Guatemala's Leader Signals Compromise on Reform Pact INTERVIEW: PRESIDENT JORGE SERRANO ELIAS

By David Clark Scott, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 1991 | Go to article overview

Guatemala's Leader Signals Compromise on Reform Pact INTERVIEW: PRESIDENT JORGE SERRANO ELIAS


David Clark Scott, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A PACT on democratic reforms in Guatemala is expected today, say leftist rebels and government negotiators as they reach the close of a third round of peace talks aimed at ending Central America's longest-running civil war.

President Jorge Serrano Elias says he is ready to make the necessary constitutional and legislative changes to implement the accord.

"It's not the Bible. We can change it (the Constitution) and we're going to change it," Mr. Serrano said in an interview with the Monitor.

Fortifying Guatemala's emerging democracy is the first item on a 10-point negotiating agenda agreed upon in April.

The agreement is expected to include electoral reforms and to ensure greater participation of indigenous groups and left-wing parties in the political process.

Negotiators are also starting to address the difficult issue of human-rights abuses, which derive from what Serrano calls "the culture of impunity" created by 30 years of war and a foundering judicial system.

This week, the Guatemalan government's own human-rights ombudsman, Ramiro de Leon Carpio confirmed that political violence is worsening. He holds both the armed forces and the guerrillas responsible for much of the violence.

In the first six months of 1991, there were 321 claims of extra-judicial killings, of which 116 have been confirmed by the ombudsman's office.

The United States Congress is taking an increasing interest in the problem of human-rights abuses and the peace process. But Serrano seems to want to shift the focus of the US relationship away from human rights to the common goal of fighting drug trafficking, which is up sharply in Guatemala.

Serrano says more opium, marijuana, and cocaine have been captured in the first six months of 1991 than in all of 1990. "And who did it? Our Army," he says. "This is the same Army that some radicals in the US Congress keep under continuous accusation.

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