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Bishop Ramazzini in Danger: Assassination Plot in Guatemala

A friend of the Houston Catholic Worker is in danger in Guatemala. Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, who collaborated with us in the development of Houses of Hospitality for immigrants and refugees in Tecun Uman, in his Diocese next to the Mexican border, has received very serious death threats again in his home country. Bishop Ramazzini has stood with the poorest of the poor, the landless peasants, so many of whom live in his Diocese of San Marcos.

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA is gravely concerned about the failed plan to assassinate Bishop Rama-zzini. While the exact plan of the assassination remains un-clear, the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office made public the existence of such a plan that was reported by a former State intelligence officer and confirmed by governmental officials. According to the Catholic Church’s Land Pastoral, the intelligence officer reported the plan by way of a video in which he revealed that an anonymous woman offered him $50,000 to assassinate Ramazzini, and that she was already familiar with Ramazzini’s daily schedule and whereabouts.

The discovery of this assassination plan follows an accusation by President Óscar Berger that Bishop Ramazzini was indirectly responsible for the violence that took place on January 11, in which at least one campesino was shot to death while protesting the passage of mining equipment through Sololá towards San Marcos. Berger stated that the bishop as an “authentic leader” should have been able to calm the protesting campesinos.

Bishop Ramazzini is an internationally recognized human rights activist who advocates for the poor and marginalized of Guatemala, in particular, campesinos, immi-grants, and the landless. In his fight against poverty, Bishop Ramazzini plays a fundamental role in developing policy to bring about justice and equality in the land problem in Guatemala and in promoting a rural development strategy. Along with other bishops he also played a pivotal role in the 1996 Peace Accords, and he is active with the promotion of the Recovery of Historical Memory Project in San Marcos (REMHI). The REMHI report found State agents responsible for nearly 90 percent of human rights abuses during Guate-mala’s thirty-six year armed conflict. Two days after the report was released in April of 1998, the coordinator of the project, Bishop Juan Gerardi was bludgeoned to death. Ramazzini is a witness in the Gerardi case in which two military personnel and one priest have been accused of the murder. Recently, the family of another activist working on the REMHI project was attacked in Chimaltenango.

As a result of the attack on January 22, activist Gumercinda Argueta’s two-year-old daughter was strangled to death and his wife severely beaten. In addition, Bishop Ramazzini is the director of the Catholic Church’s Land Pastoral that aims to resolve land conflicts and advocates for more equitable solutions to Guate-mala’s land problem. Bishop Ramazzini and the Land Pastoral have strongly opposed the controversial mining projects in San Marcos where the Canadian mining company, Montaña, and the Guatemalan Government have personal interests. He also opposes the violent eviction in Nueva Linda where seven campesinos and four police officers were killed. In Nueva Linda on August 31, 2004, heavily armed police, military, and plantation security agents violently evicted campesinos who were claiming the land in response to allegations that plantation administration was involved in the kidnapping of campesino leader Héctor Reyes.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible.
-Expressing concern for the life of Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini and urging for police protection;
-Urging a thorough investigation of the assassination plan such that those responsible are brought to justice;
-Asking for the government to investigate the violent eviction at Nueva Linda and the acts of State violence against peaceful protesters at Sololá;
-Calling on the government to take action against humans rights violations including the persecution of human rights defenders, and to seek solutions
to the agrarian issues in part by halting unlawful and violent land evictions.

APPEALS TO: (if a voice answers a fax number, ask, “me puede dar el tono de fax, por favor”) Presidente de la República de Guatemala Licenciado Oscar Berger Perdomo, Casa Presidencial, 6 a. Avenida, 4-18 zona 1, Ciudad de Guatemala GUATEMALA
Email: presidente@scspr.gob.gt
Salutation: Excelentísimo Sr. Presidente/Dear President

Minister of the Interior Carlos Vielmann Ministro de Gobernación, 6a.Avenida 4-64, zona 4, nivel 3, Ciudad de Guatemala GUATEMALA
Fax: 011502 362 0237
Salutation: Senor Ministro/ Dear Minister

Attorney General Juan Luís Florido, Fiscal General
Fiscalía General del Ministerio Público, 8a. Avenida 10-67, Zona 1, Ciudad Guatemala, GUATEMALA
Fax: 011 502 251 2218
Salutation: Estimado Fiscal General/Dear Sir

Embassy of Guatemala
2220 R St. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 745 1908
Email: ambassador@guatemala-embassy.org

Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini
Email: alvaramazzini@itelgua.com

Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA
Email: ghrc-usa@ghrc-usa.org


Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 2, March-April 2005.