Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Reps. Nancy Pelosi, George Miller and Ciro Rodriguez Visit Guatemala on Human Rights Mission

July 28, 1998

The following statement was issued by Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA) and Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) in Guatemala City, Guatemala on July 26, 1998. The three day visit was organized by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in order to encourage the Guatemalan government to carry out a thorough investigation of the April 26, 1998 murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi; to provide visible support to the Archbishop's Human Rights Office and other human rights organizations in Guatemala; to encourage the United States government to play a more active role in supporting efforts to improve respect for human rights in Guatemala; and to demonstrate full support for the implementation of the peace accords which have brought an end to 36 years of civil war.

Reps. Nancy Pelosi, George Miller and Ciro Rodriguez
Joint Statement
Guatemala City, Guatemala
July 26, 1998

This U.S. Congressional delegation came to Guatemala to learn about and support the consolidation of peace and democracy in Guatemala. We have been meeting with government officials and representatives of other sectors. The delegation has paid special attention to the investigation of the tragic murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi.

We wish to take this opportunity to express our sympathy and condolences to the Archbishop's Human Rights Office, the Guatemalan Episcopal Conference and the people of Guatemala, for their loss of a man of such impressive moral character. We also want to express our unconditional support for the peace process and extend our congratulations to President Arzú, the URNG and the people of Guatemala for the important steps already undertaken.

Because of Bishop Gerardi's invaluable work in defense of human lights and the fact that he was killed only days after the presentation of the report, "Guatemala: Never Again," this crime necessarily has political connotations. If it is not resolved, it would be a devastating blow to the peace process and to domestic and international confidence in the development of the process. For this reason, we call on the government to continue investigating all possible leads, motives and evidence until the crime is totally resolved. We also call on the appropriate authorities to ensure progress in other human rights cases now before the courts, such as the killings of Myrna Mack and Jorge Carpio and the Xamán massacre.

We wish to emphasize the importance and urgency of the constitutional reforms, especially the aspects related to the redefinition of the army's role and judicial service, as these will give the constitutional basis necessary to advance expeditiously with the processes of institutional restructuring and the development of legislation necessary to fulfill commitments undertaken in the peace accords. We hope that the contents of the Constitutional Reform Initiative presented by the Indigenous Peoples in August 1997 will be taken into account in the legislative debate as an important mechanism for democratic consolidation with broad social participation.

We consider it important that the government move forward in the short-term with the process of tax reform so that it can have the necessary internal resources for full implementation of its peace accords commitments in the areas of education. health, housing, land, justice and public security.

With respect to consolidation of the rule of law, we recognize the important recommendations of the Commission to Strengthen Justice. We reaffirm the commitment of the United States government to continue supporting the strengthening of the justice system, including the Public Ministry, the judiciary and the National Civilian Police.

The delegation supports the work of the REMHI project in giving people back their voices and documenting their experiences during long years of conflict and violence. Finally, we wish to express our support to the important work of the Historical Clarification Commission. We stress the importance of the cooperation of all sectors in supporting the Commission's work and in implementing its recommendations.

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