Guatemalan cardinal who helped peace talks dies

GUATEMALA CITY, June 5: Guatemalan Roman Catholic Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada, who helped broker an end to the Central American nation’s bloody civil war, died He was 80 years old.
Local church officials said Quezada died yesterday in the morning at a private hospital in Guatemala City as a result of an intestinal obstruction.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez declared three days of national mourning and ordered flags to fly at half mast as a mark of respect for Quezada.
“He was a great fighter for peace and reconciliation in Guatemala,” said Perez, who this year became the first military man to assume the presidency in Guatemala since the war ended.
Quezada lent his negotiating skills to two organizations that tried to reconcile the bitter adversaries in the war, one of the most destructive to ravage Latin America.
Starting his work at the head of the Commission for National Reconciliation in 1987, he also later chaired the Assembly of Civil Society, whose work helped to bring about a peace accord in 1996 – 36 years after the conflict began.
The war pitted leftist guerillas against the state and led to the death or disappearance of a quarter of a million people.
A United Nations-backed “truth commission” found that the vast majority of abuses were committed by the army, which ruled Guatemala for most of the civil war.
Quezada’s colleague in the peace process, Bishop Juan Gerardi, was murdered in 1998 shortly after Church-backed findings on abuses in the civil war were published.
Quezada became a bishop in 1972 and was appointed Archbishop of Guatemala City by Pope John Paul II in 2001. Two years later, he became a cardinal. (AGENCIES)