From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 04 May 1996 16:10:07


                      By Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Despite the well-publicized distribution of 5,000 wanted 
for the accused killer of a Guatemalan Presbyterian minister -- and the posted 
$3,000 reward for his capture -- some members of Kaqchiquel Presbytery are 
persuaded that while Victor Roman may be a fugitive, he isn't living very far 
from home. 
   "He was seen in Panabajal 12 days ago," Kaqchiquel Presbytery member 
Maximilano Solis told the Presbyterian News Service here, after Solis and 
Presbytery President Margarita Valiente Similox addressed the Worldwide 
Ministries Division at the General Assembly Council meeting, Feb. 23.  
   Panabajal is Roman's home and it is just a few miles from Chimaltenango, a 
mountain town just a few miles from Guatemala City where Kaqchiquel 
office is located. 
   Solis and Similox were among more than 20 indigenous people threatened by a 
death squad last spring after the presbytery's human rights group began pushing 
for the arrest and prosecution of Roman for the torture and murder of the Rev. 
Manuel Saquic in Chimaltenango. 
   "The police say they can't capture him because the military is protecting 
him," Similox said, adding that, while rumors abound, some claim to have seen 
Roman in army fatigues at the Chimaltenango military base.  "He's not in any 
place ... He changes places," she said, adding that he disappears when police 
to arrest him and reappears when they have gone.  "Probably somebody from the 
police tells him to go." 
   That news both infuriates and frustrates Presbyterians who met with 
Guatemalan military, police and judicial leaders in Guatemala City last October 
and were assured that efforts to arrest Roman were legitimate.  Those 
Presbyterians include Moderator Marj Carpenter, who pushed the defense ministry 
to release a hard-to-obtain photo of Roman so wanted posters could be printed. 
   Roman is a former local military commissioner.  That job was eliminated by 
the government as part of its peace process, but it is widely known that many 
former military commissioners still wield tremendous local power, especially in 
isolated rural areas. 
   "Nothing would surprise me.  It seems to me that, if he were at-large, with 
5,000 posters and the reward, [he would be captured].  Its also possible he 
be 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. 
   "I hope they're trying to apprehend him as they said they would do ... That 
would be a wonderful statement to the world, just to bring him in -- if they do 
care about human rights," she told the Presbyterian News Service. 
   But Similox says that those  -- including herself and her husband -- who 
threatened last spring are still being watched today.  Cars with polarized 
windshields drive slowly past their homes or sit parked at the curb. Neighbors 
whisper that so-and-so said if anyone touches Roman, the penalty will be a 
like Saquic's. 
   And just last Friday, another U.S. Presbyterian headed to Guatemala City to 
spend two weeks accompanying Saquic's widow, Maria Francesca Ventura de Saquic. 
She is reporting being stalked at home and at the marketplace stall where she 
sells cloth.  Up until now, U.S. and Canadian Presbyterians have remained as 
accompaniers in Kaqchiquel Presbytery -- but the National Evangelical 
Presbyterian Church of Guatemala thinks accompaniment is necessary for Saquic 
Guatemala City for at least three months.  
    "She's fearful every single solitary day, every hour of the day," said 
Laurie Spangler of Baltimore Presbytery, who just visited Saquic through the 
presbytery's partnership with Kaqchiquel. 
    The Rev. Jim Woodring of Pineville, Ky., is the first Presbyterian Church 
(U.S.A.) member to accompany Saquic.  He will be followed by Paul Hume of First 
United Presbyterian Church in Loveland, Col.; and the Rev. Patricia Pearse of 
Butler Presbyterian Church in Butler, Mo. 
   "From what information we've been able to garner, the military is holding 
true to its tradition to protect their own," said the Rev. Herb Valentine, the 
executive of Baltimore Presbytery who has traveled to Guatemala several times.  
"It will be the miracle of miracles ... if [Roman] is arrested and brought to 
trial ... 
   "We have to call on the [U.S.] government to bring pressure to bear." 
   The press office at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., did not 
respond to multiple inquiries from the Presbyterian News Service about Roman or 
about the Saquic case. 
   "I admire Kaqchiquel Presbytery for being aggressive and for following up," 
said Spangler of the presbytery's continuous reminders to the police, the 
military and foreign embassies about the Saquic case.  "[It may be] illusion to 
think he's going to be captured ... but persistence is the only way for change. 
   "Its a lot of work, a lot of effort ... and though a lot [of people] feel 
nothing will be done, it must be done." 
   Similox testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of 
Organization of American States about the threats and harrassment she has faced 
for her work in the Saquic case and surrounding the shooting death of another 
Presbyterian in Chimaltenango, Pascual Serech.  She participated in an 
Prayer Service at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and 
she held briefings with both Congressional leaders and national religious 
leaders, hosted by the Presbyterian Washington Office. 
   Similox urged the Worldwide Ministries Division to keep sending letters to 
Guatemala's Ministry of Defense and to the president.   She said to request 
responses to those letters.  "You have certainly been with the people of 
Guatemala.  We've received many letters from the U.S.  You've been with us 
physically, in your prayers and also in our policies ... 
   "I hope you will continue to support us," Similox said, insisting that her 
government tells the international community it is actively repairing its 
human rights record as a way to secure international money.  "But what's 
happening," she said, "is that indigenous people, poor people, are being 
   The division voted to send a letter immediately.5: 

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: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home