March 12, 1999
Guatemala ex-rebels regret errors, blast U.S.

                  GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -- Former leftist guerrilla leaders on Friday
                  added to a recent stream of regrets from all sides of Guatemala's bloody,
                  36-year civil war, formally apologizing for their excesses and mistakes.

                  "With deep sorrow and humbleness we ask for forgiveness from the memory
                  of the victims, their relatives and the communities that suffered irreparable
                  losses, injustices or offenses," Jorge Soto, secretary general of the
                  Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG), former guerrillas now
                  registered as a political party, said at a news conference.

                  A truth commission reported on February 25 the URNG was responsible
                  for three percent of atrocities, including summary executions of their own
                  members accused of treason, during the war, which ended with a peace
                  accord in 1996.

                  The commission blamed the Guatemalan army for 93 percent of the human
                  rights abuses during Central America's longest civil war, in which an
                  estimated 200,000 people died, mostly civilian Mayan Indian peasants,
                  many of them in massacres.

                  The guerrilla regrets came two days after President Bill Clinton, in Central
                  America to view damage from last year's Hurricane Mitch, made an
                  unprecedented apology for the U.S. role in backing the military during the

                  Also, in December, Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu apologized for the
                  government's role in the war and called for a national forgiveness campaign.

                  On Friday, the URNG also blasted the United States for what it called
                  Washington's "ignominious foreign intervention" and accused the Central
                  Intelligence Agency (CIA) of "destroying the democratic system" in

                  The truth commission report released last month concluded that the CIA and
                  U.S. Army advisors were key to state-sponsored genocide committed
                  during the conflict.

                  Dressed in business suits and wearing ties, the former guerrillas said it was
                  time to work toward national reconciliation and to build a Guatemala based
                  on justice, opportunity and racial equality.

                  Soto, formerly known as Commander Pablo Monsanto, pledged that the
                  URNG would observe the truth commission's recommendations to
                  compensate war victims.

                   Copyright 1999 Reuters.