Guatemala to apologize to former president’s family

GUATEMALA CITY, (Reuters) – Guatemala will seek to  make amends to former president Jacobo Arbenz, ousted in a  violent coup nearly 60 years ago, as the Central America nation  tries to emerge from generations of violence and political  unrest.

The populist Arbenz was only the second freely elected  president in Guatemala when his promise to redistribute land  irritated fruit exporters and led to a 1954 coup backed by the  U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Jacobo Arbenz

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom will issue a public  apology to the former leader’s family on Oct. 20, a national  holiday to commemorate a revolution that started in 1944 and  paved the way for the country’s first democratic elections.

The government will also add a retelling of Arbenz’s legacy  to school textbooks that do not recognize the former president,  who spent almost three decades in exile before dying in Mexico  in 1971, and name a stretch of major highway after him.

“Today’s youth don’t know what actually happened, the true  story,” Claudia Arbenz, Jacobo’s granddaughter, told Reuters.

The apology will come as Colom’s term ends and weeks before  the final round of a presidential election on Nov. 6. The front runner is right-wing former military general Otto  Perez who, if elected, would be the first Guatemalan president  since a 1996 peace settlement to have worn a uniform. Perez, who left the army in 2000, has been accused of  genocide during the civil war that killed nearly 250,000  civilians, most of them indigenous Mayans. He has never been  charged.

He denies allegations he was involved in rights abuses and  points to his role signing the 1996 peace accords with leftist  guerrillas as proof that he is a pragmatist.

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