Guatemalan President Alvaro Colomo referred to Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchú as a “fabrication” created by French anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos, according to a WikiLeaks cable published on Jan. 16.
The comments were apparently made in July 2008. The remarks came during a contentious time where the government had police arrest 47 community leaders in San Juan Sacatepéquez for opposing the construction of a cement plant there.
Indigenous communities protested the Guatemalan corporation Cementos Progreso, believing cement production would use up the area’s water supply and cause pollution.
Colom seemed to believe Menchú manipulated the indigenous communities into starting the protest.
Menchú’s long battle for indigenous rights in Guatemala became known around the world after Burgos transcribed a series of interviews with the Mayan leader. The subsequent autobiography “I, Rigoberta Menchú” was published in 1983.
According to Latinamerica Press, after the cable was published early this year by the Guatemalan press, Menchú responded: “It is embarrassing for a president to be involved in a situation of this sort. If he really made those statements, I think it’s disrespectful and rude.”
Colom, who promised to build better relations with Guatemala’s indigenous community when he came to power in 2008, said he had apologized to Menchú for the incident during a telephone call.
“I have always had an excellent relationship with Mrs. Rigoberta Menchú and I apologize if the former U.S. ambassador misinterpreted my words. I have paid my respects and the conversation was as amicable as always,” he said.