Guatemala City Archbishop Vian, critic of graft, dies at 70

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Oscar Julio Vian, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Guatemala City and an outspoken critic of corruption in the Central American nation, died Saturday after battling cancer for months. He was 70.

Auxiliary Bishop Raul Martinez said at a news conference that Vian’s death in the early morning had been reported to the Vatican. In the last week, the archdiocese had announced that his condition had worsened.

Guatemala has seen a string of graft scandals implicating a number of top officials in recent years, and Vian was particularly vocal in accusing the corrupt of being bad citizens and demanding justice.

Last year he opposed changes to the penal code made by lawmakers seeking to protect themselves from accusations of illegal campaign financing, and he demanded that corrupt officials “return everything that was stolen.”

Born on Oct. 18, 1947, Vian was educated in Guatemala, El Salvador and Rome.

He was ordained as a priest in 1976, and he was named bishop in the northern Guatemalan department of Peten in 1996.

He also taught in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama.

Thousands of people went to the Metropolitan Cathedral in central Guatemala City to pay tribute to Vian, whose body was brought there for a wake. He was to be interred Tuesday in the cathedral’s crypt.

Among those paying their respects was Ivan Velasquez, head of a U.N.-sponsored commission investigating corruption in the country.

Other top officials expressed their condolences, and President Jimmy Morales’ government declared three days of national mourning.