12 September 1998
Former Guatemalan rebel leader Ramirez dies

                  GUATEMALA CITY, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Ricardo Ramirez, a rebel leader
                  turned national peacemaker, died on Friday of heart failure, fellow
                  ex-guerrillas said on Saturday.

                  Ramirez, who was also known as Commander Rolando Moran and was one
                  of the four top leaders of Guatemala's former rebel armies, was 67.

                  "His contributions to the revolutionary struggle and the peace process were
                  extremely valuable," fellow rebel leader Jorge Soto, formerly known as
                  Commander Pablo Monsanto, told reporters at a news conference.

                  After spending most of his life in armed rebellion against the state, in the
                  1990s Ramirez became one of the architects of peace in Guatemala.

                  He took a leadership role during five years of peace talks between rebels
                  and the government that led to a December 1996 peace treaty ending
                  Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

                  At the time of his death Ramirez was serving as the secretary general of the
                  political party being formed by the former guerrillas of the Guatemalan
                  National Revolutionary Unit (URNG).

                  Ramirez had tuberculosis as a child, and lost one lung in an operation. On
                  Wednesday he was admitted to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. On
                  Friday night internal bleeding led to the heart attack that killed him at 10 p.m.
                  (0400 GMT Saturday).

                  Ramirez was the son of an army colonel, and joined the rebels in the early
                  '60s after being involved in labour organisations and student revolutionary
                  groups. In 1972 he helped form the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP),
                  which became the largest of Guatemala's four separate rebel armies.

                  Ramirez spoke six languages and lived much of his life in exile, in
                  Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina, where he was
                  briefly jailed for revolutionary activities.

                  In 1982 Ramirez and the commanders of Guatemala's three other rebel
                  armies formed a combined force called the URNG, with a revolutionary
                  platform calling for elimination of repression and land redistribution.

                  Although the rebels were severely weakened by the army's scorched-earth
                  counterinsurgency campaigns of the early 1980s, the war continued into the
                  1990s. The four guerrilla commanders began formal peace talks with the
                  government in 1990.

                  On Dec. 28, 1996, Ramirez and his three fellow commanders were received
                  by an ecstatic crowd of young leftists at Guatemala's international airport in a
                  triumphant return to the country after years of exile.

                  The next day Ramirez gripped the hand of President Alvaro Arzu. Together
                  they saluted crowds of Guatemalans cheering the signing of a peace treaty
                  that contained ambitious government promises to reduce the armed forces,
                  give rebels a limited amnesty and respect the rights of Indians.

                  Arzu visited Ramirez's wife on Saturday morning to pay his respects.
                  Ramirez is also survived by three sons and four grandchildren. Ramirez's
                  casket was scheduled to lie at party headquarters on Saturday. He was to
                  be buried on Monday.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.