http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2003/08/124999.php , August 7th.
[[ LACYork News received the following appeal from Aileen Cowan, a CERLAC graduate associate. She has just returned to Canada and writes:
“As I'm sure you know, the situation in Guatemala has become incredibly tense during the past week. I returned to Toronto Wednesday morning, and am feeling a little odd not being there right now.”
We also include an appeal from Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, broadcast in Spanish over “emisorasunidas” – (see Spanihs language sectin). Appeals of a similar nature have also been issued by Amnesty International, and the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission (Washington, DC Office) ]]
The dispute over whether General Efrain Ríos Montt can run for president has dramatically escalated. Today [July 24], in a coordinated campaign of violence, busloads of followers of Ríos Montt, including paramilitaries, entered the capital city and attacked groups of people, journalists, and critics of the general. They have threatened media offices and human rights organizations. Héctor Ramírez, a journalist, died of a heart attack while escaping from an aggressive mob, and other journalists narrowly escaped lynching. This very dangerous development may be the prelude to a coup.
The Constitutional Court authorized Ríos Montt to be a candidate on July 14, but the Supreme Court temporarily suspended that ruling several days ago. Now a situation of legal and de facto anarchy is emerging. The 1985 Constitution clearly banned from the presidency any coup leader or anyone who had become head of state as a result of a coup. The second category includes Ríos Montt. Article 186 admits no other interpretation; it is clear and direct. In 1995 and 1999, the three main bodies dealing with this matter --the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE),the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and the Constitutional Court (CC)-- prevented Ríos Montt from being a candidate, a decision supported by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This year, however, despite the fact that the TSE and the CSJ upheld previous rulings, the Constitutional Court recently modified its previous decisions. The Constitutional Court violated the Constitution by admitting an appeal by Ríos Montt and his FRG party on grounds that his human rights were being violated. It is crucial to recall that Ríos Montt has been accused of genocide and other serious violations of human rights, causing the death of some 70,000 people from March 1982 to August 1983. It is a travesty that he now claims such political rights.
Although the CC is the highest body for interpreting the Constitution, it cannot violate the Constitution. Many jurists and analysts believe that a 4-3 decision cannot change the Constitution, which can only be changed by a national referendum. Therefore, the CC's decision has been rejected by many parties and organizations in Guatemala and taken to the
CSJ for new consideration.. The CSJ suspended the registration of Ríos Montt as a candidate for the presidency, but it must submit a definite ruling in a few days. This turn of events has made Ríos Montt extremely angry, and he made veiled threats during a press conference two days ago, saying that the FRG might not be able to control acts of violence by his supporters if the decision by the CC was not accepted.
That threat became a reality today, when mobs organized by supporters of the FRG and Ríos Montt were brought into the city. Armed with sticks, machetes and guns, masked men attacked the media and organizations opposing the CC's ruling. Bomb threats forced the CSJ to suspend activities and abandon its building. Security forces did not deter the mobs; the police did not intervene at all, giving the impression that the Government, led by Alfonso Portillo an FRG member and an open supporter of Ríos Montt-- was providing a green light to organized violence.
Based on these events and concerned with the situation, we urgently request you:
1. To send immediate messages of concern to the Guatemalan Government,urging it to control and prevent violent demonstrations and to provide security to all persons under any sort of threat.
2. To activate regional and international mechanisms to prevent a coup d'etat (General Ríos Sosa, Ríos Montt's son, is second in command of the Guatemalan armed forces) and the transgression of democratic norms.
3. To support all those organizations that struggle for respect for the Constitution, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and a fair electoral process.
Again, the current situation is very alarming, and we need the support and accompaniment of the international community and all friends of the Guatemalan people. We do not want to revert to our dark recent past; Ríos Montt should be in prison and not leading violence once again.
GUATEMALA: President Alfonso Portillo
Palacio Nacional, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
fax: 011 502 239 0090 or 011 502 238 3579 or 011 502 239 0076
e-mail: MENSAJES@PRESIDENTEPORTILLO.GOB.GT or COPREDEH@GUATE.NET
fwd from imc-translation dispatch