In a communication of June 19, 1980, the Inter-American Commission
on Human received the following denunciation:
On December 20, 1979, Father Carlos Stetter, parish priest of the Ixcán
region, was virtually abducted when he landed in the airport of the city
of Huehuetenango in the small plane that regularly transported sick
persons, as well as medicines and building materials.
A few hours before his expulsion, the authorities denied having any
knowledge of his whereabouts, both to church leaders and to German
diplomats, thus violating provisions of the constitution and bilateral
agreements between the Federal Republic of Germany and our country.
According to a decision of the General Migration Department, dated
December 12 (which he was not informed of until the day he was arbitrarily
taken into custody and expelled from the country), he was taken by armed
men dressed in civilian clothes to Valle Nuevo, on the Salvadoran border,
without having been given the opportunity to gather his belongings or to
communicate with his superiors and his ambassador.
Father Carlos Stetter was born in Jagst, Allwangen, Germany, on March
9, 1941, and was ordained a priest on July 10, 1966. He arrived in
Guatemala in 1971 and later became a resident after complying with the
formalities required by law.
In the first five years, he was a priest in the community of CANTEL,
Department of Quezaltenango. His religious work included the following: he
unified the work of the State Parochial Clinic, built the churches of
Estancia and Xecam, built a medical clinic, helped to form cooperatives,
provided assistance in the electrification of Xecam, supported the
parochial school, and provided valuable assistance to sports programs.
In Quetsaltenango, he founded Radio Fraternidad and, since he was an
amateur radio operator, he was one of the first to transmit abroad notice
of the tragedy suffered by the Guatemalan people in the 1976 earthquake.
Immediately after the earthquake, he helped set up Operation Fraternity,
in which more than 1,000 persons worked, and traveled to Germany to raise
funds for building more than 2,500 housing units in the communities of
Santa Cruz Balanya, patzún patzicia, Tecpán and San Juan
Following the death of Father Guillermo Woods (a case that todate has
not been explained), Father Stetter requested transfer to the Ixcán
region, which has 12,600 inhabitants, because he felt it was one of the
most neglected areas and because the people repeatedly asked for a priest
to be sent there.
In Ixcán, he developed cooperatives and transported sick
persons, medicines and building supplies in a small plane. He organized
groups of catechists and "delegates of the word," Adopting a
very broad approach to his ministry, he took the first steps to build a
school at the request of the people of the area, and to found a radio
station and a clinic. These works have remained unfinished because of his
The Huehuetenango Diocese where Father Stetter worked has always been
one of the most peaceful departments in the country, but it has not
escaped the wave of repression afflicting the Guatemalan people, because
in recent months the people have been shocked by the murder
of union leader Mario Mujia Cdrdova, who worked in the past on projects
in the Diocese and in the Ixcán region; and the brutal attack on
Mrs. Leticia Chávez de Rodriguez, a national hospital
worker in Huehuetenango and mother of a member of a Guatemalan religious
order, who lost an arm in an atack and remains in critical condition; in
addition, numerous denunciations have been made by campesinos throughout
the Ixcán region, concerning the abduction of local leaders,
cooperative leaders, catechists, and "delegates of the word."
Moreover, lists of threatened persons have appeared.
The expulsion of father Stetter is one of a number of similar cases,
such as the expulsion of Sister Raymunda Alonso Queralt and the murder of
Father Hermógenes López, which have constituted direct
attacks on the church in Guatemala.
There is also a list of over 20 foreign members of religious orders
whose expulsion from Guatemala is sought. Some religious residing in
Guatemala for 20 years have had their temporary visas renewed for only a
six-month nonextendable period, with no justification given.
In this case, the vague accusation of "foreign undesirable"
was made against Father Carlos Stetter without stating why, and he was
accused vaguely of "having violated the laws of the country,"
without stipulating which laws.
He was later expelled from the country without any hearing, which is a
violation of Article 53 of the constituion that provides: "No one may
be sentenced without having been summoned, heard, tried and convicted in
Father Stetter was detained without having committed any crime or
offense, so that his captors are responsible for violating Article 45,
which provides that "all citizens have the right to do anything not
prohibited by law." Therefore, it is his captors and those who
expelled him who violated the law, since they committed the crime of
abduction (Article 201 of the Penal Code) and also the crime of abuse of
authority (Article 418 of the Penal Code)."