Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Keep Ban on Aid to Guatemalan Military, Says Church Official

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Keep Ban on Aid to Guatemalan Military, Says Church Official

Article excerpt

The United States should not restore military aid to Guatemala, says a Catholic human rights official from the Central American country.

The army is still tied to corruption, its members are involved in summary executions and it is being used by the government to harass and repress antigovernment demonstrators, said Nery Rodenas, executive director of the Human Rights Office of the Guatemala City archdiocese.

"There is a climate of terror against Guatemalans. Violence is used to prevent freedom of expression," he said April 28 while in Washington to brief U.S. church officials.

Earlier this year, the United States announced $3.2 million in military aid to Guatemala, ending a ban imposed in 1990 because of human rights issues. Bush administration officials have said they plan to ask Congress to approve further aid later this year.

In February the Guatemala City archdiocesan human rights office joined several other Guatemalan human rights organizations in issuing a statement opposing the resumption of military aid.

"Today, the military as an institution is weaker than ever. Its members are marked by corruption, by abuse of authority, by taking advantage of the infrastructure of the Ministry of Defense for personal gain, by acting illegally and by continued violation of human rights," said the Feb. 23 statement.

"It is unacceptable that, for political reasons, the people and government of the United States renew their support for the military," it said.

At a March 24 news conference in Guatemala City, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Guatemalan President Oscar Berger Perdomo defended reinstituting military aid, saying it reflects the success of anticorruption programs and efforts to improve human rights.

"I've been impressed by the reforms that have been undertaken here in the armed forces," said Rumsfeld at the news conference. …

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