UNCLAS GUATEMALA 002635
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL PINS GT OAS
SUBJECT: RIGOBERTA MENCHU HARASSED BY FRG SUPPORTERS
Â¶1. Summary: Nobel Peace Prize winner and indigenous rights
activist Rigoberta Menchu Tum was harassed by supporters of
FRG presidential candidate Efrain Rios Montt inside the
Constitutional Court building on October 9. Although she was
not harmed, Menchu still sounded shaken by the incident early
on October 10, when Ambassador called to express his concern
and sympathy. Menchu thanked the Ambassador for his call and
said she would shortly hold a press conference and file a
legal complaint with authorities. End Summary.
Â¶2. Menchu and the FRG supporters, who reportedly included
some FRG Congressional deputies and officers from the
Ministry of Finance, were at the Constitutional Court to
observe proceedings in the appeal by 34 members of the Bar
Association against the Court's order prohibiting
consideration of any legal appeal of its decision to permit
Rios Montt to contest the presidency.
Â¶3. According to press reports, confirmed as accurate by the
Rigoberta Menchu Foundation, Menchu arrived around noon in
the hearing room, in time to hear a representative of the
Attorney General's Office make a statement in favor of Rios
Montt's inscription as a candidate. Approximately 200
supporters of Rios Montt erupted in jubilation at the
statement, and began to shout insults and threats at Menchu,
a prominent opponent of the FRG who filed a genocide case
against Rios Montt in Spain. The FRG supporters blocked the
single exit to the building for 30 minutes to an hour.
Menchu was reportedly jostled, pushed and spat on by some of
the FRG supporters, but suffered no physical injury. Police
were notably absent from the building during this time.
Menchu was able to leave the building after OAS observers and
the Human Rights Ombudsman arrived to escort her.
Â¶4. The Ambassador called Menchu in the morning of October 10
to express his concern for her safety and his sympathy for
her following the abusive treatment she received. Still
sounding shaken, Menchu thanked the Ambassador and described
the incident as "ugly" and her attempts to calm the
situation. She said she would hold a press conference at the
Ombudsman's office and would file a complaint with the Public
Ministry later that morning.
Â¶5. Comment: Menchu normally lives in self-imposed exile from
Guatemala in Mexico, for security reasons, although her
foundation has an office here. Since Rios Montt's candidacy
was ruled valid in July, Menchu has been at the forefront of
efforts by civil society to protest his candidacy. In doing
so, Menchu is at high risk of threats to her safety. The
Ambassador's call was intended to prevent further incidents
by showing USG concern and interest in Menchu's safety.