September 15, 2000

Menchu: Guatemalan Indians no better off  now than under Spanish

                 GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu wrote
                 that the country's Mayan Indians are no better off now they were in the days of
                 Spanish colonialism, in an article published on Guatemala's Independence Day

                 In a scathing essay titled "The Exclusion of Indigenous People Did Not End with
                 Independence," the 1992 Nobel Laureate wrote that it's "a lie" to say that
                 Guatemalans got their liberty after Guatemala gained independence from Spain.

                 Independence in 1821 meant only "liberty for the new dominant class formed
                 during past centuries ... who came to replace the Spanish in exploitation of
                 indigenous people," Menchu wrote in an essay for the newspaper Siglo Veintiuno.

                 Guatemala has one of the world's most heavily-Indian populations. Some 60
                 percent of Guatemalans come from one of this country's 23 different Indian

                 But Mayans have traditionally been the lowest-paid and most excluded member of

                 They also suffered the most from the country's 36-year civil war, which pitted
                 hardline state forces against leftist Indian groups for 36-years.

                 The brutal conflict ended in peace accords in 1996 but not before some 200,000
                 people, mostly Indian peasants, had been killed during ruthless government
                 counterinsurgency campaigns.

                 "I can't say that nothing has changed, of course there have been important
                 change," she wrote. "However, a society structured to exclude and spread
                 injustice against Indians still remains."

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.