December 10, 2001

Guatemala's president apologizes for massacre

                 GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (AP) -- Guatemala's president issued a
                 public apology Monday for the military's massacre of more than 200 peasants
                 19 years ago, but the victims said they won't be truly satisfied until those
                 found responsible are brought to justice.

                 "As a gesture that I hope will contribute to the healing of Guatemalans who
                 suffered the horrors of the armed confrontation ... I humbly ask forgiveness of all
                 of the victims, in the name of the government," President Alfonso Portillo said at a
                 ceremony to award victims financial compensation.

                 "Economic compensation ... is a good step but it's not the only one," said Felicita
                 Romero, one of the survivors of the massacre. "What would help not only the
                 victims' families, but all of Guatemala's people, is justice."

                 At least 225 people were killed between December 6-8, 1982, in a small town in the
                 northern region of El Peten, nearly 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Guatemala

                 A truth commission established after Guatemala's 36-year civil war ended in 1996
                 concluded that a group of 58 military soldiers were responsible for the massacre.

                 Some of the victims died from gunshots and blows to the head while others were
                 thrown still alive onto the bodies of relatives buried in mass graves.

                 The victims' families received reparations of dlrs 10,000 to 50,000.

                 But Maria Pulido, a representative of the Inter American Human Rights
                 Commission, agreed with Romero that "it is fundamental that the legal process
                 against those responsible be concluded."

                 "Only with their punishment can a full reparation be mad e for the damage the
                 victims suffered," Pulido said.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.