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).





1. Guatemalan law

Article 5 of the Guatemalan Constitution states that no one "may be persecuted or molested for his opinions..." and that the right to freedom of expression may not be subject to censorship and no form of prior permission may be required (Article 35).

By giving human rights treaties preeminence over domestic law, the Constitution gives the freedom of thought and expression upheld in Article 13 of the American Convention the force of constitutional law.

The Guatemalan legal system contains specific guarantees against restricting freedom of expression by such indirect means as state or private control of mechanisms to prevent opinions from being circulated openly;[83] the mass communication media are regarded as being in the public interest and their expropriation is prohibited,[84] just as it is prohibited to shut them down or suspend them for crimes relating to freedom of expression.[85]

In this sense, the Guatemalan Constitution is more progressive than the American Convention, since the only grounds for restricting these rights that the Constitution allows are issues of privacy and morals.[86]

The Constitution itself also stipulates that a constitutional law shall govern all matters related to the free expression of thought, and states that one of the principles of that law shall be that publications containing criticisms or charges against public officials for deeds done in the performance of their office shall not be a crime or a misdemeanor. For their part, public officials shall have a right to have a tribunal determine whether a publication is reporting the truth; abuses of the right to freedom of expression shall be judged exclusively by trial by jury.

The present administration in its first two years has authorized more union organizations than in the previous 16 years; 65 organizations and 3 federations were authorized in 1992. The Commission is pleased with this development.

Free access to sources of information, which no authority can restrict, is guaranteed in general by the Constitution; in the particular case of journalists, it is guaranteed by the law on Freedom of Expression of Thought.[87] The grounds that can be lawfully invoked to restrict this right are privacy, national security in regard to military or diplomatic matters, the confidentiality of data supplied by private parties when that confidentiality is guaranteed, or the secrecy of legal proceedings.

In the event of a state of emergency instituted in accordance with the law, the Constitution authorizes suspension of certain guarantees of this right according to the degree of the state of emergency declared. In a state of prevention, the chief executive may "require of the media that they avoid any publication that, in the opinion of the authorities, would contribute to or incite public disorder" and that disobedience or disregard shall result in legal proceedings. In a state of alarm[88] free access to sources is restricted, as "all information relative to the emergency will be centralized with some public official, branch of government or government office."

In a state of public calamity[89] access to information can be restricted by the President, who is authorized to "limit the movement of vehicles and/or prevent individuals from entering or leaving the affected area," thereby controlling direct access to information. In the case of a state of siege, there is a broad transfer of formal social control to the Army, which can censor or centralize public information with presidential authorization.

It is the understanding of the Commission that all restrictions that must be imposed have to be interpreted narrowly and applied only insofar as they are justified by the objective emergency situation created.

2. Freedom of the press

During its visit to the country and from a variety of other sources, the Commission was able to establish that some restrictions on the mass media have resurfaced of late, though the general situation is one wherein they are free to seek out, receive and circulate information and ideas. It has also learned that attempts have been made against the media and against journalists. It also found that these laws and the judiciary have protected these freedoms in many different respects.

In Guatemala there are 155 radio stations, 8 television channels, 5 daily newspapers and 7 magazines, and other sporadic publications. Some 65% of the population listens to the radio with some frequency, and radio and television newscasts are nationwide. While at least 50% of the population speak indigenous languages, only 5 of the 155 radio stations broadcast in an indigenous language.[90]

The courts have established the principle of respect for the press' right to freedom of expression. In the Carrera-Arce case (Court of Appeals, 1988) a private suit was dismissed; the Attorney for Human Rights reaffirmed this principle in the Cerda-Bendaña case, stating that the order for the arrest of a journalist and the journalist's temporary imprisonment "violated the human right to freedom of expression of thought."[91] Since the Law on free expression of thought took effect, there have been only two cases in which court rulings have been handed down against journalists.

There has also been notable progress in Guatemalan jurisprudence on the journalist's professional right to keep his/her sources of information confidential, a right upheld by the Guatemalan courts on many occasions. There was the "Manila Plan" case, e.g. where the journalist Hugo Arce refused to reveal his sources, which the Public Prosecutor's Office was demanding. The judge overruled the Public Prosecutor on grounds that the journalist was protected by his guarantee of professional confidentiality. In the case of Luis Hurtado Aguilar (1985), tried for publishing a report on alleged corruption in the Supreme Court, the case was dismissed on the grounds that he was guaranteed his right to professional confidentiality. There has been not one case since 1985 in which a journalist has been convicted on those grounds.[92] The Law on freedom of expression of thought, which has constitutional status, provides the mass media with special guarantees, setting minor penalties for crimes against honor (slander, calumny or defamation of character) or public security when those crimes are committed through messages circulated by the media. A special procedure by jury is established.

The situation during this period

As the Guatemalan researchers have pointed out,[93] Guatemala's criminal justice system has been ineffective in establishing the constraints that the right to honor places on the right to freedom of expression of thought, since in seven years not a single judgment has been handed down that settled the disputes that have arisen in this regard.

The Commission[94] during this period continued to receive information about incidents that either curb or threaten freedom of the press, creating the kind of fear that leads to self-censorship. Such incidents have been on the rise since August 1992.

In some of the incidents of which the Commission has been informed, although the authorship is not clear, the victims are consistently journalists or independent media more given to investigating and criticizing abuses by State agents. For example, force was used in a search conducted of the offices of the Mexican News Agency (Notimex) and its correspondents were forced to leave Guatemala. There were also threats against the Italian News Agency and one British correspondent. Anonymous threats have been made against reporters covering the metropolitan courts, threats that coincided with coverage of the trial against members of the security forces charged with the death of anthropologist Myrna Mack. All these events occurred under the present administration.

Early in 1992, according to reports received by the Commission and published by the Guatemalan press, reporters from the newspaper Siglo XXI were threatened; on two different occasions, one reporter's home was searched. The Commission was also informed that the anchorman of a television news program known for his televised criticisms of the Government, was dismissed, without explanation, by the owners of the television station where he worked, whose frequency license was up for renewal by the authorities.

The Commission has also received information on the following:

- in December 1991, Omar Cano and Nestor Hernández, reporters with Prensa Libre and Siglo XXI, were temporarily detained by an Army officer who appropriated their photographic material. They were quickly released but the threat and harassment they experienced caused one of them to leave the country, along with his family, for six months.[95]

- Radio Progreso and Radio Centroamericana, radio stations with phone-in programs, have received veiled threats from officials that their programs would be suspended; their broadcasts frequently experience electronic interference.

- In February 1992, Mexican citizen Ramón de la Mora Bueno, in charge of the radio program from the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, went to Quetzaltenango to participate in a seminar on radio broadcasting given by CIESPAL (Inter-American Center for Advanced Studies in Journalism). He was murdered in the municipality of Colomba, Costa Cuca. The Army reported that he was a guerrilla. When the body was exhumed, the forensic physician confirmed that he had been tortured and his face disfigured. The Mexican Foreign Ministry stepped in to request a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death.[96]

- Around March 1992, authorities had not given 32 radio stations and at least 1 television station the statutory extensions of their frequency contracts. By giving them temporary extensions, the authorities managed to curb any open criticism. The American Convention specifically prohibits any restriction on the right to freedom of expression through such indirect means as abusing one's control of radio frequencies (Article 13.3).

Recent events

The Commission is disturbed by the fact that in the last weeks of 1992, a series of events occurred that, objectively speaking, appeared to be systematic and heightened aggression against freedom of the press:

- On September 9, 1992, Luis Tax, a correspondent with the newspaper Prensa Libre, received a death threat from four unidentified persons who came to his home but did not find him there.

- On October 5, 1992, a bomb exploded in the offices of the magazine "Tinamit" in Guatemala City, and a journalist on the staff, Hugo Arce, reported that he had received telephone death threats.

- On December 4, 1992, Omar Cano Herrera, with the newspaper Siglo XXI, was conducting a journalistic investigation in the company of agents from the Treasury Guard and technical staff of the Government on the reckless felling of trees in the Maya biosphere ecological reserve, when they were attacked by wood poachers, who were assisted by military agents. They were seized, beaten and taken into custody to the Santa Elena military garrison. The Attorney for Human Rights identified the responsible military personnel and the courts ordered the Minister of Defense to hand them over to court authorities before January 22, 1993.

The very day the Attorney for Human Rights published his report on the Cano case, unknown persons publicly robbed newspaper vendors of 6,000 copies of "Siglo XXI" and burned them in a public bonfire.

- Also in December, journalist Alfredo Torres Coyoy was shot by three soldiers in an incident that has not yet been clarified; a bomb exploded at the offices of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists, and unidentified persons broke into and searched the home of journalist Hugo Gordillo.

- On December 10, in a press interview in Panama and again on December 13, 1992, Armed Forces Day in Guatemala, the President made statements on a nationwide radio and television chain to the effect that certain human rights organizations, working in conjunction with the media, had made an "industry" out of complaints of human rights violations and were filling the pages of the media with them. These statements drew an energetic response from the National Council for the Defense of the Rights of Journalists, composed of six journalistic professional organizations and correspondents with the major international agencies, which also called for an examination of the President's remarks.

- On December 15, anonymous flyers appeared announcing a counter-insurgent campaign and the forthcoming elimination of a number of journalists.

- On December 22, 1992, bombs exploded in front of Television Channel 7, Independent Radio Sonora and the National Association of Journalists. Some days earlier, journalist Axel Jocon, director of the Guatemalan News Agency, had to leave the country because of death threats.

- On December 30, the Attorney for Human Rights published an "open letter" to President Serrano, inviting him to participate in a genuine dialogue with the media and drawing attention to the fact that the abuses committed against the press were one of "a number of factors serving to sabotage the fragile democratic process."

In his report of August 1992, the Attorney for Human Rights made reference to these rights and said the following:

Unlike the positive developments where the observance of other human rights is concerned, the right to freedom of expression of thought has been restricted in recent years. Proof of this are the constant threats against journalists, the explosive devices placed in press offices, attacks upon the life, safety and integrity of these professionals, forcing some of them to leave the country. Then there is also the negative attitude on the part of Government officials who do not cooperate in guaranteeing the full observance of this right.[97]

Those statements are accompanied by a graph that illustrates the evolution of cases involving freedom of action, association, assembly and thought processed by his office between August '87 and August '92. It shows that in 1988 and 1989 there was a marked increase in the number of complaints processed (21 and 20, respectively), but then the number of complaints in this area dropped to just two in the first eight months of 1992.

3. Conclusions

However, as is apparent from the above information, it would seem that since then (August 1992) an intimidation campaign has been unleashed against the press. While it is difficult to single out who is directly responsible in the campaign, the Commission understands that the State authorities must not only provide proper protection, but must explicitly denounce and repudiate that campaign and investigate and bring to trial or administratively censure those responsible.

The Commission concludes that even though Guatemala has laws that guarantee freedom of the press and many State bodies fight to defend it, there is also a climate of intimidation and attack against the press in which agents of the State are involved. This is only made worse by the tragic experience and memory of times past. The Commission appreciates the courage that professional journalists must have, as evidenced by the wide range of independent positions it represents. It also understands the criticisms that the press makes and appreciates the efforts of many authorities to preserve the press.

It also believes that in this difficult time of democratic recovery in Guatemala, the presence of an independent, responsible and professional press is vital. It is equally essential that all agents of the State fulfill their obligation to respect the press, ensure that it is respected and give free access to sources of information; when freedom of the press is abused, State authorities are to see to it that the legal procedures available under Guatemalan law are exercised to cut short those abuses.

The Commission also believes that the law on freedom of expression of thought must be brought in line with the principles enunciated in Guatemala's Constitution, which states that privacy and morals are the only limits on freedom of expression, a very progressive constitutional norm that is an example for the region as a whole.


With regard to this right, the Attorney General indicates that the situation since 1986 is drastically different from what it was in the period from 1954 to 1985. Then, meetings and demonstrations were violently suppressed by paramilitary groups or security forces that never understood that peaceful meetings or demonstrations were a right and that their sole purpose was to make the Government aware of the violations of rights of which they were victims.

Since 1986... it is permissible and has become common to exercise these rights; in very few cases is force used against demonstrators,... the justification for the repression was that groups of individuals infiltrated the various demonstrations and caused property damage.[98]

One of many examples in which the right of assembly was exercised was the demonstration that 2,000 indigenous children staged in front of the National Palace on June 17, 1992, demanding that the authorities return their disappeared parents alive. This public demonstration was coordinated by the Mutual Support Group (GAM) and the Guatemalan Widows Committee (CONAVIGUA).

Meetings of union organizations or Maya-Quiché associations are also frequently held without State interference, such as the Second Meeting of Maya Priests organized by the Maya Coordinator "Majawil Q'ij" in June 1992. In October 1991, Guatemala was the site of an international meeting of indigenous peoples, "Five Hundred Years of Resistance", and there were no problems.[99]

On the other hand, one case that drew the Commission's attention was the attack on July 21, 1992, by the Anti-riot Squad of the National Police, against 500 families from the Pampas del Horizonte Farm in Cajolá, Quetzaltenango, who were marching in front of the Government Palace in Guatemala City, a march duly authorized by the authorities. The Office of the Attorney Delegate for Human Rights intervened and confirmed that the marchers had a valid permit, whereupon they were able to continue their march. However, when they reached the Parque Central at around 5:00 p.m., they were attacked by anti-riot police, who beat the demonstrators, even elderly people and children, with police sticks, throwing teargas bombs and arresting many of them. Following the widespread condemnation of this incident, the Minister of the Interior, who in Guatemala is in charge of the police, Fernando Hurtado Prem, resigned his post on July 23.

In a display of the independence of the Judiciary, in August the Third Examining Court of First Instance summoned the Director of the National Police to make a sworn statement, after demonstrators accused him and other police collaborators of excessive use of force and unlawful attack.

In the chapter on Communities of Peoples in Resistance and in the chapter on Children's Rights, the Commission describes situations where the right of assembly has been restricted.

While on the whole these rights are respected, in some cases the right of assembly is restricted and even systematically attacked, sometimes with great violence. This contradiction points up the need for the State and its agents to understand how important it is that this right be exercised to the fullest. While it is an essential human right, it is equally essential to enabling a society to function viably and peacefully.


This right is guaranteed under Guatemalan law and in practice is exercised by Guatemalans in respect of their professional, political and ethnic interests or affinities. There are, however, regular incidents, and while they do not completely nullify the exercise of this right, they restrict it and create, by means of selective violations, the same climate of terror that exists in other social spheres, such as journalism, university student associations, defense of the human rights of certain sectors.

While this chapter reports on situations involving Maya-Quiché workers, especially peasant farmers, the chapter on the rights of the Guatemalan Maya-Quiché examines the effectiveness of the exercise of the right of association in their case, as a community apart, with its own unique interests and circumstances within the national scenario.

1. Union freedom

The right of workers to associate for the legal defense of their rights is expressly guaranteed in Guatemala's Constitution, in the American Convention, and in several other international instruments which the Guatemalan State has pledged to respect. Legal exercise of that right by workers, and its preservation by State agencies and employers' associations are essential if the grievances and disputes among various economic protagonists are to find an outlet and peaceful means of settlement.

The economic adjustment produced by the administration of President Serrano has had positive macroeconomic effects in 1991 and 1992, as it managed to slow inflation, considerably increase economic growth, increase exports and improve the public debt. Though these trends are positive, poverty is still widespread and income poorly distributed. In 1989, Government statistics showed that 75% of Guatemala's families lived in poverty; the figure increased to 90% among indigenous families.

In such circumstances, exercise of freedom of association for economic and labor purposes is crucial. Obstacles to the exercise of that right are not only a violation of it, but also invariably lead to violent social friction and violations of the rights to life and to humane treatment.

The active union movement that is developing in Guatemala shows that there are public liberties that permit union activities and exercise of their right to freedom of expression; at the same time, in an attempt to curb it, union activity is the target of constant harassment in the form of arbitrary arrests, death threats, attempts against the lives of union leaders and their arbitrary dismissal. As in other areas of human rights in Guatemala, the accomplishments and efforts of civilian society and the Government are continually challenged and threatened by sectors incapable of leaving behind old conflicts and of living democratically under the rule of law.

The present administration in its first two years has authorized more union organizations than in the previous 16 years; 65 organizations and 3 federations were authorized in 1992. The Commission expresses its satisfaction with this development.

Evidence of the existence of those public liberties are the more than 100 labor associations, which speak out in the press, in demonstrations or by their own means. This also happens in rural areas, although on a somewhat narrower scale: for example, the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) announces a work stoppage to demand better wages, involving 500,000 cotton and sugar agricultural workers in the southern zone; 20,000 people from the southern coastline demonstrate, without incident, in March 1992, organized by the Quezaltenango Workers Union.

The Commission, however, is disturbed by the infringements of this right. The information received on threats made in the first three months of 1992 against workers in the Education Administrative and Services Workers Union (STAYSEC), against members of the Banking and Insurance Employees Federation (FESEBS), against Professor Us Soc of the Guatemalan Teachers Association (in El Petén), against activists in the Unidad de Acción Sindical y Popular (UASP), Carlos Enrique Alvarez, leader of the National Federation of Workers (CNT), etc. Particularly troublesome are the alleged death threats against Hermenegildo Blanco, labor adviser to the Southern Coastal Workers. According to a public complaint by the General Confederation of Labor (CGTG) the threats are the work of Col. Angel Sánchez Gudiel, who is the leader of a paramilitary group on the southern coast, and are intended to prevent workers from organizing.

The Commission has also received petitions and information on cases of harassment of union organizations or their leaders and sympathizers. These include:

- the constant persecution of directors and members of the General Workers Union of the Guatemalan Telecommunications Company "22 de febrero" for their union-related activities. Allegedly, union leaders are watched, dismissed and even arrested for no apparent reason. Those who participate in the union assemblies have their wages docked; there is job discrimination against the members of the union, etc. At the same time, on June 12, June 26 and October 2, 1992, unknown persons attempted to kill leaders of this and other unions: Jesús Antonio Miranda Mendoza ("22 de febrero"), Cesario Chanchavac (Urban Transportation and Related Workers) and Jacinto Sánchez del Cid (Palin Municipal Workers, Department of Escuintla) when the vehicles in which they were driving were ambushed. The men were seriously wounded, after having been threatened for their union activities.

- Even though there is sufficient data to complete the criminal investigations into these assaults, those responsible have not been brought to trial, according to the information supplied to the Commission.

- On October 2, 1992, union leader Senón Sanchez López was abducted, tortured and hacked to death with machetes on the Carmen del Mirón farm, Costa Cuca, Quetzaltenango. His body was found on a nearby road. The Commission has received reports that on this farm and on some 41 others--most in the municipality of Colomba, Costa Cuca, the departments of Xela and Quetzaltenango and the departments of Chimaltenango and Suchitepequez--rural workers are not being paid minimum wage and other benefits.

2. The "maquiladora" Industry and Labour Rights.

These abuses also occur in one sector of Guatemalan industry that has experienced much growth in recent years: the "maquiladora" or assembly industry. In 1992 it employed 15% of Guatemala's manufacturing work force, and is expected to grow rapidly in the years ahead.

There are numerous abuses, such as a failure to provide decent and legal working conditions and the minimum wage, child labor, forced overtime, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, dismissals of labor leaders, etc. Reliable studies show that six out of every ten employers require extra hours of labor from their employees and that the average number of hours in a work week is between fifty-five and seventy. There are documented cases of workers who have been forced to remain in the factory from Monday to Saturday, without leaving, working more than eighty hours a week.

The Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, acknowledging that such abuses occur, has said that some progress has been made and Government intervention has succeeded in bringing management and labor leaders closer. The Commission would like to point out that under Article 6 of the Convention, "Freedom from Slavery", "no one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor."

As for the right of association of workers in the assembly industry, the Commission has received information to the effect that as of May 1992, 200 businesses had received export licenses as assembly industries, but only two unions had been approved, and one of them was not functioning because the factory had moved abroad. In the only functioning union, the leaders, after having been dismissed, were reinstated when the Ministry of Labor intervened.[100] In October 1992, the Secretary General of the Manufacturing Unit said that some progress had been made in the area of labor law, although violations continued.[101]

3. Labor Jurisdiction in Guatemala.

The Commission is also disturbed by the fact that Guatemala's labor courts are very weak, as a magistrate on the labor bench announced publicly; they are unable to require enforcement of the labor laws and even rulings, judgments and resolutions, which owners and businessmen ignore in flagrant disregard for the law. He maintains that "measures are urgently needed to bring a halt to the constant abuses that many employers inflict upon their workers."[102]


This report also shows genuine efforts of the authorities to bring about respect for these rights, but also that these efforts are sabotaged by those either inside or outside organisms of the State, that do not accept democratic discourse and negotiated solutions to normal social conflicts. In the present delicate socio-economic situation of Guatemala (see Chapter I ), respect for the rights of association and expression of workers is essential.

The necessity to reform and reinforce the action of the labor sector of the Judiciary is indispensable to avoid the possibility that labor tensions explode into conflicts beyond the judicial process. Neither peace, nor productive investment and growth, nor social development are possible without them.

V. The University Community

Given the frequency of attacks against members of the university community, the Commission has been particularly attentive to these matters. It is an established fact that the university tends to be a source of social criticism and analysis, a product of its very function and its capacity for more objective analysis of social phenomena. It has traditionally been one of the havens of political activity when such activity cannot be expressed freely and democratically in the rest of society.

According to information the Commission has received, during the period covered by this report there have been death threats leveled at university professors; bombs have exploded on university grounds; legal actions have been taken to harass student leaders, who have also been physically attacked by security forces. The reports make it obvious that there is a campaign of intimidation against university life in Guatemala, focused on the University of San Carlos and the human rights of its members.

The events chronicled in the following paragraph are the continuation of a pattern established well in the past. In the second half of 1989, there were 11 kidnappings of 11 students, 6 of whom were found murdered. In 1991, 7 students were murdered, and 3 were kidnapped. In not one of these cases have the courts been able to identify and punish the guilty parties, even though in many such cases there is clear evidence as to authorship.

From the information the Commission has received, the facts have been as follows during the first half of 1992:

- A bomb exploded at the headquarters of the University Students Association, on January 30, 1992.

- Lic. Manuel Estuardo Peña was murdered on February 10, 1992.

- A bomb was found and deactivated at the Dean's Office, February 24, 1992.

- An explosive device detonated in Building T-10, third level of the university campus.

- Military police fired several rounds of machine-gun fire at the start of an evening student theater performance in the "Miguel Angel Asturias" Open-air Center on April 8, 1992.

- Shortly after midnight on April 10, 1992, as some one hundred students from the University of San Carlos (USAC) were preparing for the traditional satirical review called "Huelga de Dolores" near the Paraninfo Universitario in Zone 1 of Guatemala City, a HUNAPU combined patrol of the National Police and Treasury Guard fired on them, killing student Julio Rigoberto Cuc Quim and gravely wounding Maria Isabel Cabeiro, Julio Felipe Sajche, Otoniel Estuardo Moran, Axel Oswaldo Moreles, Alfonso Aldana Perez, Otto Rene Perez Figueroa and Juan Armando Perez Lopez. The National Student Association filed complaints against 21 members of the National Police and Treasury Guard.

- Ten students received death threats on April 10, 1992, to get them to withdraw their charges against the HUNAPU group that allegedly attacked them at the intersection of Avenida Elena and 13 Calle on April 10, 1992.

- An attempt was made to burn down the building of the old Western Law School, resulting in damages estimated at Q. 1 million on April 22, 1992.

- Student Danilo Porras Colorado was stabbed to death on May 4, 1992.

- Lic. Andres Ramirez Lara, tenured professor at the School of Economics, was shot to death on May 14, 1992.

- A student from the School of Psychology, Juan Jose Aranda Paz, was murdered on May 15, 1992.

- Dr. Enrique Ponce, Secretary of the School of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Zootechnics, was murdered on May 31, 1992.

- Students Emilio Gonzalez Guerra and Luis Morales Zabala and Agronomical Engineer Infieri Norman Rodriguez Baldizon were murdered on July 5, 1992.

Midway through the year, when various sectors protested these events, the President ordered the disbanding of the HUNAPU combined mission group in July 1992. The system of having separate police forces collaborate had been accused of causing numerous human rights violations and was responsible for the attack on students that took place on April 10, during the traditional "Huelga de Dolores" parade. Twenty-one members of the patrol (eight agents from the Treasury Guard and thirteen from the National Police) are being tried in the murder and injury of those students.

On November 19 civil tribunals sentenced 6 members of the presently dissolved Force of Tareas Hunapu to non-commutable prison terms of 12 years and 8 months for its action. The same tribunals absolved the other fifteen police agents and left open the possibility of trying the Chief of the security forces, Colonel Otto Alfredo Aragón Menéndez, for perjury. These cases are presently on appeal.

The military penal proceedings against the eight members of the military that participated in this action have not commenced as of the end of 1992.

The Rector of the University of San Carlos, Alfonso Fuentes Soria, said the following in December 1991:

The history of Guatemala is one of force over reason. In 1962, in August 1989, and now too, prominent members of the university have had to forfeit their lives for the sake of Guatemala's freedom. Myrna Mack[103] is the most recent symbol of this brutal intolerance for ideas.


The Commission believes that the systematic campaign of attacking members of the university community is one of the most serious demonstrations of the Guatemalan State's inability to respect and guarantee the human rights of its people. The guilty parties are the armed agents who carry out or order the open attacks or ambushes, the members of the Judiciary who drag out trials and postpone investigative measures and decisions, or the authorities who fail to take the necessary measures to control their security forces. But the guilty also include those who refuse to accept that the university's role in society is to serve as a forum for scientific and humanistic deliberation and analysis of social events and society's problems, and those who, from their distant official positions, take advantage of the university rather than defend it.




[83] Law of Freedom of Expression of Thought, Art.13.

[84] Constitution, Art.37.

[85] Constitution, Art.37.

[86] The Convention, on the other hand, includes restrictions on the grounds of individual interest and on the grounds of social interest such as national security, public order, public health or morals, grounds not allowed under Guatemalan law.

[87] Constitution, articles 25, 26, 30 and 35; the law in question, Article 4.

[88] Public Order Law, Article 13.

[89] Public Order Law, Article 15.

[90] Asociación para el Desarrollo de las Comunicaciones Sociales (ADCS), cited in "Justicia Penal and Libertad de Prensa" op.cit. p.11.

[91] Font, Paz y Ramírez: "Justicia Penal y Libertad de Prensa en Guatemala 1980-1992." Instituto de Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Penales de Guatemala, 1992.

[92] Font, Paz y Ramirez, "Justicia Penal y Libertad de Prensa en Guatemala 1980-1992". op.cit.

[93] Font, Paz and Ramirez, op.cit. p.64.

[94] In the 1980-82 period, 23 journalists were killed by death squads and a number of others had to seek asylum after being followed by armed men. The Army announced that it would protect the Indian-language radio stations and six weeks later two broadcasters on the Quiché language station "La Voz de Utatlan" were killed. In the next period, from 1982-1986, the military presidents centralized access to information sources, telling the media what they could report regarding the conflict. Security forces attacked and terrorized two daily newspapers and one television station. There were no journalists killed or other violent attacks on the press reported. cf. IACHR reports on Guatemala and "Justicia Penal y Libertad de Prensa" op.cit.

[95] On February 10, 1993 facing threats against his life, journalist Omar Cano had to seek refuge in Canada.

[96] Its "Observations to the Preliminary Report" the government reports that the forensic investigation done in México indicates that Mr. Mora Bueno died as a consequence of armed confrontations as a guerrilla combatant.

[97] Report of the Attorney for Human Rights. 1987-1992. Guatemala, August 1992.

[98] Report of the Attorney, p.35.

[99] United States Department of State, Report on Human Rights 1991, January 1992.

[100] "La Hora", October 28, 1992.

[101] Petersen, K. "The Maquiladora Revolution in Guatemala.' Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, 1992; and statements by the Secretary General of the Labor Union of Inexport S.A., "La Hora", October 28, 1992.

[102] Statements by the Fourth Labor and Social Welfare Judge, the Honorable José Luis Méndez Estrada, in "La Hora", October 15, 1992.

[103] See the chapter on the Right to Life.


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