US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA146

OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE CLANDESTINE GROUPS

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA146
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA146 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-01-17 18:04:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PHUM PREL PINR KJUS GT UN OAS
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000146 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, PINR, KJUS, GT, UN, OAS 
SUBJECT: OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION TO 
INVESTIGATE CLANDESTINE GROUPS 
 
REF: A. 02 GUATEMALA 2970 
 
     B. GUATEMALA 0127 
 
1. (U) Summary: On January 16, Human Rights Ombudsman Sergio 
Morales unveiled a proposal for a UN-OAS led commission to 
investigate clandestine groups (for details on the proposal, 
see Ref A).  The proposal was enthusiastically received by 
the press, human rights NGOs, and the international 
community.  The Ambassador had previously contacted the 
President, senior FRG members, the private sector, and the 
press to urge a favorable response to the proposal.  After 
the presentation, the Ambassador told the press that the USG 
welcomes the initiative, that we hope the GOG will support 
it, and that we'll be taking a look at how the USG can 
support it.  End Summary. 
 
2. (U) Sergio Morales, along with his top assistants Maria 
Eugenia Morales de Sierra and Dunia Illias, invited human 
rights activists Helen Mack, Frank LaRue, and Orlando Blanco 
to join him on January 16 to present the proposal for a 
UN-OAS led commission to investigate clandestine groups.  The 
Ambassador, with other members of the diplomatic and NGO 
communities, and press, were in attendance and received the 
announcement with enthusiasm and support. 
 
3. (U) Morales began the press conference by calling on the 
Government of Guatemala to listen to the human rights groups 
leading the call for this commission.  He said the "moment 
has come" for the GOG to recognize that there will be no 
peace in Guatemala until clandestine groups are removed from 
their positions of power.  Morales requested that the 
President and the Congress authorize a request to the UN 
creating the commission. 
 
4. (U) Maria Eugenia Morales de Sierra then gave details from 
the proposal, including a six-month period of investigation, 
the composition of the investigative team (one UN member, one 
OAS member, and one notable Guatemalan nominated by the 
President), and the scope (from January 1996 to the present). 
 Morales de Sierra also mentioned that the findings of the 
commission could possibly be used to remove the influence of 
these groups from the government as well as in prosecutions 
by the Public Ministry. 
 
5. (U) The press appeared initially stunned by the weight of 
this announcement, and had many questions for the Ombudsman. 
Members of the press asked what the GOG's, UN's, and OAS's 
responses were, to which Morales replied that he had not yet 
received any official responses.  The press also asked why 
they had not heard anything about this proposal before, and 
Morales said that they were being careful because the 
existence of clandestine groups is such a grave, but 
sensitive, issue. 
 
6. (U) LaRue chimed in with thanks for the Ombudsman and a 
brief explanation that this commission would be carrying on 
the work of previous investigative commissions, but also 
would work to end the current cycle of impunity that 
endangers human rights and justice advocates in Guatemala 
today.  Contradicting Morales, LaRue (and later Mack) also 
said that while the human rights movement would welcome the 
congress's ratification of the proposal, only the President's 
request is necessary for the international community's 
acceptance and formation of the commission. 
 
7. (U) Mack said UN and OAS involvement would protect the 
work of the commission. Mack maintained that clandestine 
groups are powerful mutations of war era power structures and 
must be removed if Guatemala is ever going to progress. 
Blanco said that he is worried about the way in which 
clandestine groups influence weak democratic institutions. 
 
8. (U) The Ambassador informed Mario Polanco, Helen Mack and 
Frank LaRue of his lobbying efforts in support of the 
proposal with the government and private sector (Ref B), for 
which they expressed appreciation.  Polanco told HROff that 
the human rights community was pleased by how strong a 
backing the Ambassador was giving this initiative.  Polanco 
and Blanco both told HROff that they see the USG as their 
primary ally in the fight against clandestine groups. 
 
-------- 
Reaction 
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9. (U) Leading dailies gave prominent coverage to the press 
conference in their January 17 editions.  El Periodico and 
Prensa Libre carried the Ambassador's statements and Prensa 
Libre featured front-page pictures of the Ambassador shaking 
Morales' hand.  Siglo Veintiuno showed the Ambassador shaking 
Mack and LaRue's hands in a front-page photo. 
 
10. (U) The Ambassador was quoted by El Periodico supporting 
the proposal: 
 
"I hope that the government gives its firm backing to this 
proposal for a commission to investigate clandestine groups. 
I think it is a terrific initiative that can make a 
tremendous contribution." 
 
11. (U) Comment: The press conference was a great success, 
generating attention and public support for the proposal. 
Although the USG is not providing financial support at this 
time, our moral support is clearly most welcome.  However, 
some fundamental details, such as the GOG response and role 
remain unclear.  While the proposal came from civil society, 
the Ombudsman showed leadership by adding his public support 
and imprimatur.  We will continue to look for ways to support 
the proposal through our public and private diplomacy.  End 
Comment. 
Hamilton 

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