December 17, 1998

Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu responds to allegations

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta
                  Menchu, accused of distorting her autobiography, said in remarks published
                  Thursday she would "defend the book to the death."

                  The Guatemalan Indian, quoted in the newspaper Nuesto Diario, called the
                  criticisms of her book "political provocations by academics ... to try to
                  discredit me."

                  But she did not directly respond to specific claims raised by U.S.
                  anthropologist David Stoll that her book, "I, Rigoberta Menchu" contained
                  fabricated stories about her life and racist oppression in her country.

                  The New York Times, which reported Stoll's findings Tuesday, said a Times
                  reporter also conducted interviews in Guatemala that contradicted Menchu's
                  account in her 1983 book.

                  In her first comments on the allegations, Menchu accused her critics, saying:
                  "What they are trying to do is erase the historical memory of all of the victims
                  and the blood of all the Guatemalans."

                  "None of my accusers was (there) to see the suffering through which we
                  passed," she said.

                  Stoll has published academic articles about government repression of
                  Guatemalan Indians. He insisted on Tuesday that he was "not attacking the
                  laureate herself, but a story that did serve a useful purpose at one time."

                  Stoll asserts that Menchu's book inaccurately said she had no formal
                  education, that she watched a younger brother starve to death and witnessed
                  the execution-by-burning of another brother.

                  Stoll said witnesses told him the younger brother never existed and that
                  Menchu had attended two private boarding schools on scholarships. A land
                  dispute central to the book was a family quarrel, they said, not a fight against
                  rich landowners of European descent.

                  But he said the book might be justified because "it was a crisis situation and
                  she wouldn't have gotten the attention that she did had she told her own
                  story, or if she said 'These are things I've heard have happened to other

                  Menchu's book helped her to become an internationally acclaimed
                  spokeswoman for the rights of indigenous people.

                  The Nobel committee has said it is not concerned about the allegations and,
                  in any case, there is no provision to revoke the award.

                  An Guatemalan Indian congresswoman, Rosalina Tuyuc, charged that the
                  criticism of Menchu's book was "racist."

                  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.