In a statement released Nov. 18, the executive committee of the Guatemalan bishops' conference called on the Guatemalan Congress to abolish the death penalty.
A number of politicians in the country have recently called for the application of the death penalty, arguing that it will help reduce crime and using it as political propaganda. The renewed efforts to support the death penalty come on the heels of a decision by President Alvaro Colom on Nov. 4 to veto a law passed by the Guatemalan Congress that would have restored the presidential pardon for those condemned to death.
In a statement signed by Bishop Pablo Vizcaino Prado, president of the bishops' conference, the bishops said it is almost impossible to justify the use of the death penalty as a means of protecting society from aggressors. “This is not about renouncing the legitimate defense of society from criminal aggression, but rather about resorting to unbloody means to conduct this defense. Opposition to the death penalty does not mean yes to impunity,” they said.
“The promotion of the death penalty as political propaganda is morally irresponsible” because the “desperation people are feeling about the inefficiency of the legal system is best combated by improving the judicial and penitentiary system and not by applying the death penalty, Bishop Viscaino said.
“A desire for vengeance, disguised as justice, is often behind the application of the death penalty,” he added.
Noting that violence cannot be resolved with more violence, the bishops called on the Guatemalan Congress to “make use of its constitutional powers and to decree the abolition of the death penalty.”
According to EFE news agency, there are currently 41 prisoners on death row in the country. Guatemala, Cuba and the United States are the only countries in the Americas that allow the death penalty.