über Rigoberta Menchú
Rigoberta Menchu dedicates Nobel
Prize to her father
[26 Nov 1992, by Charles Knight, New York]
When Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu greeted 2,000 New York supporters
Nov. 17 at Riverside Church, she spoke first in Quiche, an ancient language of
the Mayan people. She greeted the old people first, then the women, children and
men--according to Mayan custom. Switching to Spanish, she then called for the
freedom of Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement leader who has
continued to struggle for native rights during his 16 years in U.S. prisons.
Menchu stopped in New York on her way to Norway to receive the $1.2 million
Nobel Peace Prize. She was a special delegate to the United Nations dedication
of 1993 as "the year of indigenous peoples"--at least one year late,
as she pointed out.
"Now I can go into the UN through the front door," she said with a
grin. "Before I had to enter through the back, and work my way through the
hallways to try and persuade the delegates to care about human rights for
indigenous people. That's why this prize is a victory for us." (...)
"In this moment of excitement the only thing I want is freedom for all
indigenous people wherever they are, throughout America and the rest of the
world," said Menchu.
She has dedicated the prize to her father, Vicente Menchu. He was burned alive
on Jan. 31, 1980, when the Guatemalan police set fire to the Spanish embassy he
and a group of indigenous peasants had seized as a sanctuary. The prize will
allow her to establish the Vicente Menchu Foundation, to support training and
education for indigenous youth.
Menchu has toured the world telling how nearly 50,000 of her people have
disappeared in Guatemala. She used the prize's high visibility to revisit her
country after 11 years' exile in Mexico. "Some would say that peace has
entirely returned to Guatemala, and that is why Miss Menchu has returned to her
country. There is manipulation of this," she emphasized.
[Copyright Workers World Service, NY Transfer News Service, firstname.lastname@example.org]
Menchu‘s Statement to U.N.: Listen more to human rights victims
New York, Nov 18, 1992 (ips) -- Rigoberta Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize
winner, has asked the United Nations to pay more attention to victims of
political repression than to governments of member-states which refuse to
respect human rights.
In a speech delivered during the third U.N. assembly in New York on Tuesday,
Menchu criticised the United Nations for "giving a more positive treatment
to the governments rather than the people who suffer from the consequences of
their repressive policies".
Menchu said the violations are forgotten when a government presents a report to
the U.N. Special Commission on Human Rights, which in turn has not succeeded in
improving the situation in countries where basic rights are not respected.
"There is a big collective responsibility here for thousands of human
rights victims whose number is growing everyday," she said, adding that
U.N. programmes that evaluate human rights have not had positive effects.
She said governments usually hide behind the U.N. programmes to "prevent
more criticisms of their domestic situations".
In the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna next June, the human rights
issue should not be manipulated politically to serve "the purposes of a
country or group of countries", she said.
Menchu also said concrete actions must be taken to help long ignored ethnic
populations during the International Year of Indigenous Peoples which starts on
"I join many others in hoping that the text of the Universal Declaration of
the Indigenous Peoples becomes official in 1993," she said.
But the International Year of the Indigenous Peoples, and the countries that are
pushing for it, are not receiving the attention they merit, she lamented.
"None of the serious issues in Guatemala and many other countries in the
continent could be solved without the full participation of the indigenous
peoples," she stressed.
She said the human rights situation in Guatemala was a "nightmare" not
only because of the big number of deaths and disappearances, but because people
no longer had the right to full democratic participation in political processes.
But the indigenous populations would also require the cooperation of the rest of
society in their fight to get respect for their rights and identity, she added.
Nobel Peace Prize 1992 — A Prize
Full of Hope and Expectations
[By Byron Barillas]
On October 16 1992, Rigoberta Menchú Tum was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was chosen for the prize, the Selection Committee said, "in recognition
of her work for social justice and ethno- cultural reconciliation." Amid
the "large-scale repression of Indian peoples" in Guatemala, she plays
a "prominent part as an advocate of native rights."
The Nobel Prize not only means support for human rights organizations and
defenders of indigenous rights, but also makes a very strong political statement.
The Committee was "aware that this is a somewhat controversial prize",
and had considered the possibility that it might be seen to be honoring an
advocate of armed opposition. The Committee rejected this idea, saying they
thoroughly investigated her career and "it is our clear conclusion that her
long-term goal is peace."
Peace is not yet within reach in Guatemala. The negotiations between the URNG (armed
opposition) and the government are progressing with difficulty. At the same time
human rights violations of all types continue against activists in human rights
and grass-roots organizations. In the first six months of 1992 there were 183
political assassinations, 34 disappeared persons, 86 cases of torture, 25
kidnappings and 322 arbitrary detentions.
The Nobel Prize has created hope and expectations --- and pressure. The hope and
expectation are that the outside world will start paying attention to what is
going on in Guatemala, a country long supported militarily and economically by
the first world. The hope and expectation are that inside the country the
popular movement will have more political space (i.e. less danger!) in which to
promote respect for human rights --- which will increase the pressure for change.
Much attention, internal and international, will be focused on what Rigoberta
Menchú does and says. Rigoberta will be under pressures from different sectors
in Guatemala. The civic organizations (human rights and other organizations
within the popular movement) will want her to participate in the current
political negotiation process and continue representing them in their historic
and current demands.
Both the URNG (armed opposition) and the Government and Army will also try to
make use of, or manipulate Rigoberta to their advantage.
The Nobel Prize has created an ackward situation for the Government and the Army
because an indigenous woman and human rights activist, who had to go in exile
due to military and state repression, received this prestigious prize. Although
they tried to damage the image of Rigoberta Menchú before the award and made
very reserved comments afterwards, they now realize that they have to try to
make the best of the situation.
The government and the army will try to incorporate Rigoberta Menchú into the
process of dialogue and negotations but in a way that will neutralize her or
benefit them. Their goal can be achieved in two ways: manipulate her and damage
her reputation; or, use her as a factor of legitimacy and feasible mediation
between civil society and the government, and between the government and the
Besides the government's efforts to deal with the new reality that Rigoberta won
the Nobel Prize, political repression and intimidation is to be expected on
behalf of paramilitary groups, trying to neutralize popular sectors and persons
linked to Rigoberta and all those who are looking for a solution through civic
activism and political participation.
Nicolas Menchú, 43, says he has received death threats because he is the oldest
brother of Rigoberta. "Members of the 'Voluntary' Civil Patrols have sent
word they want to end the Menchú lineage and will start with the oldest
surviving brother first. I fear for my life", he said. (Miami Herald,
When leaders of the National Coordination of Widows in Guatemala (CONAVIGUA)
attended a religious service for 26 persons whose bodies had just been exhumed
from mass graves in the Department of El Quich, their office in Guatemala City
was illegally searched by the Security Police. The police did not steal anything,
but registered all their documents, among which are denunciations of human
rights violations, testimonies of victims, etc. (fax CONAVIGUA, 23/11/92)
The current situation in Guatemala demands a transformation in Rigoberta's
relation with the different centers of political power and pressure. Her role is
and will be difficult.
The initial responses of Guatemalan civil society and of Rigoberta herself show
that her desires and values correspond with those of civil society. Guatemala is
living a painful transition process, and civic society is suffering the
consequences of the polarization and atomization within society as a whole, and
also within the popular democratic movement itself.
Up till now the civic society, and these organizations, have not, for numerous
reasons, achieved real influence in the political decision-making process of the
Peace Process. If civic society wants to obtain this degree of participation, it
may well be contingent and based on the open presence of Rigoberta inside
Guatemala and on her being an active participant in the promotion and
presentation of viable political alternatives.
This implies a change of role in the civic society's struggle for democracy and
the creation of an organized and broad based social coalition of civil interests.
Given the reality of the majority indigenous population in Guatemala, any person
who wants to assume leadership within the search for unity of a broad-based
civil movement has to reach consensus on certain basic issues - on the
ethno-cultural question, meaning respect and acceptance of the indigenous
peoples and their claims; and on the political question, participation and power
for all sectors of Guatemalan society.
To achieve consensus will imply, on national level, the finding of balance
between all the differing social, economic, ethnic and political interests, that
are compatible with a pluri-ethnical and pluralistic society; and, on a civil
level, to find common points of interest and respect for the differences between
the indigenous and the ladino society.
This, in the opinion of CODEHUCA, is part of the challenge that faces Rigoberta
and Guatemala. We hope that the awarding of the Nobel Prize will focus
sufficient international attention, not only on Rigoberta and Guatemala, but
also on the situation of indigenous peoples everywhere.