GUATEMALAN PEACE TALKS TAKE HOLD
After a year of preliminary talks, Guatemala is embarking on a new phase of peace negotiations to end Central America's longest-running civil war. Leftist rebel leaders and Guatemalan Army officers met for the first time last week and agreed upon a 10-point agenda for future talks. Mediator Monsignor Rodolfo Quezada Toruno called the three-day meeting in a Mexico City hotel a "complete success."
Guatemala's Roman Catholic bishop said both parties had "a clear understanding of the countries principal problems."
The next round is expected late next month. Priority topics are indigenous rights, civil self-defense patrols, and human rights. The majority of Guatemala's population is made up of poor, rural Indians. During the last 30 years, about 100,000 people have been killed in the war and an estimated 40,000 people are listed by human rights groups as "disappeared."
At least 35,000 people have fled to refugee camps just over the border in Mexico. In December, the United States cut off military aid and froze arms sales in response to unchecked human rights abuses widely attributed to the military.
Other points on the agreed upon agenda include constitutional and electoral reforms, demilitarization, agrarian reforms, a cease-fire, and incorporation of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity coalition of four guerrilla groups into the country's political process. The 43,000 member Guatemalan Army is battling a rebel force that has shrunk to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000.
President Jorge Serrano Elias, who took office in January, is a former member of the National Reconciliation commission that initiated the peace dialogue in March 1990.