Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mayan Indians Seek U.S. Help: Guatemalan Military Oppresses Villagers

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Mayan Indians Seek U.S. Help: Guatemalan Military Oppresses Villagers

Article excerpt

Guatemalan military oppresses villagers

TUCSON, Ariz. - Mayan Indians, long victims of Guatemalan military persecution, last week called upon U.S. officials and others to aid them in their struggle for official Guatemalan civilian status and the protection they think such recognition would give them.

A Mayan Indian delegation, touring the United States, is attempting to gather support for its efforts. Representatives of the Communities of Population in Resistance are meeting with church members, political leaders and human rights groups in five cities

"They (the Guatemalan army) accuse us of being subversives, guerrillas," said Francisco Raymundo Hernandez during an Oct. 13 meeting here with representatives of U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini and Rep. Ed Pastor, both Democrats from Arizona. Raymundo Hernandez and Teodora Martinez Vasquez were to end tbeir U.S. tour in Los Angeles on Oct. 21.

An estimated 25,000 CPR members endure poverty and military oppression in dozens of remote villages in El Quiche and El Peten states in northern Guatemala near the border of Mexico. Raymundo Hernandez coordinates the 17,000-member CPR of the Sierra region. Martinez Vasquez is a founding member of the Organization of Women in Resistance, which involves Guatemalan women in self-help projects.

Raymundo Hernandez said the CPR, supported by the Guatemalan bishops, wanted full civil rights for its members under the Guatemalan Constitution and through international law.

But three recent meetings with President Ramiro de Leon Carpio have not offered much hope he will rein in the army, Raymundo Hernandez said.

The CPR began in the 1960s as church-sponsored agricultural cooperatives. It later became the target of counterinsurgency campaigns that have killed more than 100,000 people. Meanwhile, an estimated 200,000 Guatemalans have fled the country, and 1 million remain as internally displaced refugees. …

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