Guatemala: Rigoberta Menchú Tum, founder and President of FRMT, Francisco Menchú, FRMT security guard

Rigoberta Menchú Tum (f), founder and President of Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation (FRMT)

Francisco Menchú (m), FRMT security guard

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú Tum and her relative, Francisco Menchú, who works for the human rights group the Fundación Rigoberta Menchú Tum (FRMT), Rigoberta Menchú Tum Foundation, have been attacked and intimidated.

On 10 August 2003 FRMT security guard Francisco Menchú, was assaulted by two unknown men and forced at gunpoint into a taxi in Guatemala City. Francisco Menchú was beaten severely during the attack and his identity papers, credit cards and firearm licence were stolen. The attackers were reportedly dressed in white shirts and black jackets, which are often worn by military intelligence agents.

On July 26 2003 FRMT members had been informed of a death list targeting human rights defenders and that the people carrying out the actions against those on the list would be driving taxis.

Later on August 10 2003 Francisco Menchú received two anonymous telephone calls. In the first, he could only hear a man laughing, while in the second, the caller threatened, “dejen que estar chingando porque ya sabemos quienes son y dónde viven y pronto van a estar allí con ustedes” (“stop causing trouble because we know who you are and where you live and soon we’re going to be there with you”).

On August 8 2003 Rigoberta Menchú Tum, founder and President of the FRMT, was followed by an individual in a white pick-up truck that tried unsuccessfully to crash into her vehicle.

On 5 occasions between 26 July and 7 August 2003, the offices of the FRMT in Zone 1 of Guatemala City were observed and staff members harassed by several individuals, one of whom wore military-issue boots and was armed with a revolver. On 29 April 2002, Guillermo Ovalle de León, an administrative worker for the FRMT and nephew of the Executive Director, was killed by gunmen and Guatemalan human rights groups were concerned that his killing may have been an act of intimidation and not a common crime (see UA 133/02, 1 May 2002, AMR 34/031/2002).

Rigoberta Menchú Tum is also a prominent member of the recently formed Frente Cívico por la Democracia, Civic Front for Democracy, a coalition of organizations and political parties established in the wake of recent political violence to ensure that the general elections scheduled for November 2003 are transparent and free. The violence was precipitated by groups of supporters of Congressional President Ríos Montt, who were rioting after a decision to suspend temporarily his candidacy for President. The Constitutional Court has since upheld its ruling for him to run as Presidential candidate.


LRWC wrote letters to President Alfonso Portillo Cabrera reminding the government of Guatemala of its legal obligations to protect Rigoberta Menchú Tum and other FRMT staff and of the mounting danger to caused by the past failures to adequately protect the security and independec of human rights advocates. LRWC called on the government to immediately put in place effective security measures and to conduct a proper investigation of the attacks on FRMT staff.