- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Reform in Guatemala

Guatemalan Ambassador Antonio Arenales believes his government is demonstrating its commitment to human rights by working to solve the killing of Myrna Mack, one of the highest-profile assassinations in the country's bloody history of civil strife.

"We hope the international community will judge Guatemala not by its past but by its actions here today," Mr. Arenales said last week, shortly after Guatemala accepted responsibility for the killing in a letter to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

He said the government of President Antonio Portillo, who was elected in 1999, accepts "full institutional responsibility" for the slaying of Miss Mack, who was killed in 1990 by a military death squad because of her work with indigenous Mayan Indians.

"The government of Guatemala has accepted full responsibility for seeking justice in the Myrna Mack … case. Our intent is to bring the perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice and bring relief to the long-suffering members of the … family," Mr. Arenales said.

"The Portillo administration is determined to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala and to also provide security for all its citizens."

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Edgar Gutierrez last week met with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to inform it of the government's decision to admit its role in the slaying.

Guatemala also asked the court to speed procedures so it can prepare reparations for the family. The pending case is based on a criminal complaint filed by Miss Mack's sister, Helen, charging that the Guatemalan government conspired to kill Miss Mack and then cover up the crime.

Peace talks between the government and several rebel groups began in the mid-1990s, after 36 years of conflict and 200,000 deaths.

Terror in South America

U.S. ambassadors in South America are raising alarms about terrorism spreading throughout the continent.

Charles Shapiro, the ambassador to Venezuela, relayed his concerns last week to Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel.

"I don't want to accuse anybody, but we are on alert," Mr. Shapiro told reporters in Caracas. "We are ready to collaborate with the Venezuelan government to seek out terrorism that may exist in this country."

He said he also discussed "the possible and very probable war against Iraq" in his meeting with Mr. Rangel.

Earlier last week, Gen. James Hill, head of the U.S. Southern Command, said the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah is operating in border areas of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and on Venezuela's Margarita Island. Colombia also has accused Venezuela of allowing Colombian guerrillas to use its territory, a charge Venezuela has strongly denied.

In Ecuador, Ambassador Kristie Kenney urged the government to control its 400-mile border with Colombia to stop drug trafficking and guerrilla activities.

She also urged Ecuador to denounce the rebels, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as terrorists.

The kidnappings of three American civilians and execution of one last month "demonstrates that they are terrorists," the ambassador told Ecuador's El Universal newspaper.

"Neighboring countries should help [Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe and Colombia label the FARC as what they are," she said, referring to the rebels by their Spanish initials.

The ambassador said Ecuador also can help by patrolling its border and "not leaving open escape routes for the guerrillas and drug traffickers," who often work together.

New envoys nominated

President Bush has selected professional diplomats to serve as ambassadors to Croatia and Kenya.

Ralph Frank, director of the State Department's Office of Career Development, is slated to go to Croatia. Mr. Frank is a former ambassador to Nepal and has served in Indonesia, Poland and Yugoslavia. He is also a former deputy assistant secretary of state for personnel, administration and diplomatic security.

William Bellamy, principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the African bureau, was tapped for the assignment in Kenya. Mr. Bellamy is a former deputy chief of mission in Australia and has served as political officer in Paris and South Africa.

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