University of Minnesota

Fourth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.83, Doc. 16 rev. (1993).





Rarely during its history as a republic have so many individuals and sectors been so commited to the defense and promotion of human rights as they are today. At the same time the depth of its structural problems and the imbalance in the distribution of power and privilege make the struggle for these rights very difficult, even for a government that is committed to the restoration of full enjoyment of human rights for its population.

Enjoyment of socioeconomic and cultural rights is reserved to a small percentage of the population while the rest endure the worst social conditions in the Americas, with the exception of Haiti. Investment in social programs is minimal if one compares it to the seriousness of the problems faced.

Guatemala is a country of profound inequality in access to human rights. The majority of the population, and more specifically the Maya-Quiché Guatemalans, face discrimination whenever they try to exercise their rights. This is due to a series of mechanisms of an institutional official nature, as well as of a private one.

Notwithstanding constitutional precepts and some corregeous efforts by many of its authorities and government officials, the State seems to be the principal cause of said discrimination. Through the negligence of its agents and institutions and, in particular, by the security forces. The present Administration has passed several measures that, could be the beginning of a solution of the situation.

Violations of human rights are also directed against the press, union and university activities, as well as against Maya-Quiché organizations and those striving to defend human rights through legitimate means.

The efforts of the present Administration to reestablish full enjoyment of human rights has had some success. Some of its results are the prosecution of some low-ranking members of the military and of the police for violations of human rights; and these efforts have also brought about the relatively peaceful return of several thousand refugees from Mexico. The Executive has submitted several bills of law to Congress to reduce systematic violations such as those related to forced military service. The Government has also put in motion social and economic programs that while timid, could be the beginning of a more fundamental solution.

Nevertheless, the majority of these laws have been blocked through lack of legislative action, and in those cases where bills have become laws they are hindered through regulations and non- implementation. Socio-economic programs are so timid that they barely have an impact on the exploitation and abandonment of large sectors of the population.

Despite some exemplary decisions by judges that risk their position and even their lives, in spite of numerous obstacles, the Judiciary continues to be an inefficient institution in the defense of human rights.

The militarization of the country, which reaches not only the rural areas but also its political system, is a factor of fear for individuals as well as an obstacle for a democratic society.

The Commission comes to conclusions and offer recommendations in each one of the Chapters of this report.

The basis and the path towards social, economic and cultural recovery is the full enjoyment of human rights, freedoms and the guarantees thereof found in the O.A.S. Charter , in the American Convention on Human Rights and complementary instruments, to which Guatemala has committed itself with the Inter-American community. That recovery of human rights can only be based upon the dignity of life afforded to each and every Guatemalan, and upon the total dedication to obtain, respect and defend human rights by every State official.

May 22, 1993



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