A gesture of moral and political greatness

President Álvaro Colom vetoed the law that reinstated the death penalty


Last Friday the 14th, President Álvaro Colom decided to veto a
law passed in February by Congress that reinstate the national President’s right of pardon. This law actually meant reactivating the death penalty, which had been suspended in that country since the year 2000.



“It would be wrong for me to endorse unconstitutionalities,” Colom declared at a press conference held on Friday, March 14, at the Palacio de la Cultura, where he announced his decision.


In his presidential decree he argues that the law passed by Congress violates Article 9 of the Constitution because “with the death penalty we are furthering the tendency towards eliminating human beings from society, while the Constitution stipulates that the penitentiary system must aim towards social rehabilitation.”


The resolution, supported by all the members of the ministerial cabinet, also ruled unconstitutional the 30-day term given to the President to grant a pardon -considered extremely short- and the automatic application of the death penalty in the absence of a declared decision by the President.


“In no country in the world has the death penalty been a mechanism to deter violence. Guatemala cannot isolate itself from the rest of the world, it cannot be the exception,” Colom stressed, and he added: “People were executed by firing squads here, and instead of reducing violence, it only served to increase it. The only way to end violence is by strengthening security agencies and the Judicial Branch, and by achieving peace and social harmony.”


The President admitted to having consulted a large panel of local and international experts before reaching his decision, which he knows “may have political costs.” Surveys reveal that the vast majority of the population is in favor of the death penalty. “But it’s a preference born of desperation,” the President pointed out. “I am not protecting any criminals -he explained-, and these condemned prisoners are certainly criminals, but I have to think of the country’s future, of its international relations, and I have to guarantee the observance of the applicable Conventions that Guatemala is a party to,” he said.


Among these agreements is the American Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the incorporation of the death penalty into the legislation of signatory countries who did not have it prior to ratification. Moreover, just last December 18th, Guatemala voted in favor of a “global moratorium on executions” in the United Nations General Assembly.


“As this country’s head of state I must look ahead, and any execution would compromise our international relations," Colom cautioned, and he stated that there are other penalties that can be applied to the criminals currently awaiting execution. He highlighted the fact that since he took office the murder rate has gone down from 17 to 11.2.


Now, Congress can lift the presidential veto and bring the law into effect again, but to do so it needs a special majority of 158 votes, and in February the initial law was passed with only 140 votes in favor.


In the international community, President Álvaro Colom’s brave decision places him in the category of statesmen. Regardless of political costs, of the accusations hurled by the opposition, and the discontent of a population besieged by criminal violence, the President of Guatemala teaches us all that peace is not just an end, but also the means to that end.


Carlos Amorín
March 18, 2008




PHOTO: casamerica.es

artículos relacionados

26-2-2008   Guatemala
Monstruo de mil cabezas
No a la Pena de Muerte

Rel-UITA | La Insignia
| Sergio Ramírez

22-2-2008   Guatemala

Diputados europeos piden a Guatemala que no restablezca la pena de muerte

21-2-2008   Guatemala
Si aplica la pena capital, Guatemala será denunciada ante la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Con Jair Krischke

| Carlos Amorín

15-2-2008 Guatemala
Por el veto
Ante la pena de muerte
Miguel Ángel Sandoval


Volver a Portada


  UITA - Secretaría Regional Latinoamericana - Montevideo - Uruguay

Wilson Ferreira Aldunate 1229 / 201 - Tel. (598 2) 900 7473 -  902 1048 -  Fax 903 0905