From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 09:00:12


                      TO GUATEMALAN VIOLENCE 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--At least five more people are being sought to compose an 
international team of witnesses in Guatemala where three members of the 
Presbyterians church have been threatened by a death squad. 
     Marilie Robertson, a Presbyterian from Canoga Park, Calif., has been 
dispatched to Guatemala.  Robertson just completed a term in the Worldwide 
Ministries Division reconciliation and mission program in Nicaragua. 
      The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Office of Latin America and 
the Caribbean of the National Council of Churches are seeking at least five 
more people to serve on accompaniment teams in Guatemala through 
mid-November. The teams provide an international witness in case of further 
attacks on Guatemalan church leaders. 
     "There is concern here about the paucity of international 
accompaniment people," said Dennis Smith, a longtime Presbyterian mission 
co-worker in Guatemala City. He says more international witnesses are 
needed in the offices of Kaqchiquel Presbytery in the town of 
Chimaltenango, about 35 miles outside Guatemala City. 
     Three Presbyterians in that presbytery received death threats by mail 
Aug. 8 after refusing to drop their demand that the government investigate 
and prosecute the killers of two Presbyterian human rights workers. 
     The tortured body of the Rev. Manuel Saquic was found in a shallow 
grave in June.  Saquic had been vocal in demanding that the government 
prosecute those accused of fatally shooting Presbyterian Pascual Serech a 
year ago and kidnapping and beating Presbyterian Bartolo Solis this spring. 
Both were presbytery human rights worker,  
      Since the threats arrived, the PCUSA, the World Council of Churches, 
the National Council of Churches and members of the U.S. Congress have 
pushed 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 the presbytery. 
     "The National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (NEPCG) is 
taking a stance that keeping quiet or leaving the country is not for it 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 
     Moffett said international witnesses must be fluent in Spanish, be 
willing to remain in Guatemala for two weeks to one month and must be 
capable of walking long distances. 
     Besides the three Presbyterians, at least 20 other church and human 
rights workers have been threatened in the Chimaltenango region. To date, 
two United Church of Canada accompaniment teams have gone there. A U.S. 
delegation from the United Methodist Church visited Kaqchiquel Presbytery's 
human rights office immediately after the most recent threats. 
     Moderator Marj Carpenter and Moffett will be visiting the NEPCG, Oct. 
     "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. He described the 
Guatemalan countryside as highly militarized. 
     Calling  the Saquic case "important" and "highly visible," a 
spokesperson for the Guatemalan Embassy to the United States said it is 
"unusual" for a human rights case to get the high level of attention 
Saquic's case has generated. 
     Military officials in Chimaltenango and representatives of the 
Guatemalan government's human rights office, the United Nations Mission to 
Guatemala (MINUGUA) and the U.S. Embassy met with a local Presbyterian 
delegation at the Kaqchiquel Presbytery office in mid-August. 
     Guatemala's minister of defense, General Mario Rene Enriquez Morales, 
has publicly denied that the military is protecting Victor Roman, a 
recently deposed Chimaltenango military commissioner who is charged with 
assassinating Serech and is under investigation for the killing of Saquic. 
     Though another warrant was issued for Roman's arrest Aug. 9, sources 
say, he is still at-large. It is rumored the judge who issued the warrant 
then sought MINUGUA's protection. 
     "Accompaniment of the people is a living example of the international 
community's knowledge of what is going on.  In some ways, it thwarts the 
whole intimidation process," said Moffett. She said many investigations go 
on in Guatemala, but few actual convictions occur--especially convictions 
of those who have military ties. 
     This time, she said, the international community is pushing for a 
conviction, not just an investigation, of Saquic's killers. 
     At press time, unconfirmed reports from Guatemala say Saquic's widow 
is still being harassed and there are rumors another Presbyterian minister 
was murdered on the south coast last month. It has not yet been determined 
whether that death was related to death squad activity. 
          Inquiries about the accompaniment teams may be directed to 
Moffett's office at (502) 569-5316/5325. 

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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