Annan Lauds Guatemala’s Progress
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan lauded Guatemala’s progress toward peace since its civil war ended 1 1/2 years ago, but said more work needs to be done.
``To get the peace to take root, to get a society that has been at war for so long to accept the culture of peace ... you have to work at it. It takes time,″ he said at a news conference Tuesday, ending a 24-hour visit to the Central American country.
Annan said he examined the progress made since a December 1996 peace agreement ended at 36-year civil war, which had left an estimated 200,000 people dead or missing. The United Nations helped negotiate an end to the conflict and has played a major role in overseeing the execution of the peace accords.
Annan’s visit included meetings with President Alvaru Arzu and government officials, leaders of the former guerrillas, church officials, and members of the truth commission.
They ``believe that the Guatemala of today is not the Guatemala of 1996″ and that social, political and economic process has been made, said the U.N. chief.
Many of the obstacles to peace were apparent in the days leading up to Annan’s visit.
Hours before Annan arrived, an Italian priest was wounded as he left a church in the capital. The motive is unknown.
In northern Guatemala, a grenade apparently left over from the war exploded Sunday in a soccer field, killing six children and an adult.
And days earlier, an army colonel was jailed after telling a Radio Netherlands interviewer that the army should recognize its ``excesses″ committed during the war. Rights advocates fear the arrest may discourage soldiers from discussing wartime abuses.
Annan headed Tuesday afternoon to Mexico, the last stop on his five-nation Latin American tour.