
allegations, the Public Ministry launched a new investigation to try to
determine the intellectual authors of the murder and participants in the
ensuing coverup, assigning Leopoldo Mejia Toc as the special prosecutor.
The Fourth Court of Appeals dismissed charges against Garcia Catalan in
August and denied an appeal by the Public Ministry that the
investigation of his role in the murder continue.

There was some progress in certain past high-profile cases.  An
appellate court ruled in April that, due to serious irregularities in
the case against the six imprisoned defendants charged with the 1993
murder of former presidential candidate Jorge Carpio, proceedings had to
begin anew.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
issued a resolution calling on the Government to take immediate
protective measures to safeguard the survivors of the incident, family
members of the victims, and the prosecutor assigned to the case.

Six persons convicted in the killing of constitutional court president
Epaminondas Gonzalez Dubon were sentenced to terms ranging from 2 to 12
years on December 21.  The Public Ministry is appealing the sentences as
being too light.  Although the Public Ministry ruled out any motive
other than robbery, widespread speculation continues that Gonzalez was
killed because he had decided to uphold the constitutionality of an
extradition order to the United States for former Lieutenant Colonel
Carlos Ochoa Ruiz on drug-related charges.

A videotape filmed at the November 1994 USAC student demonstration
showed policemen severely beating student Mario Lopez Sanchez after he
was injured and incapacitated.  Lopez later died from his injuries.
Judicial proceedings against the police came to a halt in February after
trial courts requested further investigation of the accused police
officer.  Another court denied a wrongful death lawsuit for 10 million
quetzals (approximately $1,810,000) filed by the Lopez family against
the Government.  The court ruled that the State cannot be held liable
for damages and injuries that occur in armed confrontations or civil
disturbances.  The Lopez family has appealed this ruling.

Also in February, the former Minister and Vice Minister of Government
and the National Police chief were charged with issuing the general
order to fire at the students in the November 1994 demonstrations.  They
were permitted to post a bond of 15,000 quetzales (approximately $2,630)
pending further investigation.  On September 13, Carlos Venancio
Escobar, Vice Commander of the Fifth Police Corps, was imprisoned in
connection with the case.  MINUGUA reports that since Lopez' death there
have been incidents of torture, kidnaping, and intimidation directed
against several persons involved in the case.

In August 1994, the National Police killed three persons while
attempting to arrest workers who had occupied the La Exacta farm during
a labor dispute.  Since then the Ministry of Government has modified its
procedures and has promoted improved discipline and greater restraint in
the use of force (e.g., firearms are no longer used) in property
eviction tactics employed by the authorities.  MINUGUA reports, however,
that Public Ministry officials have neglected to carry out some of the
basic investigative inquiries into the incident.  In October the
authorities arrested the departmental police chief and charged him with
homicide and abuse of authority in connection with the La Exacta

The trial against the alleged intellectual authors of the 1990 killing
of anthropologist Myrna Mack has been paralyzed for several months in
the pretrial investigative stage.  The alleged intellectual authors have
insisted that the convicted material author, Noel de Jesus Beteta, is
innocent and that they cannot be charged as a result.  In July a court
ruled that Mack's sister, Helen, could serve as an additional plaintiff
in the case.  There has been no progress in the related case of
detective Jose Luis Merida Escobar who was assassinated in 1991 while he
was investigating the death of Myrna Mack.

There were some limited developments in the 1985 Blake/Davis case.  In
February the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose agreed to
accept the case for review.  The Government asked PAC members accused of
the death to come in for

questioning but they have not appeared.  A key informant in the case
reports that he has suffered threats and intimidation.

In January the Supreme Court overturned sentences and ordered a new
trial for members of a police and army anticrime task force convicted of
the April 1992 death of university student Julio Roberto Cu Qium and the
injury of six other students.  The 21 policemen charged originally
received 30-year sentences, and the 9 soldiers involved received 14-year
prison terms.  Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the Constitutional
Court had dismissed two appeals filed by the defendants.

The IACHR requested in April that the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights take legal action against the Government for having closed legal
proceedings in the 1988 "white van case" without resolving the
indemnification issue raised by relatives of those kidnaped, tortured,
and murdered by Treasury Police riding in a white van.  The Government's
investigation into the September 1994 murder of a leading witness and
survivor of the case and his son is still underway.  In June the
Solicitor General stated that legal proceedings against several
policemen remained pending.

ODHAG reported that the Juarez family fled Guatemala because of repeated
acts of intimidation and death threats by Coban army intelligence
Captain Jose Luis Gonzalez Perez.  The family accused Gonzalez of
commanding a Coban-based "social cleansing" execution squad responsible
for the 1994 death of their son, Juan Rene Juarez Gonzalez.  ODHAG and
the international community made repeated requests to the Defense
Ministry to remove Captain Gonzalez from his position and launch an
appropriate investigation into these charges.  On June 30, Captain
Gonzalez was transferred as part of the army's normal rotation.

There was no progress in resolving numerous other past 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
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 CERJ.  The Government's
inability to deter, prosecute, or punish those responsible for such
offenses remains a major impediment to human rights progress.

There was no progress in the investigation of two fatal 1994 police
beatings.  In the first case, police officers severely beat Victor
Manuel and Mario Enrique Pineda Poron, killing Mario Enrique.  The
police also severely beat Juan Carlos Ruiz Ramirez and Marco Vinicio
Rodriguez.  Ruiz Ramirez subsequently died from his injuries.

   b.   Disappearance

ODHAG reported 10 forced disappearances in 1995, all believed to be
politically motivated.  The PDH's office received 77 complaints of
forced disappearance, compared with 60 for 1994.  The Government did not
identify or prosecute the perpetrators of any of these disappearances.
While motives in these incidents are difficult to determine, many of the
victims were politically active.

MINUGUA reported that, on March 17, Salvador de La Rosa Juarez left his
home near Las Tronchos, Escuintla to perform patrol duties with a local
military unit and later disappeared.  Another patroller, later found
murdered, warned the victim's wife to drop her investigation and told
her that her husband was dead.  Several days later, four young men,
including two nephews of de La Rosa, were found dead.  MINUGUA charged
that the local police force conducted no investigation into this
incident.  The military has asserted that these matters do not fall
within MINUGUA's jurisdiction and has refused to cooperate, in part
because of alleged military ties to these incidents.

On March 23, Arnoldo Xi, a community leader in Tixila, Purulha, Baja
Verapaz and a member of CONIC (an indigenous human rights organization
dedicated to saving Mayan culture) was reportedly wounded by gunfire and
then abducted by armed men.  He remained missing at year's end.

The whereabouts of Lorenzo Quiej Pu, a member of CONDEG (an organization
dedicated to helping Guatemalans who have been internally displaced due
to the armed conflict), who disappeared in January 1994, remained
unknown at year's end.  Likewise, the disappearances 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, remained unresolved at year's end.

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

The Constitution provides for the integrity and security of the person.
Nonetheless, many bodies were found in various parts of the country
bearing signs of severe disfigurement or mutilation.  The PDH's office
listed 9 potential cases of torture, compared with 18 in 1994.  For the
same period, ODHAG listed 5 cases of torture, compared with 17 cases in
1994 and 18 cases in 1993.  Some of these cases were believed to be
politically motivated.

There were credible reports of mistreatment by members of the 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 army, civil defense
patrols, military commissioners, and police all at times used excessive
force against the civilian population.

MINUGUA reported that on January 2, USAC student Jorge Ottoniel de Leon
Ramirez was abducted and interrogated violently about the activities of
the Association of University Students and his alleged ties to slain
student Mario Alioto Lopez Sanchez and the URNG.  Another student was
also abducted and seriously injured.  Government security forces are
believed to be involved in both incidents.  On July 26, a different
student was briefly detained by armed men, shown a list with the names
of 17 USAC students and alumni, and told that those named on the list
would be killed.  A number of the students on the list have reportedly
stopped attending classes at the university and fled the capital.

The PDH's office reported that on the evening of January 6, in Salama,
Baja Verapaz, two Treasury Policemen illegally detained military
commissioner Lauro de Jesus Gonzalez Ortiz.  According to the PDH, the
two police officers seized Gonzalez because they thought him responsible
for an earlier shooting at a Treasury Police office.  The officers
involved allegedly used nightsticks and an electrical shock device to
apprehend Gonzalez, rendering him unconscious and breaking his leg.  The
PDH has called for disciplinary action against these officers for their
extralegal behavior and possession of the electrical device.  The PDH
has also demanded the enforcement of disciplinary action against the
officers' supervisors for allowing such behavior and omitting facts in
their investigation.  No action has been taken in response to the
demands of the PDH.

Casa Alianza (CA), an organization dedicated to assisting street
children, reported various instances in which the National Police abused
street children.  CA also reported that criminal charges against the
five policemen charged in the March 1994 baton beating of Luis Antonio
Roldan Izeppi remain pending because two policemen have not testified.
One policeman has left the force.  Also according to CA, private
security guards routinely abuse street children.  This type of abuse has
led to the death of one minor, as did two cases of abuse by National
Police and two others by unknown persons, for a total of five minors
killed by abuse.  Two National Police officers were released on bail,
and one private security guard remains in custody.  There have been no
convictions.  Guerrilla forces also occasionally abused the civilian
population, especially in rural areas.  Evidence of torture and severe
mistreatment are also prevalent in murders arising from nonpolitical
disputes, particularly those related to narcotics trafficking.

   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Despite legal safeguards, there were frequent credible reports of
arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and failure to adhere to
prescribed time limits in legal proceedings by the security forces.  The
Constitution requires that a court-issued arrest warrant be presented to
a suspect prior to arrest unless he 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 also provides for bail and
access to lawyers.  There are 5,400 men and 277 women currently in
prison.  Reliable estimates suggest that about 70 percent have been
sentenced and 30 percent are awaiting sentences.  Prisoners
are often detained past their legal trial or release dates.

There are no reliable data on the number of arbitrary detentions,
although most accounts agree that the security forces routinely ignore
writs of habeas corpus in cases of illegal detention.  ODHAG has charged
that prisoners are sometimes not released in a timely fashion after
completing their sentences due to the failure of justices of the peace
to issue the necessary court order.  According to the PDH's office, on
January 6 National Policemen illegally detained Christian Daniel Espana
Schmidt and Hector Alberto Ziguensa Aguilera and released them only in
exchange for a sum of money.  Police allegedly beat Espana Schmidt while
they had him in custody.  The Office of Professional Responsibility of
the National Police concluded that the three officers involved in the
apprehension had acted improperly.  The PDH has recommended that the
National Police director immediately fire the policemen; this has not

Humberto Miranda Ramos reported to MINUGUA that the local police chief
and two of his officers had threatened and otherwise intimidated him.
Miranda Ramos, a judge in San Benito, Peten, had ruled that a large
number of arrests made by the police chief were illegal and began
proceedings against him.  Based on statements to the press by the police
chief, MINUGUA believes the threats against Miranda Ramos are linked to
the charges against the police chief.  The Supreme Court filed a writ of
habeas corpus in favor of the justice of the peace and ordered the
police chief placed under house arrest, an order which, according to
MINUGUA, he is ignoring.  Other implicated police officers have been
transferred to different parts of the country.

There were numerous reports that policemen illegally detained street
children; the authorities rarely took action in any of these incidents.

The Constitution prohibits exile.  However, there are many instances of
threatened individuals fleeing the country out of fear for their lives.

   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary.  However, the
judicial system is dysfunctional and often unable to ensure a fair
trial.  International organizations, including MINUGUA, have commented
on the Government's failure to investigate, prosecute, and punish many
suspects, especially in cases involving members of the military and
public security forces.

The judiciary is composed of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court,
appellate courts, lower courts, and courts of special jurisdiction (e.g.
labor courts).  The Constitution provides that the Congress select
Supreme Court and appellate court magistrates from lists prepared by
panels comprised of active magistrates, the Bar Association, and law
school deans.

Defendants have the right to be present at trials and to legal
representation.  The new Criminal Procedures Code, which came into
effect in mid-1994, fundamentally alters the administration of criminal
justice by strengthening the prosecutorial function, establishing a
criminal public defenders program, and instituting open adversarial
proceedings at the trial phase.  Its key precepts include the
presumption of innocence of the accused, the right to be present at
trial, the right to counsel, and the granting of release on bail.

Because of the difficulty in implementing the new Code, however, the
commitment to transform a dysfunctional judicial system into an
effective one is being seriously tested.  The legal obligation of the
State (through its Public Ministry) to investigate crimes, prosecute
offenders, and administer punishment has been severely hampered by the
lack of preparation for the changes the Code introduces.  The courts'
response to human rights violations, as well as to general criminal
activity, has been very slow.  Competent authorities frequently do not
conduct investigations even when they have informal knowledge of the
identity of the perpetrators.  Political will in the Public Ministry to
pursue human rights cases vigorously is notably lacking.  There is
apparently no set procedure within the Public Ministry to govern
criminal investigations and thus to ensure a viable response to criminal

Coordination between the Public Ministry and the National Police with
regard to investigations is inadequate.  Security forces personnel are
reluctant to investigate cases potentially involving colleagues.  Police
are poorly paid, relatively few in number, and lack adequate resources
and training.  Judges and prosecutors are susceptible to intimidation
and corruption and suffer from low pay, poor working conditions, and low
morale.  The Attorney General reportedly stated on September 6 that he
was investigating corruption charges against several prosecutors.  Such
factors, combined with the lack of political will in the Public Ministry
on human rights cases, the small number of prosecutors, and the
interference of the Supreme Court with the lower courts, demonstrate the
State's lack of commitment to combat the existing pervasive atmosphere
of impunity.

There are, however, signs that the reforms are taking root.  Some 97
verbal trials had taken place under the new procedures by the end of
1995.  Approximately 22 of these trials resulted in acquittals.
Criminal elements murdered several of the prosecutors and magistrates
who were implementing the new Code in apparent recognition of the
challenge it posed to their illegal activities.

Members of the judiciary, as well as prosecutors, continued to receive
threats, either in an attempt to influence current decisions or as
reprisals for past decisions.  According to the Secretary General of the
Supreme Court, numerous judges received threats related to their case
loads.  At least one of the threatened judges has resigned.  On April
26, unknown persons broke into an Amatitlan court house, ransacked
judicial records, stole files, and left a painted death threat for Judge
Belter Mansilla.  Two Public Ministry prosecutors were killed under
suspicious circumstances.  One of the slain prosecutors was
investigating the November 1994 murder of Karin Fleischmann, for which
Ricardo Ortega del Cid has been charged.  Ortega had publicly threatened
the previous prosecutor.  Nine prosecutors also received threats.
Officials from MINUGUA, ODHAG, and the PDH's office also received

Rampant corruption continues to impede the proper functioning of the
police force, and there are credible allegations of some police
involvement in narcotics trafficking.  In numerous criminal cases,
police were often unwilling to execute arrest warrants.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of home, correspondence,
and private documents, but the authorities regularly disregard these
provisions.  Elements of the security forces continue to monitor private
communications.  Ministry of Defense officials admit that the military
monitors communications "when necessary."  The 1993 postal espionage
case involving a Serrano administration presidential security staff
member remains in the pretrial investigative stage.  Many human rights
workers alleged surveillance of their movements and activities.

MINUGUA reports that the military has honored the June 1994 presidential
order to suspend all conscription, including forced recruitment.  There
have been isolated cases of minors enlisting voluntarily, in which the
offices of MINUGUA and the PDH have been able to secure the release of
the underaged recruits.  The commander of military zone 22 was suspended
in late August, in part because of charges of forced recruitment.

The Constitution requires that PAC service be voluntary.  However, in
some regions, army officers, military commissioners, and PAC leaders
pressured men to become and remain members or extorted a fee from
individuals in exchange for permission to resign.  The PDH charged that
military commissioners in Hacienda Vieja, Chimaltenango forcibly
recruited community residents into PAC's.  CERJ reports at least two
instances in the combat-ridden Quiche department in which PAC members
killed former PAC members or their family members in retaliation for
their refusal to continue participation in PAC's.

A minor and two adult PAC members were accused of killing a youth, Pedro
Saquic, because of his father's refusal to remain in the PAC.  Two of
the arrest warrants stemming from the case have been served; a third PAC
member remains at large.  San Marcos diocese officials reported that
military commissioners threatened to fire their workers if they declined
further participation in PAC's.  There are other credible reports that
individuals refusing to serve in PAC's suffered threats and other

On March 3, a human rights group of El Eden, Quiche, invited the town
mayor, the commander of military zone 22, the deputy ombudsman, and
MINUGUA, as well as several organizations in the capital city, and local
residents, to draw up a document certifying that eight individuals, four
of them members of the human rights group, no longer wished to be a part
of the PAC.  According to the PDH office, the mayor, charged by law to
hold the meeting, deliberately avoided calling it and had to be escorted
to the session by ombudsman officials.  A dozen armed military personnel
from the Cari military base, including three officers, were at the
meeting table.  During the meeting, PAC supporters intimidated and
harassed those who wanted to withdraw from the PAC, forcing the
unresolved adjournment of the session.  At year's end, there had been no
reported reprisals against those who declined to patrol in El Eden.

The PDH's office reported that soldiers surveilled Gustavo Adolfo
Albizures Pedroza, an investigator for FAMDEGUA (a human rights
organization dedicated to issues regarding individuals who disappeared
and their families), when he was researching names of disappeared
persons in old newspapers at the National Periodical Archive.  The
Defense Ministry has admitted that soldiers were present at the library
when Albizures was carrying out his research but denies that they were
surveilling him, even though pictures were taken of this surveillance.

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

Guatemala's armed internal conflict entered its 35th year as both
government and guerrilla forces continued to commit major human rights

Communities of People in Resistance (CPR), groups of displaced persons
who have lived in remote areas to avoid army control and armed action
since the 1980's, alleged that the army continued to harass them
throughout the year.  While army activity continued in the highlands,
security improved in the valleys, so that in 1994 a number of CPR's
descended from the mountains and established permanent villages.  During
1995 no CPR's descended to establish villages; by year's end there were
very few CPR's left in the remote highlands.

According to data compiled by MINUGUA, ODHAG, and the PDH's office,
early in the year the URNG attacked civilian infrastructure targets,
including electrical and communications facilities; collected war taxes;
burned farms; and caused civilian injuries through the use of mines.
After signing the March 24 accord with MINUGUA, the URNG ceased its
attacks on electrical towers and grids.  However, URNG gunfire attack on
an army base at Alotenango struck civilian houses and killed various
farm animals.  The army often refrained from returning fire during
attacks on its bases near civilian areas to avoid possible civilian

MINUGUA has verified the accuracy of complaints of ranch owners against
the URNG's practice of collecting war taxes.  In one fairly
representative case, a group entered a ranch in Quetzaltenango
department and delivered a letter requesting a war tax, with the amount
based on the amount of land on the farm.  The guerrillas took an
inventory of the farm, left instructions on how the money should be
paid, and took two Polaroid photographs of the farm administrator.  They
also questioned the workers as to whether they were being paid the legal
minimum wage and attempted to interest a number of 14- to 16-year-old
boys in joining their movement.  Finally, they stated that although the
tax was "voluntary," refusing to pay would be an indication that the
farm's owners were not interested in maintaining good relations with the

On March 29, guerrillas killed civilian Ofelia de La Cruz Garcia and
wounded a soldier in a grenade attack on the military detachment in the
Raxhua township in Chisec.  Although the URNG denied responsibility for
the civilian death, MINUGUA concluded that the attackers could have
detected De La Cruz' presence.

According to an army press release, two children seriously injured
themselves after accidentally detonating a URNG-placed antipersonnel
mine on March 24 on the banks of the Cuyumpa River in Huehuetenango.
One of the victims also lost a hand.  In another typical case, on July
19, an antitank mine killed one child and injured two others in Canton
Chiguesha, Quiche.  In response to MINUGUA queries about other incidents
of civilian injuries caused by mine warfare, URNG leaders replied that
their fighters accidentally overlooked these mines.

During the period before the elections, guerrilla groups assembled
captive audiences to listen to their political pronouncements.  Armed
guerrilla units occupied various towns for several hours to disseminate
propaganda.  Local military zone commanders did not resist these
incursions, and there were no confrontations or casualties.  On March
25, four radio stations in the capital reported that guerrillas forced
them to play URNG propaganda tapes.

Terrorist bombings conducted by unknown perpetrators continued
throughout the year.  At least 11 explosive devices were detonated or
deactivated in Guatemala City and another 5 throughout the country.
Several of these devices were accompanied by URNG leaflets.  Other bomb
attacks were believed to be orchestrated by rightist groups opposed to
the peace negotiations.

On April 4, a bomb exploded several blocks away from the presidential
palace while the President met with visiting U.N. Secretary General
Boutros Boutros Ghali.  The explosion killed a USAC professor and
injured his student assistant.  The army claimed that the professor had
ties to the URNG and had planned to disrupt the presidential meeting.
In June two rocket propelled grenades exploded in the garden of retired
general, deposed former president, and Guatemala Republican Front (FRG)
political party presidential aspirant Efrain Rios Montt.  On several
occasions, death threat lists with the names of human rights and labor
leaders and newspaper journalists circulated, but no one listed was
injured or killed.

MINUGUA verified that the army followed correct legal procedures in
turning over to authorities captured guerrilla leader Timeto R. Navarijo
Chutan.  However, MINUGUA reports that when guerrilla Emilio Paau Caal
voluntarily surrendered at Las Pozas, Peten, the military detained him
for 5 days, contrary to the law.  A forensic report and MINUGUA confirm
that Paau's body displayed cigarette burns attributed to torture by his
captors during his time in army detention.  In a letter to government
authorities, MINUGUA called their attention to the army's illegal
detention of Paau and the conduct of the judge and prosecutor, who never
investigated the date Paau was handed over to the judicial authorities
or the army's treatment of him.

The URNG claims it holds no prisoners, and there were no reports of any
captives in their custody at year's end.

American lawyer Jennifer Harbury continued to search for the remains of
her husband, guerrilla leader Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, who disappeared
following a March 1992 clash between army and URNG forces.  The military
contends that Bamaca died in the battle, but reliable information
indicates that the army captured Bamaca and held him for some
indeterminate period, interrogating and ultimately killing him.  Several
legal developments in ongoing court cases related to Bamaca's
disappearance failed to shed aditional light on his fate.

The judge conducting proceedings in the slander charges brought by the
Solicitor General against Harbury, in response to her public statements
that she would file suit against the military if Bamaca did not reapear,
held a final hearing on January 12 and dismissed the case on January 27.
In March there were new public allegations linking Colonel Julio Alpirez
to Bamaca's death.  Alpirez' involvement had previously been alleged in
Santiago Cabrera's testimony in February 1992.  On May 6, the Prosecutor
General removed special prosecutor Leonel Machuca from the Bamaca case
and replaced him with a new special prosecutor, Dr. Julio Arango.
Arango tolerated death threats but resigned from the case on August 4,
more from frustration at the Public Ministry's lack of political will to
pursue the case than from fear.  The Bamaca case was subsequently
assigned to Retalhuleu District Prosecutor Silvia Jerez de Herrera.

On May 22, a former army intelligence member Nery Angel Urizar stated
that he had seen Bamaca alive after his capture and that another former
URNG member and army collaborator had been killed and placed in Bamaca's
grave.  This was the first time that a former member of the military had
publicly stated that the army had captured Bamaca alive.  Also in May,
the Public Ministry, acting on a rumor that Bamaca's remains were buried
at the Cabanas military detachment in the Department of San Marcos,
requested a judicial order to carry out an exhumation of that site.
Although the order was legitimate, lawyers for the military obtained
countermanding court orders to block two separate attempts to initiate
the exhumation.  MINUGUA is assisting the Public Ministry in its
investigation as part of its support for due process.  The case remained
under investigation at year's end.

On March 27, a guerrilla unit fired shots at a MINUGUA military officer
in the Ixcan region as he descended from his vehicle to observe a banner
posted by the guerrillas.  The officer, wearing his blue U.N. beret,
attempted to establish voice contact after the first round of fire.
However, he was met by a second hail of bullets which hit his clearly
marked MINUGUA vehicle and forced him to retreat.

Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression.  In addition to
regular and open criticism of government policies, the media publicizes
communiques from the URNG, leftist groups, and others opposed to the
Government or its policies.  Journalists admit, however, that in some
particularly sensitive cases pressure and fears of reprisal result in
self-censorship and limits on investigative reporting.  For example,
they rarely criticize the military or military officers, or discuss
topics which could be perceived to affect the interests of powerful
economic groups and individuals.  There are credible reports that hard-
line elements of the military and their civilian supporters sponsored
negative media campaigns directed at human rights activists and
diplomatic officials for their support for human rights.  Reports on
human rights and narcotics 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
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.  ODHAG recorded 12 separate political acts against the media:
one extrajudicial killing, one attempted killing, nine acts of
intimidation, and one case of torture.  On July 20, shots were fired at
the home of journalist Melida Rubio, who had previously commented on
aspects of the peace process.  On July 24, four armed individuals
attacked the Radio Solar station in Jutiapa, destroying some of the
equipment and stealing the rest.  On September 3, unknown intruders
broke into the office of the CERIGUA press agency and stole a computer
containing the agency's data base and list of subscribers but did not
take other valuable equipment and cash.  MINUGUA denounced this incident
as an attempt at intimidation and a violation of freedom of expression.
Police investigated but made no arrests.

   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly and
association, and the Government respects this right in practice.
Peaceful demonstrations were common and demonstrators sometimes occupied
government institutions, including the presidential palace, a public
bank, government ministries, and the supreme court building.  In most of
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 requires
organizations to obtain legal status, a cumbersome and expensive

   c.   Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the authorities
respect it in practice.  However, religious personnel are sometimes
threatened and killed by personal and political enemies for their
activism in human rights, indigenous rights, land reform, and related
fields.  On April 27, ODHAG denounced intimidation and harassment
directed at Guatemala City parish priest Father Luis Perez Bamaca,
including repeated firing at his residence.

   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 in some areas of conflict, where the
army and PAC's limited travel.

PAC leader and land speculator Raul Martinez of Kaibil Balam, Quiche,
led efforts to oppose a scheduled return of several hundred former
refugees to nearby San Antonio Tzeja.  In late June, Martinez and his
followers held hostage two MINUGUA officials, an official from the
office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a volunteer
nurse, and a minister for 1 day in an attempt to have an arrest warrant
against him withdrawn.  Despite the earlier arrest warrant (based on a
complaint by UNHCR concerning threats by Martinez) and the hostage-
taking, Martinez continued to live and work openly in his village with
no interference from the authorities.

Guerrillas continued to establish roadblocks to rob private citizens,
extort protection payments from businessmen, attack and drain petroleum
trucks, and hinder travel in certain rural areas.

Voluntary repatriation of refugees from Mexico continued.  According to
the UNHCR, 9,500 refugees returned to Guatemala in 1995, bringing the
total to over 16,000 since initiation of the program in 1993.

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 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
the general elections for President, Vice President, Congress, and
municipal offices, held on November 12, were free and fair.  Since none
of the candidates for President received an absolute majority, a runoff
election was held January 7, 1996, between Alvaro Arzu of the National
Advancement Party (PAN) and Alfonso Portillo of the Guatemala Republican
Front (FRG).  Arzu won a close election, gaining 51.2 percent of the
vote to Portillo's 48.8 percent, and took office January 14, 1996.

Reflecting a greater opening for political activity, 24 parties
campaigned, including a broad-front coalition composed of civil sector,
human rights, and labor leaders.  The parties put forward 19
presidential candidates and thousands of candidates for congressional
deputy and mayor.  The election also was characterized by a greater
participation by grassroots organizations and the left, incorporated
into a newly formed coalition party called the New Guatemalan Democratic
Front (FDNG).  Although the URNG did not participate directly, in a
radical departure from previous policy, it did call for voter
participation in the election and agreed to a unilateral cease-fire for
the last 2 weeks of the first election period in return for political
parties' commitment to abide by those peace accords previously agreed to
by the Government and the URNG.  Other organizations including the
Mutual Support Group, the Confederation of Guatemalan Widows
(CONAVIGUA), the Rigoberta Menchu Foundation, and various unions also
dropped their longstanding call for abstention.  Representatives of the
Assembly of Civil Sectors joined the leftist FDNG, which named several
prominent community leaders as candidates for national deputy.  In the
end, the coalition picked up almost 8 percent of the vote and elected
six deputies.

Since the return to democratic government in 1985, Guatemala has had
generally free and fair elections, according to international observers.
There is, nevertheless, a tradition of political violence which
accompanies elections, and voter turnout has been weak, reaching a low
point of 15 percent in the 1994 referendum and 18 percent later the same
year in the congressional election.  Despite a widely publicized
"gentlemen's agreement" in July signed by the Government and the leaders
of the political parties, there were several acts of violence, including
assaults and murders believed related to the campaign.  Following the
nationwide campaign by various groups to increase voter registration,
more than 100,000 new voters registered, an increase of 5 percent over
the nearly 3.5 million registered in 1994.  Despite this increase,
participation in the 1995 general elections was modest at 46 percent.
Lack of transportation to polling places and voter apathy caused by lack
of faith in the political party system both contributed to the poor

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in politics, but
women are underrepresented in the political arena.  Nevertheless, women
do hold some prominent political positions, including two cabinet posts.
In the November elections, 11 women were elected to the 80-member
Congress.  Two women also serve as Supreme Court justices and one as a
Constitutional Court justice.

Indigenous people enjoy equal rights under the Constitution.  Some have
attained high positions as army officers (including one general),
judges, and government officials, including a cabinet member and eight
members of Congress.  In the November elections, 40 indigenous
candidates won mayoral positions (out of 300 municipalities), including
the mayor of Quezaltenango, the second largest city.  Nonetheless, they
are still underrepresented in politics due to limited educational
opportunity and pervasive discrimination (see Section 5).

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.
However, as noted by MINUGUA, a pervasive attitude continued among
rightwing elements of the army, military commissioners, and civil
defense patrol members that human rights activists were really
subversives tied to the URNG.  The De Leon administration, through its
presidential human rights commission director, repeatedly threatened to
expel foreign human rights activists, who the administration believes
have violated the law through alleged participation in the takeover of
public and private property.  Although the directorate has never carried
out this threat, this atmosphere has caused some human rights activists
and institutions to be targeted for unwarranted criticism, surveillance,
and physical abuse.

A Government-URNG accord led to the November 1994 introduction of
MINUGUA into Guatemala.  The U.N. Human Rights Verification Mission
(MINUGUA) became fully staffed in 1995 and now numbers 305 personnel,
with 8 regional and 5 subregional offices.  MINUGUA's extensive
international presence, its verification of alleged abuses, its detailed
periodic reporting, and its programs to strengthen civilian institutions
serve as a deterrent to human rights abuses.  MINUGUA's three
comprehensive reports during 1995 documented both the

Government's and the URNG's successes and failures in implementing the
terms of the human rights agreement.

In May CONAVIGUA director Rosalina Tuyuc denounced to Public Ministry
officials continued acts of intimidation by soldiers, military
commissioners, and PAC members against CONAVIGUA members and reiterated
a call for an end to the impunity enjoyed by security forces for human
rights related crimes.  On April 9, a PAC member disabled CONAVIGUA
member Maria de Leon Santiago by hitting her in the head with a stone
and then proceeded to beat her as she lay on the ground bleeding.  The
PAC member in question had previously threatened Santiago, accusing her
of being a guerrilla.  MINUGUA reported that the Public Ministry has not
carried out an investigation nor has the justice of the peace ordered
the assailant's arrest.

On July 3, soldiers clubbed U.S. citizen Daniel Robert "Sky" Callahan on
the knee with a rifle butt while he was filming a protest by peasants in
a main Guatemala City plaza.  Four days later, on July 7, unidentified
assailants abducted and severely beat Callahan and berated him for his
film-making.  Authorities promised a full investigation, and the
Ministry of Defense paid for Callahan's return trip to facilitate an
investigation into the attack.  At year's end, the investigation
remained open but no suspects had been identified.

Relations between the PDH's office and the executive branch were
strained.  MINUGUA reported that some security force agents intimidated
and refused to cooperate with Ombudsman officials.  High-ranking
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.  On November 11, unidentified
gunmen fired an automatic weapon at MINUGUA's Guatemala City regional
office.  Although identity of those responsible and the nature of the
motive remain unknown, there is widespread belief that the shooting was
intended as an act of political intimidation.  Ombudsman Jorge Mario
Garcia Laguardia also complained in August that the executive was
neither funding his office adequately nor implementing his
recommendations on human rights.

Both the PDH's office and ODHAG continued to enjoy widespread public
support and respect.  Senior government officials also met numerous
foreign officials and human rights monitors.  After a persistent 14-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, obtained government recognition.
The absence of legal status did not prevent 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.  As the
violations described throughout this report reveal, the Government is
frequently unable or unwilling to enforce these provisions.


CONAVIGUA and the PDH reported that violence against women, including
domestic violence, remains common among all social classes.  There is no
specific law against domestic violence, although it is considered to
fall under other statutes.  Victims rarely report criminal sexual
violence, and relatively few rape cases go to court.  The PDH reported
complaints of spousal abuse committed by husbands have risen from 30 to
120 complaints per month due to increased nationwide educational
programs, which have encouraged women to seek assistance.  There are
family courts, and judges may issue an injunction against an abusive
spouse or companion, which police are charged with enforcing.  There is
also a Women's Rights Department of the PDH, and various nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's) provide medical and legal assistance and
information on family planning.

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 businesses, 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.  Women may own, manage, and inherit property on an
equal basis with men.  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, difficult to prove, and
carries a lesser penalty.


The Constitution charges the Government with protecting the physical and
mental health, as well as the moral well-being, of minors.  These
provisions notwithstanding, the Government consistently fails to devote
sufficient resources to ensure adequate educational and health services
for children.  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.  Corrupt police and military personnel
or other criminal elements often recruit these children into thievery or
prostitution rings.  The Government and a number of NGO's operate youth
centers, but the funds devoted to them are not sufficient to adequately
address the problem.

In May the Presidential Human Rights Commission resumed weekly meetings
of the Permanent Commission for Children, composed of representatives
from Casa Alianza and from the judicial and executive branches, with the
aim of addressing the problems of street children.  Relations between
Casa Alianza and the National Police have often been strained.

   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.

   Indigenous People

The Constitution states that Guatemala is composed of diverse ethnic
groups and obliges the Government to recognize, respect, and promote the
lifestyles, customs, traditions, forms of social organization, and
manner of dress of indigenous people.  Indigenous people comprise about
one-half the population but remain largely outside of the country's
political, economic, social, and cultural mainstream.  Indigenous people
suffered most of the serious human rights abuses described throughout
this report.  Conscription, suspended by President De Leon, primarily
targeted indigenous men in rural areas.  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 fewer 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, since few officials speak any of the 21
indigenous languages.  Indigenous persons arrested for crimes are often
at a disadvantage due to their limited comprehension of Spanish.  The
new Criminal Procedures Code, which took effect in July 1994, states
that, beginning in July 1996, the courts must provide interpretation to
anyone requiring such services during criminal proceedings.

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.  The Government
does not control 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 formed two ad hoc associations to discuss working conditions with
the chief of police, and are in the process of forming a union.

Approximately 8 percent of the work force, or 240,000 out of 3 million
workers, are members of labor organizations.  The 993 registered unions
in the country are independent of the Government and political party
domination.  Labor Code amendments simplified the process for unions to
obtain legal status.  The Minister of Labor further revised the
administrative process, reducing the number of steps within the Ministry
for consideration of union applications and establishing strict
timetables.  The Minister warned 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 largely eliminated.  The Labor
Ministry granted legal status to 95 unions in 1995.  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

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 considers seriously harmful to
the national economy.  A strike by employees of La Aurora Zoo in April
was the first legally authorized strike in 25 years.  Those strikes that
do occur, frequently in the public sector, are almost always called
without legal authorization, and in practice the Government makes no
effort to intervene on the basis of a strike's illegality.  Nonetheless,
the lack of legal approval for a strike can be used as a threat against
strikers.  Workers can be suspended or fired for failing to show up for
work if a strike has not been legally approved.

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 have hindered enforcement of the right to form
unions 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 continued to suffer instances of
violence and abuse, including threats, assassination attempts,
kidnapings, and physical harm.  ODHAG reported that unknown assailants
killed 2 unionists, injured 5, and threatened 19, although it was not
always clear whether such violence was 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.  Felix Hernandez, Secretary General of FENASEP, a
confederation of public employees unions, went into hiding for several
weeks after threats were made on his life.  He had exposed alleged
corruption by the Ministry of Government in the purchase of police
patrol cars.  Flor de Maria Salguera, a maquila union organizer, was
abducted from a bus and assaulted on May 17, and Olimpia Lara, the
daughter of Health Workers' Union officer Luis Lara, was severely beaten
on September 7.  During a strike by his union, Ivo Garcia, secretary of
the electrical workers' union, was kidnaped from his house on September
12 and held for 18 hours.  The authorities began investigations of these
cases, but none had been resolved at year's end.

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

An active "solidarity" movement claims approximately 250,000 members in
over 475 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 management promotes solidarity associations 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

Similar credible charges are made against some trade union
organizations.  At the request of trade union leaders, the independent
PDH, through its Office for Economic and Social Issues, receives
complaints related to trade union activities.  Union leaders and workers
filed a number of complaints with the PDH during the year, and the
Ombudsman has spoken out in public statements about labor conditions in
varying sectors of the economy.  The PDH can investigate their
complaints and issue a statement.  The office has no enforcement powers
but can attempt to ameliorate the situation through publicity and moral

   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 requirement that 25 percent of the workers in
a factory or business must be union members in order for collective
bargaining to take place, 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.  A heavy backlog of labor cases continues to clog the courts
due to corruption, inefficiency, 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 conducted a series of inspections at farms and plantations
in rural areas, especially in Alta and Baja Verapaz, and cited those
employers who were not paying the minimum wage.  The number of ranches
in these regions paying below minimum wage dropped from 42.6 percent of
the total number inspected to 13.9 percent after the completion of the
program.  The Ministry of Labor also reorganized the Labor Inspector
Corps to permit some complaints to be heard at the Ministry of Labor
rather than requiring that inspectors travel to each work site.  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 (especially the rights of minors and women workers),
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, and that this
coercion violates prohibitions against forced labor.

   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution bars employment of minors under the age of 14 without
written permission from the Ministry of Labor.  However, children below
this age are regularly employed.  The laws prohibits minors from night
work, extra hours (the legal workday for minors under age 14 is 6 hours;
for minors age 14 to 17, it is 7 hours), and from working in
establishments where alcoholic beverages are served or in unhealthy or
dangerous conditions.  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.  While 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, no severance pay, and below minimum salaries.

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.  Child
labor is largely confined to small or family enterprises, to
agricultural work, and to the informal sectors of the economy.

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.  Children in rural and
indigenous areas are less likely to complete primary school.

   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work

Although the law sets minimum wages, the legally mandated minimum wage
for most unskilled and semiskilled workers is not always paid.  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.  The minimum wage
was raised by 10 percent in December, effective January 2, 1996.  The
new rate is $2.93 (17.60 quetzales) for industrial workers for an 8-hour
workday, including a required hourly bonus and $2.66 (15.95 quetzales)
per day plus mandatory productivity bonuses for agricultural workers.
The minimum wage is not sufficient to provide even a minimum standard of
living for a worker and family.  An estimated 80 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, 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 most large employers do provide such facilities.


[end of document]


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