Guatemalan Leader Calls for End of Death Penalty

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GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 13, 2001 ( Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo called for the abolition of the death penalty in his country, one of the last in Latin America that continues to enforce capital punishment.

Portillo´s abolitionist stance has wide support among the people and numerous humanitarian associations. But the Italian ANSA agency reports that he has been criticized by leaders of the Guatemalan Republican Front, his own party, and the Businessmen´s Association, who believe it is the most effective tool against rising crime.

Chile abolished the death penalty in May.

Fermin Ramírez, a peasant and prisoner in Guatemala City´s prison, is scheduled to be executed next month for a 1997 murder.

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