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DATE=5/16/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-249442 TITLE=GUATEMALA REFERENDUM (L-O) BYLINE=GUATEMALA REFERENDUM DATELINE=MEXICO CITY CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: IN GUATEMALA, A NATIONAL REFERENDUM IS BEING (WAS) HELD (SUNDAY) ON A PACKAGE OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS THAT WOULD -- AMONG OTHER THINGS -- STRENGTHEN THE JUDICIARY, PROFESSIONALIZE THE ARMED FORCES AND GRANT SPECIAL RIGHTS TO THE INDIGENOUS MAYAN INDIAN MAJORITY. V-O-A'S GREG FLAKUS HAS MORE FROM OUR MEXICO CITY BUREAU. TEXT: AMONG THE PROPOSALS INCLUDED IN THE REFORM PACKET ARE MEASURES TO ENSURE THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, STRENGTHEN CIVILIAN CONTROL OVER THE POLICE, AND PROVIDE FIRM FUNDING FOR THE JUDICIARY. THE REFORMS WOULD ALSO MODERNIZE AND PROFESSIONALIZE THE ARMED FORCES AND LIMIT THE POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT. THE CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS IN THE REFERENDUM WERE APPROVED BY THE GUATEMALAN CONGRESS AS PART OF THE EFFORT TO COMPLY WITH THE 1996 PEACE ACCORDS THAT ENDED A 36-YEAR-LONG CIVIL CONFLICT. DURING THAT WAR, SOME 200-THOUSAND PEOPLE DIED -- MOSTLY IN THE MAYAN INDIAN COMMUNITIES OF GUATEMALA'S RURAL MOUNTAINS. A RECENTLY RELEASED TRUTH COMMISSION REPORT BLAMED THE ARMED FORCES FOR MOST OF THE KILLINGS AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, BUT ALSO SAID LEFTIST GUERRILLAS WERE GUILTY OF MANY RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. REFORM ADVOCATES SAY PASSAGE WILL HELP GUATEMALA HEAL ITS WOUNDS AND WORK TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE. THEY SAY THE SPECIAL PRIVILEGES GRANTED TO THE NATION'S INDIAN PEOPLES UNDER THE REFORM PROPOSALS WOULD HELP COUNTER THE INJUSTICE PERPETRATED AGAINST THE INDIGENOUS POPULATION EVER SINCE THE SPANISH CONQUEST MORE THAN 450 YEARS AGO. OPPONENTS, HOWEVER, SAY THAT THESE MEASURES WOULD DIVIDE THE NATION AND PROVIDE GROUNDS FOR REVERSE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST NON-INDIAN CITIZENS. AMONG THE PROPOSALS IS ONE WHICH WOULD MAKE IT NECESSARY FOR CONGRESS TO CONSULT THE PEOPLE OF GUATEMALA'S 24 INDIAN GROUPS BEFORE PASSING ANY LAW THAT WOULD AFFECT THEM. OTHER MEASURES WOULD GIVE SPECIAL PROTECTION TO LANDS CONSIDERED SACRED BY THE INDIANS AND REQUIRE THE USE OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES IN EDUCATION, SOCIAL SERVICES AND GOVERNMENT NOTICES. (SIGNED). NEB/GF/JO 16-May-99 2:58 PM EDT (1858 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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