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Violence Breaks Out in Guatemala; Army Fights Leftist Guerrillas

October 11, 1993

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ One man was killed and two severely beaten, including a journalist, in what appeared to be the worst outbreak of political violence in Guatemala in four years.

The attacks, bearing the marks of rightist death-squads linked to the military, came as the government seeks international support for a peace plan to end its 30-year-old war with leftist rebels.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Guatemala has a number of so-called death squads accused of assassinating leftists.

One such group, the little-known Roberto Lorenzena Anti-Communist Movement, issued death threats over the weekend to 20 people, including five journalists and a number of human rights activists and labor leaders.

The threats were contained in leaflets distributed to the public here.

The rightist military ruled this Central American nation for 30 years until turning power over to civilians in 1986. It still holds power from behind the scenes and many killings by soldiers and right-wing death squads have gone unpunished.

In the latest attacks:

-Armed men dragged a man and his wife from their home Friday in Santa Cruz in Quiche province, adjoining the Mexican border, a medical examiner at the local hospital said Sunday.

The body of the man, Timoteo Menchu Castro, was found later on the banks of a nearby river, said the examiner, Dr. Flavio Montuvar. His wife, Reina Hernandez, was hospitalized in serious condition.

-A student was found wounded Saturday night in woods in the town of Mixco near the capital, his hands tied behind his back with barbed wire, fire department spokesman Walter Quintanilla said.

Jose Domingo Rax Munoz, 22, an agronomy student at San Carlos University, suffered numerous machete wounds and showed signs of torture, Quintanilla said.

-Oscar Masaya, director of Guatemala’s TV Noticias program and a columnist for the newspaper La Republica, was beaten unconscious by unidentified assailants Friday night as he was getting inside his car in a Guatemala City suburb. Masaya’s name was not on the Lorenzena death list.

The Association of Guatemalan Journalists and other professional groups have condemned the attacks.

Also Saturday, a series of firefights ended between army troops and leftist guerrillas in the western province of San Marcos, the army said.

The army said two soldiers and at least one guerrilla were killed in last week’s fighting.

The fighting began Wednesday when army patrols attacked and dismantled a guerrilla camp near the town of La Reforma, 85 miles west of the capital. A mine exploded in the same area Friday, killing one officer and the rebels escaped, taking with them an unknown number of dead and wounded, the army said.

President Ramiro de Leon Carpio recently enlisted the help of U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to try to jumpstart peace talks.

Talks between rebel and government negotiators have been stalled since August 1992. Some 130,000 people have died in Guatemala’s civil war, the longest running armed conflict in Latin America.

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