A Political Crime That's Threatening The Peace Process
Although the investigation into the murder of Bishop Gerardi has taken an unexpected and scandalous direction, there can be no doubt that it was a political crime. Can depicting it as a crime of passion be a key element in the puzzle so ably designed by the upper echelons of military power? The future of the peace process is intimately linked with clarification of the facts in this case.
Juan Hernández Pico, SJ
The Public Ministry's first suspect in the killing of Bishop Juan Gerardi the night of April 26 led down a blind alley, as many had feared from the beginning. Carlos Enrique Vielman, a trouble-making drunk, had been arrested a few days after the crime following his identification from police photos by two beggars as the man they saw leave Gerardi's house at the time of the murder. He was freed on July 29 at the petition of special prosecutor Otto Ardón for lack of evidence. With that the investigation took a scandalous turn.
While Vielman was in prison, his defense attorney, Mario Menchú, divided his time between securing Vielman's liberty and repeatedly insinuating to the media that the murder was a crime of passion involving Father Mario Orantes, Gerardi's housemate and coadjutor in the San Sebastián parish. Despite denials by the defense minister, many news sources reported that the Army's military intelligence had offered this version to President Alvaro Arzú in an emergency meeting of his political Cabinet only hours after the killing. "A spat between huecos," they are said to have concluded (hueco means homosexual in Guatemalan vulgar slang).
That early suggestion of a relationship between the bishop and the priest led to a request that the forensic investigator examine the body for what is technically known as "anal flaccidity." The examination produced no evidence of a sexual relation or violation. The next version put out was that Gerardi, upon returning home around 10 p.m. that night, had found Father Orantes in a compromising situation with another person, had criticized him and was killed in a paroxysm of rage. Public Ministry sources announced several times in May and June that they planned to subpoena Orantes to appear before the judge assigned to the case.
This whole sequence of hypotheses culminated on July 22, with Orantes' provisional arrest as a suspect in the bishop's murder. Seventy-two working hours later, on July 27, the judge charged Orantes with murder and sent him to prison without bail. The judge also found reason to send Margarita López, the cook in the parish house, to jail accused of covering up the crime.
An Unquestionably Political CrimeThis decisive action by the Public Ministry contrasts sharply with the fact that it at no time seriously investigated the widely held hypothesis that the crime was political and that its planners should be sought in military circles. The basis for such a suspicion is that Gerardi was murdered two days after presenting to a public gathering in Guatemala's Cathedral a report titled "Guatemala: Nunca Más," which contains the results of an investigation into the atrocities committed during the 35-year armed conflict. The report was the product of a three-year project known as REMHI (Recovery of the Historic Memory), promoted by the Catholic Church to help undermine the impunity with which the civilian population's human rights and the humanitarian laws of war have been violated.
Both a sizable number of analysts and the majority of the Church's institutions and its faithful are inclined to consider Bishop Gerardi's death a political assassination until proven otherwise. They see it as a direct attack on the Church's decision and fear that it is also an assault on the country's governability: a political crime disguised as a common one, which exposes the Guatemalan state's powerlessness to combat impunity and get to the roots of problems. In the final analysis, it also indirectly attacks the whole transition toward the rule of law as well as the effective fulfillment of the peace agreement. Even if it is proven that the accused priest was involved in some way, that does not discard the probability that it is being used as a clever way to mask a conspiracy to achieve these objectives.
Opposition to the peace AccordGuatemala still harbors an underlying, and in some cases even overt and shameless, opposition to the peace agreements signed on December 29, 1996. The only agreement that the Congress has ratified with legislation is one laying the foundation for reconciliation between the opposing forces in the armed internal conflict. The Law of National Reconciliation exempts most crimes committed by either side from penal responsibility.
The remaining agreements have the rank of political commitments that must be consolidated as state policy and not only the policy of this government. These commitments are to serve as the basis for reforming Guatemala's national project, which has traditionally excluded the majority of the population.
The agreements were also important because the international community adopted them as the foundation for future cooperation with the country. Nonetheless, more and more political forces and media voices are now trying to reduce them to pure formulas on paper, distort them by mixing them with other specific party objectives, hamper or indefinitely delay their application, or discredit them as unrealistic schemes inapplicable to Guatemala or imposed by outside intervention.
The peace agreements represent important structural reforms with long-term consequences in the political, cultural and economic spheres, and especially in the country's institutions of justice and law. But at the same time, demands for quick fixes for the immediate needs perceived in the country— particularly alleviating and overcoming poverty and putting an end to corruption and to the lack of public security—are applying pressure on the state. The connection between structural reforms and such immediate needs is not evident to many, which gives enemies of the reforms an opportunity to attack them without creating a serious public opinion backlash. The peace accords are not on the front burner of grassroots concerns or even consciousness.
The Fear of TruthThe National Reconciliation Law is in first place in the agreements. It is not an absolute amnesty law as some others in Latin America have been. For example, crimes of offense against humanity, such as forced disappearances, are excluded in general terms from exemption of penal responsibility; genocide and torture are excluded explicitly. The REMHI report, which throws a light on such crimes, inevitably sets a precedent for the report of the Commission of Historic Clarification, agreed to in the Peace Accords, by virtue of its publication date a few months earlier than the commission report.
Any serious investigation into a crime should start with an obvious question: whom does the crime favor? One possible answer in this case is that the REMHI report threatens the reputation of no few retired officers, to say nothing of the careers of many others still on active duty, who headed up the "dirty war" of the 1980s. Disparaging that report, with which Gerardi was so closely associated, serves their interests. The coordinator of the Commission of Historic Clarification, appointed by the United Nations at the suggestion of both the Guatemalan government and the National Revolutionary Union (URNG), has repeatedly remarked that the Army is dragging its feet in providing files that would let the commission get at the truth.
Political Reforms Hit SnagsIn second place in the peace agreements are political reforms requiring changes to the Constitution. The main such reform would alter the Army's functions. Its habitual responsibility for internal security and for the collection and analysis of strategic information to maintain that security are to be transferred to a fully civilian structure within a renovated Ministry of Government (in which the main renovation is the creation of a demilitarized and corruption-free Civil National Police). Other reforms include creating the possibility for a civilian functionary to head the Ministry of Defense; changing the Army's defense doctrine as well as the repercussions of that on the formation of soldiers and officers; and replacing the Presidential High Command, responsible for the security of the President and his surroundings, with a civilian body.
A multi-party negotiating table, called to formulate legislative proposals that fulfill these and other objectives, hit nearly insuperable operational snags when attempts were made to coattail them with other proposals for constitutional changes of a highly controversial party nature. For example, a proposal was pushed, particularly by the party of retired General Efraín Ríos Montt, to modify one constitutional article that prevents citizens from running for President if they have ever become head of state via a coup and another that prevents presidential reelection (Ríos Montt is affected by both).
The chapter of the peace accords on political agreements also contains reforms to the Electoral Law, which is itself of constitutional rank. Attempts to draft these reforms ran up against efforts to write the language in such a way that the reforms would be toothless when applied to impede anti-democratic customs or to reverse abstentionism, for example by allowing people to vote in their own neighborhoods. The negotiating table has been stagnating for over a year and it is not certain that the government party bench in the Congress will forge the alliances needed to push through all these reforms, since they require the approval of a qualified congressional majority as well as a national referendum.
Tax PrivilegesOther commitments contained in the peace accord are even more controversial, including the idea of transforming the country's tax structure and improving the efficacy of tax collection by the year 2000. The country's tax burden—the portion of state income resulting from taxes—is supposed to climb from 7% of the Gross Domestic Product in 1995 to 12% in 2000. This means taxing those who obtain greater benefits from the functioning of the economy and from state-provided goods and services. Opposition to this project by private enterprise, particularly by those who dominate their particular economic branch in the Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF) has been fierce and intolerant, and on occasion combative enough to involve a collective business strike and barracks mobilization.
In addition, the Army, whose top brass have traditionally held the directorial posts in Customs, is suspected of tax evasion and of getting tax exemptions and privileges that allow excessive personal and institutional enrichment. Ríos Montt's party—to a certain extent the façade for military interests and for some civilians with intransigent militarist mentalities and authoritarian political and economic postures—has manipulated peasant sentiment against the new tax law through its distorted presentation of what would have been a more equitable tax structure. The mobilizations were sufficient to get the law repealed.
Ladino Racism and Land InterestsIn third place, the peace accords require direct modifications to the Constitution's definitional underpinnings, for example, redefining the Guatemalan state as "multiethnic, pluricultural and multilingual." The consequences of this for a multi-language administration of justice, admission of the Mayan communities' customary law as a legitimate proceeding for conflict resolution, etc., give the ladino population the chills. This population has been used to dealing with the indigenous majority through economic and political discrimination and the imposition of a supposed cultural superiority rather than through a legislated racial segregation. On this point, even President Alvaro Arzú's National Advance Party has shown itself recalcitrant toward the agreements he signed.
In fourth place are the socioeconomic agreements, which embark the state on a review of the entire agrarian property system through the surveying of property boundaries, value and ownership for tax purposes. Even though the agreements do not formulate a modern agrarian reform or pledge the signers to do so, this registry could expose the abuses committed with so many farms, including undue appropriations, evictions, illegal expansion of limits, manipulations of the Property Registry, etc.
These agreements also presuppose the government's commitment to create a land fund that would redistribute land through state-monitored market mechanisms and a land conflict resolution commission, as well as to assure credits, technology and the like for small and medium peasant farmers. Such conditions would make agrarian development accessible for these sectors and free them from their excessive structural servitude to large-scale agroexport exploitation. The vested interests in this area will find themselves threatened if the peace process goes forward and the agreements are fulfilled.
The Wall of CorruptionFinally, in fifth place, are the reforms to the institutions of justice. Among many other things, they include the following: establishment of a judiciary council that frees the appointment of judges from the proposals of either the parties or the executive branch of government; establishment of a judicial career; the professionalization of the Public Ministry; the transfer of the judicial function from the all-powerful and anonymous bureaucracies to the courts themselves; an increase in the budget of the Judicial Branch and the Public Ministry so that new criminal investigation technologies and salary increases can put a brake on ineffectiveness, inefficiency and corruption; closing of the loopholes for filing endless recourses that only unduly delay the processes and execution of sentences; the coordination of new security policies for the corrupt penitentiary system; the streamlining of processes that would impede indefinite stints in jail by untried and unsentenced prisoners, etc. Like all the other points, these reforms are up against vested interest groups and an immense wall of institutionalized corruption.
All this and much more is at stake in the process of carrying out the peace accords. It is impossible to go forward with any of it without governability and the government is threatened with a loss of prestige if an assassination like that of Bishop Gerardi cannot be cleared up. From civil society's side, governability is also threatened by the lack of credibility that could taint the REMHI report and other important efforts to reduce impunity if Gerardi's murder ends up being seen as just a sordid common crime. This would throw a protective shadow over those who really planned and executed it.
A Diabolical CircleIf it continues to prove impossible in Guatemala to clear up such brutal crimes and ones with as many consequences as that of Bishop Gerardi, the international community could retreat to skepticism about the peace process and the possibilities of truly instituting the rule of law. That in turn could lead it to reduce or even shut the books on the economic cooperation that the government needs to make progress in complying with the peace accords. This is the diabolical circle into which the country risks getting drawn.
It would be even worse if that circle were to be reinforced by governmental reticence to pressure the Army command to do a full-scale investigation into whether any members of its active ranks or its periphery were involved in planning, executing, covering up or conspiratorially utilizing Gerardi's murder. Such a loss of political will would mean that the presidential authority employed at the start of Arzú's term to begin subordinating the Army to the republic's legitimate civilian powers has been exhausted.
A Poorly-Handled InvestigationConfusion reigns today in the investigation of Bishop Gerardi's murder. It set in from the very first for reasons that are hard to interpret as anything other than incompetence or negligence on the Public Ministry's part.
According to declarations by employees of the Archbishopric's Human Rights Office who were at the scene of the crime in the pre-dawn hours of April 27, the ministry did a lousy job of protecting it. The various dependencies of the parish house, where the crime occurred, were not closed off. People continually violated the 24-square-meter area sealed off with protective tape, among them a military intelligence photographer.
The prints were not taken with special instruments for rough surfaces. The presumed murder weapon, a chunk of concrete block, was handled without gloves. Ministry functionaries stepped in the blood. The state prosecutor in charge, Otto Ardón, lost the "chain of command" over the evidence, with him keeping some exhibits and others ending up in police hands—some of them not even duly sealed. Above all, however, once the cadaver had been picked up and taken to the morgue for the autopsy, the Public Ministry left no one to watch over the area. As a result it had been completely washed down by later that same morning.
The same sources say that Ardón, later promoted to "special prosecutor" for the case, was still a paid legal adviser to the Army at the moment he was put in charge of the investigation, and has a brother who is a military officer. Given the suspicions that the crime is a political one, would it not have been wise for the Public Ministry to assign the case to an attorney who has no possible conflict of interests? The sources also state that the whole investigation has been directed from the shadows by military intelligence.
Eyes on the OfficersOnce the FBI came in to help with the investigation, after Carlos Enrique Vielman had already been picked up, it sent samples of Vielman's hair, blood, and the like to the United States for analysis. FBI investigators also went back to the scene of the crime to do further examinations, including using luminol to discover otherwise imperceptible prints. Between the end of June and the first three weeks of July, suggestions that military officers were involved in the crime appeared in various media.
First came an accusation against 27 officers by URNG guerrilla leader Efraín Bámaca's widow, Jennifer Harbury, who also denounced to the Inter-American Human Rights Court Bámaca's presumed torture and extra-judicial execution after the Army took him prisoner. Her information in the Gerardi case came from someone supposedly implicated in the crime. The defense minister asked for evidence of this accusation and it was confirmed that the prosecutor and a representative of the Archbishopric's Human Rights Office (ODHAG) would go to Washington to interview Harbury's confidant first-hand.
The ODHAG director himself, Ronalth Ochaeta, made another charge in Madrid. According to him, one retired officer and another high-ranking officer currently serving in the Presidential High Command are implicated in the crime.
Days after that accusation was made public, Colonel Otto Noack, a former army spokesman who is still an active officer, declared on Radio Netherlands that the Army "had overreacted" in the war against the URNG guerrilla forces. As a consequence it had committed unjustifiable "excesses" against the population, which Noack argued should be acknowledged. He was immediately put under 30-day arrest for having transgressed military discipline, which prohibits any officer on active duty other than the defense minister or Army public relations official from expressing opinions about the Army.
It was the first time any high-ranking Guatemalan Army officer had ever spoken of recognizing "excesses," tantamount to telling the truth about what had happened and asking for forgiveness for one's responsibility in it. Tomuschat, the coordinator of the Commission of Historic Clarification, said that Noacks declaration was a significant step and that he hoped other officers would follow suit. This remark immediately sparked a public reaction of annoyance in the government, behind which is the fear that an invitation to lack of military discipline—even in the act of revealing the truth—would infect other areas, or even could awaken the temptation to carry out a military coup. As a matter of fact, rumors of a coup had been circulating in the days prior to Gerardi's murder, seemingly sparked by disgust among officers from the infantry— traditionally the most important branch of the Army—at the pre-eminence in Army leadership posts of officers from aviation and the marines.
One last fact: on July 20, a priest named Crestina, who provided chaplain services to the officers, was shot and wounded. The whole sequence of accusations, public declarations and this attack turned the population's attention toward possible military involvement in the bishop's assassination.
Eyes Turn to the Catholic ChurchThen on July 22, the criminal investigation and the dynamics of the context suffered a surprising and, for the mainly Catholic population, scandalous twist. In the early afternoon hours of that day, some 60 members of the Police Special Forces cordoned off a three-block radius around the San Sebastián parish house to provide protection for special prosecutor Ardón's forcible entry into the house armed with a judicial search warrant. They searched Father Mario Orantes' room and captured his dog Balú.
Orantes himself, who was not home at the time, had difficulty getting past the police cordon. Once inside he was arrested on suspicion of murder, handcuffed and taken off to jail. The whole operation, appropriate to the apprehension of a dangerous criminal with a record, was played out before TV cameras and press and radio reporters.
The scene had shifted. Now it was the Catholic Church that was in the Public Ministry's sights. The only way to interpret the excessive use of force to pick up Orantes or the publicity surrounding the operation is that it all was geared to divert attention from the military setting. People quite close to the government said that no few in military circles and some in the government itself were pleased with the turn the investigation had taken. The capital and the rest of the country bristled with confusion, suppositions and rumors.
Convincing Evidence?In the questioning before the judge, attended by the United Nations Mission for Guatemala (MINUGUA), the human rights ombudsman, Father Orantes' defense lawyer, his parents and ODHAG, which is the official plaintiff in the Gerardi murder case, the public prosecutor presented his supposed evidence against the priest. The judge clamped a 10-day hold on revealing the nature of the indictment.
The following day, Human Rights Ombudsman Julio Arango told the media that the evidence furnished by the Public Ministry did not seem conclusive to him. To the general surprise and indignation of many, ODHAG executive director Ronalth Ochaeta, disagreed, saying that the evidence was, in his judgment, "convincing" and that "there had already been one Judas in the Apostolic College." Juan Gerardi's successor as head of ODHAG, Monsignor Mario Enrique Ríos Montt, declared that the Church was in favor of pursuing truth all the way to the end and was not opposed to the investigation of Orantes, but he asked that all hypotheses be investigated.
The archbishop of Guatemala visited his priest in prison and declared that he believed in Orantes' innocence. The Archbishop of Quetzaltenango, president of the Bishops' Conference, declared for his part that the Church would not speak as long as the hold on the indictment remained in effect but he continued to demand an exhaustive investigation of Gerardi's murder.
Preparing the Stage to "Suicide" Orantes?The human rights ombudsman publicly declared that he had received a telephone call from the Attorney General of the Republic, González Rodas, insisting that he keep quiet about the case. The ombudsman said that he, as a defender of the people, was not subject to the hold on the indictment and repeated that he found the grounds for detaining Orantes very weak. The basis for the accusation, he explained, was a study of photographs of Gerardi's body, done by forensic specialists from Madrid's Universidad Complutense, presumably at the Public Ministry's request. This study seems to have discovered dog bites and scratch wounds on Gerardi's face and neck. The ombudsman, basing his opinions on the counsel of an expert, stated that it was ridiculous to think that a computerized photo study could wrap up the presumption of Father Orantes' guilt. Extra-officially, it was learned that the idea of sending the photos to Madrid and subjecting them to these studies came from an expert in MINUGUA.
Little by little data began to leak to the media about what the Public Ministry had reportedly found in Father Orantes' room: expensive perfumes, considerably expensive jewelry, etc. Rumors circulated that weapons were also found there.
Textual transcripts of Orantes' declarations to the Public Ministry and the judge began to appear in some newspapers. They had been made both before and after his detention and there were discrepancies between them on various points.
A double game was being played: impose a hold on the indictment, silencing people who could refute the accusations against Orantes, and leak supposed indications of his guilt and his seemingly unstable and strange character. The press reported that Orantes suffered from migraines, needed a lot of medications, was depressed and that there was fear he could commit suicide. Was the stage being prepared to "suicide" him and thus close the case with mere shady suspicions? Although it was true that Orantes suffers very acute migraines, those who visited him in the prison hospital said that they found him in good spirits.
Is Balú the Thread That Leads to Orantes?The forensic specialists who performed the autopsy on the murdered bishop stated that they found no indication of dog bites on his body or any paw prints or animal hairs on his clothes, though they did find human hairs. A crucial veterinary report shows Balú to be an 11-year-old German Shepherd—old in canine terms— with serious arthritic damage in his spine and difficulties of movement in his legs. All this was visible to television viewers who watched the dog descend the steps of the house and struggle into the vehicle that took him away. Nonetheless, Balú is being presented as the thread that supposedly leads to Orantes, with statements that the animal only obeys the priest and in a special code.
Bishop Gerardi's relatives state that Balú never attacked Gerardi, whom the dog had known for seven years and considered a friend. They support the view that Father Orantes is innocent and are his most frequent visitors in jail. The dog thus seems to be a very weak link in what it is feared could be a set-up to accuse and condemn the priest.
Credible sources assert that the initial witnesses in the case— the two beggars from the San Sebastián Park who claimed to have seen a man leaving the parish house at the time of the murder—are actually military intelligence informants. These same sources also say that the only truly independent witness is a taxi driver who was touring the streets close to San Sebastián the night of the crime and says he saw a white car first following him and later parked on a side street of the park. The sources certify— through a credible confidant—that a retired officer was overheard discussing with others the need to take over planning of the already consummated murder.
In the first days of August, the prosecutor asked the defense minister to investigate retired Colonel Byron Lima, former commander of the Chiquimula military base, and his son, a captain on active duty, who are currently out of the country. He reported that the white car seen in the San Sebastián area the night of the crime was a Mercedes Benz with a license plate from that base. He said the defense minister will investigate and communicate the results to him, and stated that "the army will not protect from justice any member who has committed a crime."
Crestani: Another Link?Now everyone is waiting for Father Crestani, still in serious condition as a result of the gunshot wound he suffered, to give his own version of what happened to him. It is suspicious that doctors from the Military Hospital are insisting on transferring him there from the Hermano Pedro Sanitarium, run by the Sisters of Charity. The nuns have firmly refused to allow the transfer. They say that keeping Crestani's faculties, particularly his memory, intact is crucial. No one knows for sure what the investigation of the Crestani case will produce, but if his recollections become relevant the frustrated attempt to kill him might constitute another link that could lead to those guilty of plotting the assassination.
The Bishops SpeakThe Bishops' Conference of Guatemala released a communiqué on August 7 in which the bishops "expressly emphasize our dissatisfaction with the way this case has been conducted: the inadequate protection of both the scene of the crime and custody of the evidence, the resistance to taking the political connotations of the case into account as well as to carrying out an in-depth investigation of active and retired Army officers presumed to be implicated, the premature signaling that the suspects captured so far are guilty and the unnecessary secrecy surrounding certain areas of the investigation."
They also reiterated their initial request that Bishop Gerardi's assassination be cleared up as soon as possible, adding that "it is the desire of the Catholic Church in Guatemala that the investigation into the murder discover both the material and intellectual authors of this horrendous crime and bring them to justice and that the force of the arguments with which the guilty are charged be supported with real, convincing, solid and incriminating evidence."
Given the turn the investigation has taken, the bishops state that "the fact that a priest appears as a suspect in the assassination should not lead us to seek either to cover up or to resist the progress of the investigation. Rather it should lead us to ask that the evidence on which the charge is based be made public and be shown and proven to be irrefutable and incriminatory, that the motives be revealed and that the case lead all the way to the intellectual authors of the crime."
They conclude the document with the following: "We are convinced that those who murdered Monsignor Gerardi sought to kill not only his body but also his works, the most notable of them the ODHAG and the REMHI Project, thus seriously damaging the peace process. We bishops of Guatemala manifest our firm decision to see to it that those works and their fruit not end up abruptly interrupted."
His Killers Hit the MarkDespite all the scandals and confusion, the fundamental thing to remember is that Bishop Juan Gerardi was murdered. Throughout time, including the turn of this millennium, Christians have venerated as martyrs all those killed in such a violent way.
Nonetheless, it is inappropriate to leave aside the immediate historic context in which these crimes occur. Those who planned and perpetrated Gerardi's assassination know they hit the mark. The Archdiocese of Guatemala, the Bishops' Conference and the people of Guatemala have been stripped of a person who will be hard to replace. By killing Gerardi, his assassins robbed Guatemala's Catholic Church of a seeker of truth, a defender of justice and a friend of the poor, with a superior intelligence and great strength and persistence in his all-too uncommon intentions.
After the crime, an Italian priest was threatened and forced to leave the country; members of ODHAG were intimidated with threats; another priest was shot and Father Orantes was accused of murder. The same intention runs through the exaggerated and publicized use of force to capture Orantes and, inevitably, smear the Catholic Church with the scandal of suspicion. Until proven to the contrary, the murder shows all the signs of being a political crime. The life and work of Juan Gerardi—of Monsignor Juanito, as his fellow bishops called him—still have a priceless value for the Catholic population and for all people who seek truth, justice and peace in Guatemala. The REHMI report remains a monument to the memory of the victims of a terrible armed conflict that produced so much humiliation and so many offenses against so many people. And it is continuing to encourage the Commission of Historic Clarification to remain faithful to its aims and to serve the truth and help foster the rule of law.
A Crucial MomentThe well-being of the people of Guatemala would not be served right now by reviving old hostilities between the state and the Catholic Church such as in 1829 between Morazán and Bishop Casáus, in 1871 between the Reformists, Bishop Piñeda and the religious orders, in 1921 between Orellana and Archbishop Muñoz y Capurón and—skipping other examples—in the 1970s and 80s between the military and so many priests, nuns, other religious workers and laity convinced of the indissoluble union between their faith and their life, between their private morality and their public morality. Nor would it help if everything that is happening were to fuel quarrels and confrontations between Catholics and Protestants.
All analysts are aware that such fractures are likely at this juncture. Trying to halt them is a human and political task that cannot be put off if Guatemala is to continue down the arduous path that could eventually secure the rule of law, a tolerant pluralist coexistence and greater democratic participation. It is the only way to stop the plans of those unredeemed remnants of the past who are still conspiring against and damaging humanity in this beautiful Central American country.