November 14, 2000

Lic. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
Presidente de la Republica de Guatemala
6a. Avenida 'A' 4-18, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, GUATEMALA

Dear President Portillo:

    I write as President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), a professional organization of more than 11,000 anthropologists, to express concern about the safety of those who work for the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation.  The AAA's Committee for Human Rights has brought to our attention actions, of which you may not be aware, that took place in Guatemala and jeopardized the safety and welfare of the Guatemalan Forensic Research Team.

    On October 2, 2000 two heavily armed individuals broke into the offices of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foudation, threatening the individuals working there and stealing a pick-up truck from the Foundation.  This incident seems to have taken place in a period when several other reported attacks against human rights proponents and organizations occured.  I am concerned that the attacks may have been legitimated by recent statements by public officials criticizing the activities of human rights proponents in Guatemala.  The American Anthropological Association requests an investigation into this matter be pressed vigorously to ascertain the facts associated with these attacks and to bring those responsible to justice.

    I am particularly concerned that a wave of attacks against those individuals working to ensure human rights for Guatemalan citizens.  I urge you to take all necessary steps to secure the safety of those involved in legitimate non-governmental and human rights work.  The AAA respectfully requests that your government complete thorough investigations and take appropriate actions as soon as possible.

    Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world's largest organization of men and women interested in anthropology.  Its purposes are to encourage research, promote the public understanding of anthropology, and foster the use of anthropological information in addressing human problems.

Respectfully yours,

Louise Lamphere, Ph.D.

Cc:   Sr. Byron Barrientos, Ministro de Gobernacion, Guatemala
         Dr. Ariel Rivera-Irias, Ambassdor of Guatemala
         Mr. Victor Hugo Godoy Morales, President, 
         Presidential Commission for Human Rights
         Ms. Prudence Bushnell, US Ambassador to Guatemala

Letters Responding to Human Rights Cases
Committee for Human Rights Documents
Committee for Human Rights
AAAGovernment Affairs

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