San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan Leftists Decry Wave of Political Violence

GUATEMALA CITY – Politically motivated violence has spiked in Guatemala, with opposition leaders decrying the recent murder of four activists or officials belonging to left-of-center organizations.

Eleaza Tebalan, regional coordinator of Encounter for Guatemala, a leftist party in the process of gaining official recognition, was slain recently in the western city of Coatepeque, said Nineth Montenegro, a national congresswoman. She said the unidentified assailants fled the murder scene.

“It is a killing that forms part of a wave of political violence affecting our country,” said the legislator, adding that Tebalan had received prior death threats.

On April 10 in the eastern city of Izabal, gunmen killed Christian Gómez, leader of the youth branch of the Patriotic Party. That came a week-and-half after the slaying in this capital of Roberto Vielman, legal counselor for that party and the former head of the Guatemalan Bar Association.

On April 5, Congressman Mario Pivaral of the center-left National Union for Hope was shot and killed by several unknown assailants outside his party’s offices in southern Guatemala City.

The secretary general of the National Union for Hope, Alvaro Colom, and 12 lawmakers from the party this week requested around-the-clock police protection, citing death threats.

Colom said he will call “a massive demonstration” in the capital to demand that authorities find and punish Pivaral’s assassins. He did not set a date for the protest.

Guatemala’s Interior Minister, Carlos Vielman, admitted that the government “does not have enough police” to provide personal security to all the leftist party members who have reported receiving threats.

The best authorities can do, he said, is provide protection at the National Union for Hope’s headquarters in the capital.

Several prominent members of the party were slain in the violent run-up to Guatemala’s 2003 general elections, with observers attributing those slayings to followers of former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt, then running for President.


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