Guatemalan Bishops Decline a Mediation Role, for Now

Want Government to Show Improvement First

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GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 27, 2001 ( Guatemala´s bishops have begged off from mediating a “national dialogue,” saying the government has to shape up its policies first.

The bishops´ conference said that it carefully analyzed a request by Guatemalan Vice President Juan Francisco Reyes López to choose a bishop who could moderate a possible national dialogue. The bishops met in an extraordinary session Wednesday to discuss the matter. They gave their answer in an official statement.

After hearing the opinion of “several important sectors of society,” the bishops said that “at the present time, the desired and indispensable circumstances for a fruitful dialogue are lacking; hence, there is no room for any mediation.”

The bishops said they believe that the authorities must first “hear the popular clamor in the different areas of their responsibility.”

“In the first place, it is necessary for the government to show with deeds its willingness to make the administration of public finances transparent, to prioritize expenses and to improve tax collection,” they explained.

“In the second place, the citizens demand that the government elaborate and keep to a plan for the management of public affairs that is known and published,” they added. “Lastly, it is necessary to give back to an anguished and frustrated people a climate of confidence, credibility, security and vision for the future.”

The bishops´ conference also addresses “the citizens, in particular organized civil society,” and requests “that it maintain a peaceful but firm attitude of defense of democratic and constitutional” institutions.

Bishop Victor Hugo Martínez, president of the episcopal conference, told the press that the bishops made the decision unanimously. “We cannot commit ourselves in such a confusing situation,” he said.

The bishops believe the country is facing a serious fiscal crisis, and they said, “it is not clear to us if we were called to be moderators or honorary witnesses.”

Also on Wednesday, Bishop Rodolfo Quezada Toruño became archbishop of Guatemala City — and the country´s primate.

He was appointed last month by John Paul II to succeed Archbishop Próspero Penados, 75, who retired.

Archbishop Quezada Toruño, 69, was a conciliator in the peace process between 1987 and 1993, during the nation´s 36-year civil war. He had been bishop of Zacapa since 1980.

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