Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday expressed appreciation of Guatemala’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations, but also voiced alarm at the worsening rate of crime, insecurity and human rights violations in the Central American country.
“Guatemalan troops are serving with peacekeepers in Haiti and in conflict zones such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire,” said Ban at a joint news conference with President Alvaro Colom in the country’s capital, Guatemala City.
“A distinguished Guatemalan, Edmond Mulet, is my special representative in Haiti. I am especially pleased that a number of Guatemalan women are serving in U.N. peacekeeping operations.
“I value this contribution, but I know it has taken a toll. Tomorrow I will solemnly dedicate a monument to the Guatemalan U.N. peacekeepers who died while serving the cause of peace. The only way to truly honor their sacrifice is to carry on our work for peace, security and justice, here in Guatemala and around the world,” said the secretary general.
Ban told reporters that at a meeting with members of the Guatemalan cabinet, he had expressed alarm over rising crime and insecurity and that he was particularly concerned about abuses of human rights. “Ending impunity is critical to protecting all Guatemalans from violence,” he said, adding that the U.N. will provide additional support.
“We have to foster security for all Guatemalans and their children. I am sure the people of Guatemala agree they did not end 36 years of armed conflict only to see violence take other forms. Now it is time to end all violence,” said Ban.
The secretary general recalled that Guatemala is known throughout the world for its ecological diversity, its rich culture, and its proud history. “Our shared challenge today is to ensure that Guatemala also earns a reputation as a haven of justice, respect for human rights, and true security. We have serious work ahead,” he said.
He described his talks with Colom as constructive, saying they covered important issues of concern to both of them, including insecurity, poverty, violence against women, regional issues, and the Millennium Development Goals, the global commitments to reducing extreme and boosting social-economic progress by the target date of 2015.
He said that Colom and he were in full agreement on the importance of the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. “I expressed the U.N.’s strong support for CICIG and Commissioner Francisco Dall’Anese,” Ban said. Dall’Anese is the former Costa Rica chief prosecutor.
The secretary general also met Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu.
Ban also met with Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica