Guatemalan peace promises reform

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    KATRINA GULSTA

    Guatemalan leaders announced last week an agreement to end Latin America’s longest civil war. The peace accord, to be signed Dec. 29, is to address problems of poverty and land ownership that started the war over 35 years ago.

    The accord puts “a final period” to a war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives, said President Alvaro Arzu to an applauding summit of Ibero-American presidents meeting in Vina Del Mar, Chile. The Guatemalan guerrillas and the United Nations moderator confirmed that a consensus had been reached on demobilization of the rebels.

    “This starts a new era in the history of our country,” guerrilla commander Rolando Moran said in a news conference in Mexico City.

    The agreement is supposed to strengthen guarantees of human rights, especially for Guatemala’s Indians who have been said to suffer the most from the conflict.

    “There has been a lot of oppression in Guatemala. The people in the city have not really been affected by the war, but the poor have,” said Wendy Gucman, a Guatemalan exchange student at UVSC. Gucman worked for the Guatemalan Armed Forces as a translator and saw some of the peace documents.

    Gucman said the city has been peaceful since the last democratic presidency began and the fighting was centralized in the villages.

    Prominent Guatemalan military leaders commented that the armed forces are much more powerful than the guerrilla forces, Gucman said. “The comments from the military people is that the guerrilla is very weak militarily.”

    The agreement will also reform the government. The power, which is now dominated by the president, will be distributed to the congress and the courts, which are to be cleansed of corruption.

    The peace accord is not the answer to Guatemala’s problems, Gucman said. “All the violence that began because of the poverty is not going to stop just because of a peace contract. The only thing that will stop it is if the United States or the United Nations is watching over our country.”

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