GUATEMALA. VETO KEEPS EXECUTIONS ON HOLD
March 14, 2008: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom vetoed a bill that would have reinstated capital punishment and given the president the power to commute death penalty sentences.
There are 34 prisoners in limbo on death row after a high court in 2002 suspended executions, ruling that presidential reprieves on death penalty cases were unconstitutional.
The vetoed measure, approved overwhelmingly in February by lawmakers, would have given Colom the authority to decide whether the prisoners in question are executed by lethal injection or have their sentences commuted to the maximum 50 years in prison.
"If (the death penalty) were a disincentive, we would reinstate it," Colom said.
"But we have studied cases in various states in the United States, and it doesn't dissuade" crime. The Catholic Church and European embassies openly opposed the law, saying it would violate human rights. Colom said "strengthening security institutions" is the best way to fight crime in Central America's most violent country, where gangs are rampant and as few as 2 percent of more than 5,000 homicides a year are solved. (Sources: Associated Press, 14/03/2008)