From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
GUATEMALAN CHURCH LEADERS THREATENED WITH DEATH;
05 May 1996 08:38:16
95279 GUATEMALAN CHURCH LEADERS THREATENED WITH DEATH;
ACCOMPANIMENT TEAMS ORGANIZED IN CANADA AND THE U.S.
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Three Presbyterian church leaders in Guatemala have been
threatened by a death squad for refusing to drop their demand that the
government investigate and prosecute the killers of two Presbyterian human
Denominational officials and the World Council of Churches are pushing
the president of Guatemala to protect Lucio Martinez of the Human Rights
Office of Kaqchiquel Presbytery; Vitalino Similox, executive secretary of
the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG); and Margarita
Valiente de Similox, president of Kaqchiquel Presbytery in Chimaltenango.
"They [the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala
(NEPCG)] are taking a stance that keeping quiet or leaving the country is
not for them a faithful path ... and here is our call to be at their side
too," said Julia Ann Moffett, coordinator for Central America in the
Worldwide Ministries Division.
To date, the second United Church of Canada accompaniment team has
arrived in Chimaltenango. The Office of Latin America and the Carribbean of
the National Council of Churches is working to put more North Americans in
the Chimaltenango region, where at least 20 other church and human rights
workers have been threatened.
"There is an urgent need for accompaniment," said Dennis Smith,
Presbyterian mission co-worker in Guatemala City, describing the Guatemalan
countryside as highly militarized still. "Just be here," he said.
"Terror can still be used to silence people. ... It is still possible
to wreak havoc on a whole pastoral program by physically eliminating a few
key leaders," Smith told the Presbyterian News Service.
A delegation from the General Board of Global Ministries of the United
Methodist Church of the United States visited Kaqchiquel Presbytery's human
rights office Aug. 10 and prayed with Martinez and his wife, according to
the Ecumenical News Service. The Roman Catholic archdiocese in Guatemala
City is also advocating for the Presbyterians with government and judicial
The death threats came by mail to the presbytery human rights office
Aug. 8 and told Martinez and the Similox's they had 24 hours to leave the
country ... or else "you will be corpses." The letter also turned language
from a memorial service for the Rev. Manuel Saquic into taunts.
Saquic's tortured body was recovered from a shallow grave in June.
Coordinator for the presbytery's human rights office, Saquic was vocal in
demanding that the government prosecute those who fatally shot another
Presbyterian, Pascual Serech, last Aug., as well as those who kidnapped and
beat Presbyterian Bartolo Solis, another presbytery human rights
Though the Guatemalan Embassy to the United States insists that a
military commissioner, Victor Roman, has been charged with the
assassination of Serech and is under investigation for the torture and
killing of Saquic, sources in Guatemala report confusion about whether
Roman -- an allegedly wealthy man -- is free on bail or whether charges
have been dropped.
Sources here and in Guatemala say another warrant was issued for
Roman's arrest Aug. 9, related to the murder of Saquic. It is rumored the
judge who issued the warrant asked for protection from MINUGUA, the United
Nations Mission to Guatemala.
The threats have come under the signature of "Jaguar Justiciero," or
Avenging Jaguar -- a name the Congressional Friends of Human Rights
Monitors in Washington, D.C., believe is used by members of the security
forces to "inspire terror."
Martinez told the Ecumenical News Service that the church's human
rights work is continuing. "There are lots of violations of human rights of
the poor," he said. "It can be as simple as the way indigenous people are
treated in the bakery. We're always given yesterday's bread, but if a
blond person walks in, they get fresh bread. There are many indigenous
workers who only get eight quetzales a day [U.S.$1.40, about half the legal
minimum] on the farms around here.
"There are youths recruited by force to serve in the military even
though that's illegal. Through helping people understand their rights as
human beings, we've helped them stand up and learn to defend themselves.
That's our sin."
Pascual, Saquic, Martinez and the Somilox's are all Mayan
Baltimore Presbytery executive the Rev. Herb Valentine told the
Presbyterian News Service Guatemalan Presbyterians are asking "desperately"
that U.S. Presbyterians be "visible" now.
Baltimore Presbytery is in a formal partnership with Kaqchiquel
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 PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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