Media Center

Press Release


  April 11, 2003

Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo today formally asked the Organization of American States to appoint a representative to a commission of inquiry that will look into illegal and underground armed groups and syndicates operating in the Central American country.

Speaking at OAS Headquarters in Washington, the Guatemalan leader explained that his government was committed to addressing the challenges posed by illegal groups “that are preventing effective enforcement of the rule of law in Guatemala.”

Noting the commission would be established within 90 days, President Portillo said “this is not an easy decision. But it is a necessary and right decision if we intend to consolidate peace, democracy and the rule of law in Guatemala.”

He said his term in office ends this year, with elections set for November, and his government has asked the OAS to send a team of observers to monitor the entire process, which begins with the announcement by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal next month. “We want the OAS to monitor the entire electoral process because although Latin America has almost entirely overcome the specter of fraud, we must still ensure that governments are transparent and fair and that people can vote in an atmosphere of absolute freedom and without fear.”

Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi welcomed President Portillo, saying he was pleased with the Guatemalan government’s recent engagement with human rights groups and the Ombudsman, to establish the commission to investigate the underground security groups. “We hope the commission will help us prevent future human rights violations. We join President Portillo in recognizing the important role played by Human Rights Watch and its Executive Director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco.”

Einaudi said Secretary General César Gaviria “had indicated that he would carry out the request as soon as possible and name a recognized expert to the commission.”

Reference: E-084/03