The Miami Herald
March 14, 1999
Guatemala rebels apologize for abuses during civil war

             GUATEMALA CITY -- (AP) -- Guatemala's former leftist rebel army has
             apologized for the abuses it committed during the country's 36-year civil war.

             ``With profound pain and humbleness we ask for forgiveness from the memory of
             the victims, their families and communities . . . for any kind of excesses,'' said
             Jorge Ismael Soto, who led the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity, said
             Friday, reading from a prepared statement.

             Latin America's longest-running civil war, which ended with a December 1996
             peace treaty between the government and leftist rebels, left 150,000 dead and
             50,000 people missing.

             The country's truth commission issued a report last month that blamed the
             Guatemalan army for the vast majority of the deaths.

             The commission, which seeks to bring reconciliation to a country split since a
             U.S.-backed coup put rightists in power in 1954, has asked both sides to

             The rebel apology came two days after President Clinton, during a visit to
             Guatemala, acknowledged the U.S. role in Central America's ``dark and painful
             period'' of civil wars and repression.

             The former rebels' statement said ``we assume our responsibility for situations
             which, by lack of foresight, or error, got out of control.''

             The army has not apologized nor issued a report on its alleged role in the killings,
             which largely targeted Indian communities accused of being sympathetic to the

             In cases where evidence of army involvement was overwhelming, the army has
             denied that the massacres were part of its counterinsurgency campaign, arguing
             they were the acts of rogue officers.


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