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Scientists and Human Rights in Guatemala: Report of a Delegation
tations that the military could be brought under civilian control and the violence and human rights abuses would be curtailed and perhaps ended. These expectations were not met. During President Cerezo's 5-year term, several thousand people were victims of disappearances or political killings. Human rights violations continued with impunity at a high level throughout Cerezo's term. In late 1990, a year widely perceived as the most violent under the Cerezo government, the congressionally appointed human rights ombudsman cautioned that the reported numbers of disappearances probably underestimate the problem, since they are based on press reports that do not always cover rural areas and on complaints registered at the ombudsman's office, where reports are limited by fear on the part of many Guatemalans of reporting violations to any government agency.
The current president of Guatemala, Jorge Serrano Elías, took office in January 1991. During his election campaign and in his inaugural address, President Serrano expressed deep concerns about human rights abuses in Guatemala. He committed himself to bring Guatemala "total peace" and to reestablish full respect for human rights. According to government officials and others, some progress has been made in his presidency. For example, peace talks between government representatives and those of the guerrilla insurgency have slowly moved forward. (Negotiations between representatives of the Guatemalan government and the insurgency began in April 1991 in Mexico City. Progress has reportedly been slow, in part, because of the hard line taken by some members of the military. The New York Times recently reported that "the Guatemalan military, which still wields enormous influence over the elected Government of President Jorge Serrano Elías, has been reluctant to cede what it considers to be one of its most effective weapons [the civil defense patrols] against the insurgency."3)
Although progress continues to be frustratingly slow, President Serrano announced on May 23, 1992, that he had accepted a new proposal designed to break a deadlock between the government and the guerrillas on the issue of human rights. In early August a partial agreement was reportedly reached; the Roman Catholic bishop mediating the negotiations, Monsignor Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, called it "a significant step" toward a cease-fire:4
Under the seven-point agreement, the government is to cease organizing and arming peasants to fight the rebels in the patrols "so long as there are no events that motivate it." The condition appeared to mean that the Army would be allowed to set up or arm new patrols in villages where the rebels began serious or persistent attacks. ... Since Guatemalan military Gov-
Tim Golden, "Guatemala Rivals in Rights Accord, Move Toward Ending One of Oldest and Most Violent Wars in Latin America," The New York Times, August 9, 1992, p. 7.