Guatemalan Plan to Halt Death Penalty Pleases Pope

GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 31, 2002 ( John Paul II is pleased by the Guatemalan president’s proposal to abolish the death penalty, says Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

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«The Pope expressed his pleasure over the Guatemalan president’s decision,» Navarro-Valls told reporters, who asked about papal reaction to Alfonso Portillo’s announcement to suspend the execution of condemned prisoners and to introduce legislation to abolish capital punishment.

On Monday, before the Pope’s arrival in Guatemala, President Portillo announced that he would suspend the execution of 36 prisoners condemned to death.

The same day, the government presented a draft law in Congress for abolition, which will be voted on within the next few days. The death sentence of the 36 prisoners could be commuted to 50-year prison terms.

When Portillo first came to power, he ordered the execution of two prisoners, who were condemned to death for kidnapping and killing a businessman. Both were executed by lethal injection in June 2000.

Last Saturday, the Guatemalan chief executive said that «the application of the death penalty was not dissuasive and did not succeed in diminishing violence.»

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