May 11, 2000

Guatemalan military releases files on 650,000 citizens

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- The Guatemalan military collected files on
                  more than 650,000 people suspected of posing a danger, officials from the
                  Secretariat of Strategic Analysis confirmed Thursday.

                  The 650,428 files, which span at least two decades, were released on
                  Thursday morning.

                  Lines formed at the office of the government Guatemalan human rights
                  prosecutor and grew throughout the day as people arrived to find if their names
                  were included in an index thicker than the Guatemala City telephone book.

                  Those who found their names were allowed to peer at the computerized data on
                  one of three computer monitors at the rights prosecutor's office.

                  Among those names included in the formerly secret archives is that of Roman
                  Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi, who was beaten to death in 1998 two days after
                  issuing a report that blamed the military in the overwhelming majority of the
                  200,000 civilian deaths in Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

                  Also listed is Helen Mack, who began a human rights organization after her sister
                  was killed by soldiers in 1990 while doing anthropological research among civil
                  war refugees.

                  The undated entries in the index feature simply a name, date of birth and a coded
                  description consisting of either a number or the last name of another person.

                  Guatemala's prosecutor for human rights, Julio Arango Escobar, said the files
                  had been turned over to state prosecutors and officials at the United Nations
                  Mission to Guatemala several weeks ago to "determine whether keeping such
                  information is a crime."

                  "This demonstrates the control of the army enjoyed over civil society," Escobar
                  said. "These are very complete lists for a small country like Guatemala."

                  According to the Strategy Secretary analysis of its own files, only about 127,500
                  of the Guatemalans listed were known to be affiliated with a high-profile human
                  rights organization or leftist political party.