From October 26 to November 7, 1995, a delegation of Swiss citizens, composed of the following members:
Gilles Godinat, parliamentary deputyvisited Guatemala to study the conditions leading up to the general elections on November 12 in the country. After several meetings with different sectors of society, on November 6 they held a press conference in Guatemala City, publishing the following communique:
Anita Cuenod, parliamentary deputy
Luc Gilly, parliamentary deputy
Charles Barbey, union leader
Joel Perroud, NGO
Brigitte Berthouzoz, lawyer
Suzanne Lerch, NGO
Bernard Beroud, union leader
Philippe Sauvin, union leader
The Swiss delegation of observers for the Guatemalan elections of 1995 is made up of parliamentary deputies from Geneva, union leaders and members of non-governmental organizations.
Our work has been primarily focused on the development of the electoral campaign in various places in the country.
In the first place, we wish to thank the Government of the Republic of Guatemala as well as the President and the authorities of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for providing us with all the necessary facilities for carrying out our mission.
We also wish to thank the people of Guatemala who have greeted us with great friendliness and sincerity, and we wish them success on their road towards peace, democratization, and economic and social development.
After having spent ten days going around the country, our impressions are somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, we have been positively impressed by the general enthusiasm of the political and popular organizations and by the hope generated by these elections in the Guatemalan people, in particular for those who are going to vote for the first time.
However, we have observed two major obstacles to full democratic participation:
The socioeconomic obstacles affect voter registration as well as voting. For a part of the Guatemalan people, these two civic actions imply economic sacrifices.
Among other testimony, we have received that of a group of people from Huehuetenango, who are picking coffee on the plantations in the area of El Tumbador on the South Coast. With a daily salary of less than ten quetzales, the cost of transportation and the loss of several days of work prevents them from exercising their legitimate right to vote.
With respect to pressures and intimidation, we have noted a climate of latent fear which has accumulated throughout the last several decades, in spite of the ongoing process of democratization and negotiations about the peace agreements. This climate has been maintained by numerous cases of intimidation, pressure, and harassment.
The frequent destruction of electoral propaganda in small communities has been perceived as a serious impediment to free democratic expression.
Moreover, there have been more serious problems, such as the following:
The people told us of their fears about the lack of specific means of transportation on election day. This situation could give rise to a private organization of the means of transportation, which could affect the free expression of the vote.
Finally, we wish to focus on three aspects which concern us:
However, we expect that the actions which we have presented here can be resolved, and we hope that the elections of November 12 will be a true success for Guatemalan democracy, reinforcing the process of democratization for peace and social justice.
Guatemala City, November 6, 1995