BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Guatemala rights urged
Presidents George W Bush and Alfonso Portillo
US praises President Portillo's focus on human rights
Guatemala is in a "healing process" on human rights matters, President Alfonso Portillo has told US President George Bush on his first official visit to Washington.

Guatemala has faced criticism from human rights groups since the 1996 peace accord that ended the country's 36-year civil war

The country's democracy is fragile and poverty is widespread.

Three human skulls, victims of the civil war
The civil war is over, but the country is still unstable
On Thursday Mr Portillo met the US President for low-key talks in the Oval Office.

"There have been many scars in our country, but we are in a healing process," Mr Portillo said afterwards. "What is most important is the executive is not standing in the middle to hinder the judicial process."

Mr Portillo told reporters he and Mr Bush discussed labour reforms, immigration and improved trade, and Mr Bush expressed support for reforms in Guatemala.

Mr Portillo said he also asked for improved working and living conditions for Guatemalans employed in the US and described the half-hour chat as "very frank and very direct".

Ahead of the meeting, US National Security Council spokeswoman Mary Ellen Countryman praised Mr Portillo for his increased focus on human rights since being elected 18 months ago.

"President Portillo has taken courageous positions on issues that are important to the United States," she said.

'Serious violations'

The Guatemalan president was going on to meet American human rights groups in the afternoon.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has written an open letter to the two presidents, detailing allegations of recent human rights abuses in Guatemala.

Amnesty highlighted abuses "directed against the Guatemalan judiciary, journalists, and human rights workers, both Guatemalan and foreign in the past several months".

Amnesty International said it was "inappropriate" to praise Mr Portillo's human rights record in view of "the recent pattern of serious human rights violations" in Guatemala.

Amnesty wants more protection for human rights workers and the implementation of recommendations made by the Guatemalan Peace Accords and those of the United Nations-sponsored Historical Verification Commission, established under the Accords.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

23 Mar 01 | Americas
Bishop's murder trial begins
12 May 00 | Americas
Guatemala reveals military files
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories