Guatemala Weighs Abolishing Death Penalty

In Honor of John Paul II

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GUATEMALA CITY, APRIL 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Guatemalan government is considering a proposal to abolish the death penalty “as a tribute” to John Paul II.

The initiative of President Oscar Berger, which must now go to Congress, has divided the country’s politicians.

Opposition deputy Jorge Soto of the New Nation Alliance said Tuesday that capital punishment must be abolished in Guatemala so that the country will not be left behind in the area of human rights. The leftist Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union also favors the abolition of the death penalty.

However, the leader of the Patriotic Party, retired general Otto Pérez, said that capital punishment might dissuade criminals provided that it is applied.

Deputy Mario Taracena of the opposition’s National Progressive Party, and Edgar Rodríguez of the National Union of Hope, also favored retaining the death penalty, as they do not think it is the appropriate moment to abolish it.

The decision to abolish capital punishment as a tribute to the late Pope was announced April 6 in Rome by President Berger of the Grand National Alliance, which has 45 out of a total of 158 seats in Congress.

According to Berger, the death penalty, applied in his country by lethal injection, must be abolished because it has not served to resolve the problem of crime.

“Guatemala can attack crime through the eradication of poverty, which affects eight out of 10 people, by giving greater opportunities and being more solidaristic,” he said.

At present, 36 people have been sentenced to death in this country of 14.2 million, the majority for murders and kidnappings. The abolition of the death penalty must be approved by 80 of Guatemala’s 158 deputies when the initiative goes to Congress.

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ZENIT Staff

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