Disappearance of Guatemalan activist

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 01:51:26 -0400 (EDT)

Dear All,

In 1996, a 36-year civil war between a right-wing military government and leftist guerillas ended. Over 200,000 civilians had been killed, most of them by military forces. Native Mayan people were systematically slaughtered. Like many right-wing Latin American governments of the 1970s and 1980s, the Guatemalan government "disappeared" thousands of people -- kidnapped, tortured, and killed people, while denying any knowledge of their whereabouts. (See Mireya Navarro, "Guatemalan Army Waged `Genocide,' New Report Finds," N.Y. Times, Feb. 26, 1999, A1; Larry Rohter, Searing Indictment, N.Y. Times, Feb. 27, 1999, at A5.)
Even as Guatemala still must heal from violent decades past, that bitter recent past punctured the present earlier this month, on April 7. It appears that for the first time in six years, a Guatemalan -- activist Mayra Gutierrez -- has been disappeared. Concern that the Guatemalan government might be resurrecting the inhumane practice of disappearances is heightened by the composition of the government of Guatemala, namely its president, Alfonso Portillo. Elected in late December 1999 and inaugurated several weeks later, he has close ties General Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala in the early 1980s, during some of the civil war's worst atrocities. (See http://www.ciponline.org/gt991026.htm.)
Below is a letter to the President of Guatemala, asking him to respond to and investigate the disappearance. The original letter is in Spanish. Erika Serran has very kindly translated the letter to English. The translation is immediately below. It is followed by instructions on signing and e-mailing the letter, which are followed by two letters in Spanish. The first reports the disappearance, the second is the letter to the President of Guatemala. Please sign this final letter and e-mail it according to the directions below (to guatemaltecosunidos@onemain.com). And, of course, forward the message along.
If the government of Guatemala is inclined to bring back the policy of disappearances and other human rights abuses, it must know that this time around, the international community will not look the other way. It must know that its attempt to silence dissenting voices will be met with anything but silence.
Please be on the lookout for another e-mail within the next day or so that also links the horrendous human rights abuses of Guatemala's past with a government of the present that seems dangerously more inclined to abuse human rights than to prosecute human rights abusers. That e-mail will involve the murder two years ago of the human rights proponent Bishop Gerardi.
As always, thank you,



"I have only dreams: to build a better world, a world of harmony and understanding, a world in which it is a joy to live. This is not asking for too much." -- Yitzhak Rabin


Mr. Alfonso Portillo
Constitutional President
Republic of Guatemala
National Palace

Mr. President:

Through this medium the Guatemalans that reside abroad want to express our profound consternation over the physical disappearance of professional Mayra Angelina Gutierrez, of whose whereabouts no one has known since April 7 of this year.

In light of the fact that three of Ms. Gutierrez's siblings--Julio Gutierrez Hernandez, Brenda Gutierrez Hernandez and Walter Gutierrez Hernandez--have been disappeared since the decade of the 1980?s, we fear that the disappearance of Mayra Gutierrez marks the resurgence in Guatemala of forced disappearance as an instrument of repression of free expression and political opinion in the country.

It is our most sincere desire that your government could respond to this challenge and take the peremptory measures to give an immediate answer to the clamor for justice that we Guatemalans that live abroad and the international community in general are demanding through this letter. Moreover, we extol to you that this new tragedy that once again afflicts this Guatemalan family be seen as an opportunity in which the State over which you preside can demonstrate that the citizen's security that you promised during your presidential campaign, and during the inauguration of your management, were not mere promises but rather a commitment made to the pueblo of Guatemala and to the international community.

With profound preoccupation and awaiting your immediate response, the undersigned suscribe to you very respectfully.
Ethel Higonnet wrote:
Please see the following urgent action on the disappearance of Guatemalan activist Mayra Angelina Gutierrez.

Hi everyone,

Recently Mayra Angelina Gutierrez, a Guatemalan activist and professor at University of San Carlos, disappeared. There is tremendous concern about this, as I have received several messages about this from different Guatemalan human rights groups. One human rights group noted that her disappearance is the first recorded disappearance in 6 years.

The action here is simple:

1) sign your name and email address (and/or the city where you live), and an organizational affiliation if you wish to the bottom of this list

2) send it back to: guatemaltecosunidos@onemain.com.

It is much appreciated if you can forward this to your own lists of friends and colleagues, and ask them to return a signed copy to this same email address.

I know that not everyone on this list speaks Spanish - briefly, this letter is sent to President Portillo and requests and immediate investigation into Mayra Angelina Gutierrez's disappearance.

- ML

Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 22:00:17 -0700
Subject: URGENTE: guatemalteca desaparecida-peticion de firmas

Estimados Amigos:

La companera universitaria Lic. Mayra Angelina Gutierrez, profesora de la Escuela de Ciencias Psicologicas de la Universidad de San Carlos, desaparecio el dia 7 de abril, sin que hasta la fecha se tenga informacion de su paradero.

Por la participacion activa de Mayra en los movimientos de reivindicacion social se teme que al igual que en el pasado se este atentando contra su integridad.

Solicitamos a ustedes su solidaridad uniendose a nuestra demanda ante las autoridades gubernamentales y organismos publicos de seguridad y justicia de Guatemala, para que se esclarezca de inmediato esta situacion.

Envie este mensaje a tantas personas pueda, agregando su nombre al final de la carta que sera enviada al gobierno de Guatemala.

** FAVOR ENVIAR "CC" A guatemaltecosunidos@onemain.com

** Si lo prefiere, copie la carta e inicie su propia peticion de firmas.



Asociacion de Guatemaltecos Unidos, Oakland, California (miembros de la Coalicion de Inmigrantes Guatemaltecos en EE.UU.-CONGUATE)




Sr. Alfonso Portillo
Presidente Constitucional
Republica de Guatemala
Palacio Nacional

Sr. Presidente

Por este medio los guatemaltecos que residimos en el extranjero, queremos expresar nuestra profunda consternacion por la desaparicion fisica de la profesional, Lic. Mayra Angelina Gutierrez, de quien se ignora su paradero desde el 7 de abril del ano en curso.

En vista de que 3 de los hermanos de la Licda. Gutierres, - Julio Gutierrez Hernandez, Brenda Gutierrez Hernandez y Walter Gutierrez Hernandez-se encuentran desaparecidos desde la decada de los 80?s, tememos que la desaparicion de la Licda. Gutierres marque el resurgimiento en Guatemala de la desaparicion forzada como instrumento de represion a la libre expresion y la opinion politica en el pais.

Es nuestro deseo mas sincero que su gobierno pueda responder a este reto y tome las medidas perentorias para dar respuesta inmediata al clamor de justicia, que los guatemaltecos que vivimos en el extranjero y la comunidad internacional en general, estamos por este medio manifestando. Mas aun, le encomiamos a que esta nueva tragedia que aqueja nuevamente a esta familia guatemalteca, sea vista como una oportunidad el la cual el Estado que Ud. preside, pueda demostrar que la seguridad ciudadana que Ud. prometiera durante su campana presidencial, y durante la inauguracion de su gestion, no fueron simples promesas, sino un compromiso adquirido con el pueblo de Guatemala, y la comunidad internacional.

Con profunda preocupacion y a la espera de su inmediata respuesta, los abajo firmantes nos suscribimos de Ud. muy respetuosamente.

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