From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Ad in Guatemalan Newspaper Demands the Arrest

Date 04 May 1996 16:06:08


96135     Ad in Guatemalan Newspaper Demands the Arrest  
     of Victor Roman, Profiles Threats Against Presbyterians 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A paid ad demanding the arrest and prosecution of a 
fugitive accused of killing two Presbyterians in Guatemala ran in one of 
that country's national newspapers last week, according to the ad's 
sponsor, the Campaign for Peace and Life in Guatemala (CPLG). 
     CPLG spokesperson David Bryden said the organization hopes to develop 
another newspaper ad and is currently raising money to buy radio spots in 
Guatemala to apply more public pressure on the government to arrest former 
military commissioner Victor Roman. 
     The radio and newspaper ads bear the names of those who endorse the 
statements, Bryden said. 
     Roman is accused of the 1994 murder of Pascual Serech and the 1995 
murder of pastor and human rights educator the Rev. Manuel Saquic Vasquez.  
     "We hope these announcements will send a powerful signal that people 
of faith in the U.S. will not permit our brothers and sisters in the 
Kaqchiquel Presbytery to continue to suffer such threats," says to material 
accompanying the first ad.  "The ad will also signal to the new Arzu 
administration that its response on this case will constitute a test of 
whether its commitment to respect for human rights is more than mere 
     CPLG's ad reads: 
     "After establishing a human rights committee in Chimaltenango to 
promote the Global Accord on Human Rights and to fulfill their evangelizing 
mission as members of the Presbyterian Church, two Kaqchiquel Presbyterians 
have been murdered and ten others have repeatedly received death threats. 
We the undersigned are deeply concerned that the threats have escalated 
over the past few weeks and that the ex-military commissioner and others 
responsible for these crimes have neither been investigated nor arrested. 
     "Today, Guatemalans are discussing fundamental social issues in order 
to lay the foundation for peace and reconciliation after 35 years of war. 
The Kaqchiquel Presbytery's human rights committee has played a vital role 
in raising awareness of human rights issues and continues to work to 
strengthen the prospects for genuine peace.  Unfortunately, however, as in 
many other parts of the country, where impunity protects those who rely 
upon violence to maintain privleges, the cost of their efforts has been 
high.  The following offers only a partial account of the events they have 
           Pascual Serech, president of the Human Rights Committee, was 
murdered Aug. 1, 1994.  
          Judge Edgar Ramiro Ogaldes ordered the arrest of Victor Roman 
Cotzal for this murder. 
          Judge Edgar Ramiro Ogaldes was murdered on Aug. 18, 1994, days 
after ordering the 
          arrest of Roman. 
          On Jan. 8, 1995, military commissioner Victor Roman and other 
military commissioners 
          wrote out a formal declaration stating that the activities of the 
Kaqchiquel Presbytery 
          and the Guatemalan Council of Evangelical Churches (CIEDEG) were 
"against the 
          A member of the Human Rights Committee was abducted by four 
heavily armed men 
          on May 7, 1995.  He was released unharmed. 
          Pastor Manuel Saquic Vasquez was abducted, tortured and murdered 
on July 23, 1995. 
          The "Jaguar Justiciero" death squad threatened members of the 
Kaqchiquel Presbyterian 
          church and CIEDEG repeatedly since July 1995, stating that they 
must desist in their 
          pursuit of human rights, "or face the same fate" as Pastor 
          The Kaqchiquel Presbytery presented its concerns to the 
Inter-American Commission 
          on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) on 
Feb. 22, 1996, 
          because of the failure of the Guatemalan government to 
investigate and prosecute either 
          the threats or the murders.  The government has still failed to 
execute an arrest warrant 
          of the primary suspect in each of the murders and threats, 
military commissioner Victor 
          Roman Cotzal. 
          At the very moment their representatives testified in Washington, 
pastors of the 
          Kaqchiquel Presbytery in Chimaltenango received additional 
written death threats from 
          "Jaguar Justiciero." 
          On March 6, the OAS requested that the Guatemalan government 
carry out the arrest of 
          Victor Roman, investigate the most recent threats, and offer 
protection of Kaqchiquel 
          Presbytery members threatened.  Still, on March 10, another 
"Jaguar Justiciero" threat 
          was issued.  This one threatened the lives of the human rights 
promoters who visited 
          Washington to testify before the OAS. 
     "We stand with the Kaqchiquel Presbytery, CIEDEG and other Guatemalan 
human rights monitors in full support of their efforts to defend the rights 
of all Guatemalans. 
     "We urge the government of Guatemala to immediately take action to 
respect Guatemalan law and its international obligations under the American 
Convention on Human Rights.  We call upon the Guatemalan government, as 
requested by the Kaqchiquel Presbytery, CIEDEG and the OAS, to immediately 
carry out the arrest of Victor Roman Cotzal and fully investigate and 
prosecute both the Saquic and Serech murders and the threats against the 
members of the Kaqchiquel Presbytery and CIEDEG." 
     Bryden said CPLG believes Roman is still in Guatemala, despite recent 
reports of Roman's attempts to secure a passport. 
     CPLG is a coalition of faith-based and human rights activists, 
including the American Friends Service Committee, the Center for Human 
Rights Legal Action, the Maryknoll Fathers and Witness for Peace.  CPLG may 
be contacted by calling (202) 462-3935. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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