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Guatemala: Dismantle the Estado Mayor Presidencial


Guatemala: Dismantle the Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP)

Guatemala: Amnesty International Targets Guatemalan Intelligence Agency with Blood on Its Hands Flash Animation is First on Portillo's de facto Death Squad

(New York) - Amnesty International (AI) today is releasing the first Internet "flash" movie addressing a Guatemalan military outfit that operates as a squad of spies and assassins and has a long history of human rights abuses. While Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo has promised to dismantle the EMP (Estado Mayor Presidencial)-his Presidential General Staff-he not only continues to fund the unit, but has consistently increased its budget by millions of dollars annually since he was elected to office.

"Amnesty International is prepared to wield all tools at our disposal to get rid of the travesty known as the EMP," remarked Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. "As their budget increases, so the human rights community must respond with increased scrutiny and resources-including using the power of the Internet-in order to prevent the EMP from further terrorizing Guatemalan citizens. We also must make sure that the Portillo administration really cleans the intelligence-gathering house and doesn't just sweep this one unit under the rug."

AI is utilizing the two and a half-minute Internet flash animation piece as part of a wider action to put pressure on the Portillo administration to eliminate the EMP by the end of October 2003, the most recent date proposed by Portillo. The dismantling of the EMP was a central recommendation of the Peace Accords signed in 1996 and has been a key concern of Guatemala's human rights movement and of the international community since then. Its abolition was also recommended by Guatemala's donor countries and institutions, known collectively as the Consultative Group, during their recent meeting on May 13-14 in Guatemala City. The organization also is calling on the president to work for passage of specific legislation that would subject all military intelligence structures to oversight and ensure their accountability.

As part of an international campaign, the International Secretariat and the US section of Amnesty International (AIUSA) are jointly releasing the document, Guatemala: Accountable Intelligence or Recycled Repression? Abolition of the EMP and Effective Intelligence Reform and the flash animation, available on their respective websites. These materials document the history of the EMP and its long-term abuses of power. They are available in both English and Spanish.

The EMP has committed countless heinous human rights violations since it was formed in the early 1980s. Among human rights crimes suspected to be linked to the EMP are the 1990 murder of internationally known social scientist Myrna Mack, the 1994 murder of Constitutional Court President Eduardo Epaminondas González Dubón, and the 1998 murder of Catholic Bishop Juan José Gerardi. EMP "members" have also manipulated evidence, threatened and even killed witnesses in ongoing judicial proceedings for these and other human rights cases.

Portillo has promised every year since his January 2000 inauguration to dismantle the notorious EMP, as required under the Peace Accords signed by the Government in 1996. But as of mid-2003, just over 200 of the EMP's 650 members have been transferred from the EMP into service and administrative positions. These transfers have not included the EMP's notorious military specialists.

"To date, Portillo's promises have not been fulfilled. They are an insult to the memory of some of Guatemala's most courageous human rights defenders ," said Eric L. Olson, Americas Advocacy Director for AIUSA. "Unless he acts soon he will be leaving nothing but a legacy of impunity in Guatemala."

Even while the EMP is apparently losing staff, it is increasing its budget. After Portillo took office, the EMP's budget increased nearly 50% from approximately $15 million in 2000, to $21.9 million in 2001. In 2002, the EMP's expenditures increased nearly 140% from the congressional authorization of $8.4 million to just over $20 million.

"Portillo has promised to do away with his special unit by October 2003," said Ignacio Saiz, Deputy Director of the Americas Program at the International Secretariat. "We challenge him and his government to deliver on this promise - after several years of equivocating - and to go one better and make good on his word by Guatemala's Independence Day in September. It would be a fitting way to celebrate and honor Guatemala and a clear move toward long-term peace and political stability."

View the flash animation at: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa9TyaaYxFFbb0hPub/

Take action! Urge Guatemala's President to Abolish the Estado Mayor Presidencial: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa9TyaaYxFGbb0hPub/

Further information on Guatemala: http://amnesty-news.c.tclk.net/maaa9TyaaYxFHbb0hPub/

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