From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Renewed Death Threats Reported by Guatemalan

Date 04 May 1996 16:06:13


96098     Renewed Death Threats Reported by Guatemalan  
           Presbyterians; Accompaniers Move into Place 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Death threats have been renewed against two Presbyterians 
in much-harrassed Kaqchiquel Presbytery in Guatemala. 
     A typewritten note was found on the windshield of the Rev. Lucio 
Martinez' truck in Chimaltenango in late February, just days after he 
received a threatening telephone call, according to Ecumenical News 
International (ENI).  Martinez directs Kaqchiquel Presbytery's human rights 
     Also threatened was Margarita Valiente de Similox, the presbytery's 
      The death threat to Martinez was signed -- as were earlier notes -- 
by "Jaguar Justiciero," or "Avenging Jaguar."  The caller told Martinez 
"his time had run out" and that "the end had arrived." 
     Similox was in Washington, D.C., at the time, testifying  before the 
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American 
States about last year's grisly murder of the Rev.  Manuel Saquic, another 
prominent Guatemalan Presbyterian human rights activist. She also spoke to 
members of Congress and to national religious leaders, including those in 
the Worldwide Ministries Division (WMD) of the Presbyterian Church 
     "Entities with some power and influence are pressing the government to 
stop [treating the accused with] impunity in this [Saquic] case," said 
Julia Ann Moffett, WMD's area coordinator for Central America.  "They 
[Guatemalan military authorities] are trying to continue the intimidation 
to negate the efforts of the international community." 
      Both Similox and Martinez were among more than 20 indigenous 
Guatemalans threatened by "Jaguar Justiciero" last summer for pressuring 
authorities to arrest and prosecute Saquic's accused killer, a former 
military commissioner named Victor Roman.  Roman  is still a fugitive. 
     Similox told reporters here that Roman is hard to capture because, 
police say, he is being protected by elements of the Guatemalan  military. 
"He's not in any one place. ... He changes places," she said, adding that, 
while there are plenty of rumors, people around Chimaltenango have reported 
seeing Roman not only in Panabajal, his hometown, but inside the 
Chimaltenango military base, walking around freely in fatigues. 
     Martinez' note from "Jaguar Justiciero," which ENI reports allegedly 
has ties to Roman, said that this was the third and last warning before 
"all will end."  It went on to say:  "We are not playing; because with or 
without bodyguards, you will fall into our hands." 
     Those "bodyguards" -- called accompaniers in the United States -- were 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Canada and United Methodist 
Church volunteers who for six months stayed with Martinez day and night. 
The accompaniment ended in late December.  Local police officers are still 
posted outside his home and outside Kaqchiquiel Presbytery's Chimaltenango 
     PC(USA) volunteers are currently staying around the clock with 
Saquic's widow, Maria Francesca Ventura de Saquic, and her children.  She 
is reportedly being harrassed and, according to one volunteer who just 
returned to the United States, has received at least one death threat.  ENI 
attributes the monitoring of Saquic's movements to Guatemalan military 
     Saquic is living in hiding since she fled her hometown after her 
husband's torture and murder. The Rev. Jim Woodring of Pineville, Ky., is 
with the Saquic family now.  Paul Hume of First United Presbyterian Church 
in Loveland, Colo., has just returned, and the Rev. Patricia Pearse of 
Butler Presbyterian Church in Butler, Mo., goes next. 
     "The country is absolutely crazy," Hume told the Presbyterian News 
Service, adding that he has longtime ties to Guatemala.  "MINUGUA [United 
Nations Mission to Guatemala] and other human rights observers are keeping 
it from being worse than it is ... but remediation of the judicial system 
isn't happening. ... What I see and hear is terror," Hume said.  "They 
[Guatemalan officials] seem to offer some kind of appeasement ... but in 
the long run, bodies keep showing up." 
     That assessment was documented in human rights papers released late 
last year by both MINUGUA and the Roman Catholic Church's archdiocese in 
Guatemala City.  The church report described the situation in Guatemala as 
an "uncontainable spiral of violence," while MINUGUA's paper said the 
society "continues to be victimized by a general climate of violence, 
especially kidnapping and violent death." 
     A recent news report by CERIGUA, an independent news agency in 
Guatemala, said Guatemala City's forensic medical examiner reports 10-12 
corpses nightly at the city's morgue  -- people shot execution-style with 
their hands tied behind their backs. 
     Hume says that what this climate means for the Saquic family, who've 
already had one brutal death,  is terror, disorganization and 
disorientation.  The children are not allowed to talk to neighbors and are 
always watching for someone lurking in the shadows.  The mother is cut off 
from her home, her town and her extended family. 
     "I hope they're trying to apprehend Roman as they said they would do," 
Moderator Marj Carpenter told the Presbyterian News Service, reflecting on 
her October visit to Guatemala's judicial, military and police officials. 
"That would be a wonderful statement to the world, just to bring him in to 
show they do care about human rights." 
     Carpenter said, however, that no outcome would surprise her.  "It 
seems to me, if he were at large with 5,000 wanted posters and the reward, 
[he would be captured].  It's also possible he's in another country now. 
And he might also be at one of the military bases," Carpenter said.  "I 
hope not. I hope they haven't lied to us to that extent." 
     Col. Jose Caal Davila, chief of the department of information for 
Guatemala's army, told the Presbyterian News Service he was not prepared to 
talk specifically about the Roman case, but that the military is "not 
covering up" any person or institution within its ranks. 
     Speaking of the renewed threats in Chimaltenango, Moffett said, "The 
really strange thing is: Have they thought about the consequences of that? 
If they kill Lucio or Margarita or even Maria Francesca, there will be even 
greater international outcry. ...  I hate to think about that happening.  I 
don't want to see another [person] killed." 
     Moffett is in Guatemala now. 

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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