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Terror in Guatemala

To the Editors:

The body of José Leon Castañeda, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Diario Impacto, was found in Guatemala City late last November. Mr. Castañeda had recently been kidnapped, and there was evidence that he had been severely tortured before he was killed. According to conservative estimates by impartial human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, over 2,000 Guatemalans have been brutally murdered in the last eighteen months. In none of these cases have those responsible been brought to justice.

Journalists have been particularly targeted for repression, since an energetic press corps will expose Guatemala’s disastrous human rights record which includes evidence of government complicity in the kidnapping, torture, and assassination of over 22,000 Guatemalan citizens since 1966. According to a recent report to the Organization of American States, “freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations are not respected.” Private industries and large landowners are encouraged to maintain security forces—Guatemalans call them “death squads”—which orchestrate a reign of terror over workers, peasants, students, lawyers, and journalists, thereby preventing democratic opposition to General Romeo Lucas Garcia’s government.

…Pressure must be urgently applied to Guatemalan authorities that they respect the individual rights of citizens. General Lucas Garcia must be made to understand that the international community will not permit his terrorizing an entire nation into submission. Those concerned should write to the Guatemalan embassy at 2230 R Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008.

José Pertierra

Department of Philosophy

Georgetown University

Washington, DC

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