Letter to BBC Mundo

There was an interesting article on BBC Mundo the other day, about a compensation programme set up by the Guatemalan government. While this was of interest in its own right, a paragraph near the end of the article stopped me in my tracks.

It read:

El conflicto armado en Guatemala llegó a su fin en diciembre de 1996 con la firma de acuerdos de paz entre el Gobierno y los rebeldes. Se calcula que hubo 250.000 víctimas de violaciones a los derechos humanos, incluyendo 45.000 desapariciones.

I sent the following:

On your website you describe the armed conflict in terms of human rights’ violations. As you will agree, a violation of human rights can involve anything from murder to a lack of basic shelter or food.

With regard to Guatemala, the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) was established on 23 June 1994, in order to clarify with objectivity, equity and impartiality, the human rights violations and acts of violence connected with the armed confrontation that caused suffering among the Guatemalan people.

Its report estimates that the number of displaced persons varies from 500,000 to a million and a half people in the most intense period from 1981 to 1983, including those who were displaced internally and those who were obliged to seek refuge abroad.

The CEH also estimates that the number of persons killed or disappeared as a result of the fratricidal confrontation reached a total of over 200,000. This contrasts markedly with your assertion of 250,000 human rights’ violations. The United Nations has described the violence as genocide and it is unworthy to simply describe what happened as human rights’ violations.

I look forward to seeing greater clarity in the reporting on Guatemala.

I await their reply.

Categories: Culture, UK Press Review

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