GUATEMALA CITY – President Alvaro Colom vetoed a bill approved last month by the Guatemalan Congress to restore the head of state’s ability to issue pardons or commutations to convicts facing the death penalty, a measure aimed at ending the country’s decade-old moratorium on capital punishment.
“This government does not believe that the death penalty does anything to improve security in this country,” Colom told a press conference at the National Palace of Culture.
Colom has consistently opposed the restoration of presidential pardon power, a legal provision considered to be a step toward reactivating the death penalty that has been suspended here since the year 2000.
His social democratic administration, Colom said Thursday, does not agree with the death penalty and the bill he vetoed violates several articles of the constitution.
The vetoed bill, set to take effect Jan. 15, 2012, the day after Colom leaves office, says that once judicial appeals are exhausted, convicts sentenced to capital punishment will have 30 days to apply for a presidential pardon.
Colom’s veto statement says that the bill constitutes “a regression from the worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty.”
This is the second time during his term in office that Colom has vetoed a similar law and has thereby blocked the reactivation of the death penalty, unable to be applied since the year 2000 when the lack of definition of the presidential pardon left it in a legal limbo.
There are currently 41 convicts sentenced to death in Guatemala for crimes that include murder, extrajudicial execution and kidnapping.
Guatemala, Cuba and the United States are the only countries in the hemisphere that allow the death penalty.
Amnesty International has urged Colom not to restore the death penalty, saying that the only way to curb the rampant violence is to end impunity by endowing the country with a trustworthy justice system that respects fundamental rights. EFE