Ambassador: Guatemala's not dangerous
Lamport offers assurances during a visit to St. Mary's College
Official visits college of students who were robbed, raped
January 20, 1998
Web posted at: 2:53 p.m. EST (1953 GMT)
ST. MARY'S CITY, Maryland (CNN) -- The rape and robbery of
U.S. college students visiting Guatemala last week does not
mean it is a dangerous place, the country's ambassador to the
United States said Tuesday. Pedro Lamport said he hoped the
"unfortunate" incident would not discourage the "spirit of
adventure" among young people.
"There's an awful lot of world out there to find, to
discover, to research," Lamport told reporters during a
visit to St. Mary's College near Baltimore to "assist in the
Police in the Central American country have arrested four men
believed to have taken part in Friday's attack on 16 college
students and teachers on a study tour in southern Guatemala.
Gunmen forced the group's bus off the road and ordered the 13
students, two teachers and an administrator into a sugar cane
field. All 16 were robbed, and five women were raped in the
90-minute attack near the town of Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.
Authorities know the identities of three other suspects being
sought, said Lamport, who met privately with college
President Jane Margaret O'Brien.
He was not expected to see any of the students who were
attacked, but Lamport said their help had been invaluable in
assisting authorities. That cooperation was crucial, he
said, because Guatemalan law requires that prosecutors
present the case against suspects within six hours of their
U.S. travel warnings 'exaggerated'
"These type(s) of happenings should not dissuade (young
people), the ambassador said. "It's a wonderful world ... for
(them) to take advantage of."
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Acknowledging "things happen this way around the world,"
Lamport said it was "logical" for the U.S. State Department
to issue travel warnings for U.S. citizens visiting dangerous
However, he took issue with the wording of the warning about
"We do believe there might be some type of exaggerations,"
the ambassador said, without elaborating. "We don't believe
that portraying Guatemala in that way is a just way."
Lamport said about 250,000 people visit Guatemala each year,
and the St. Mary's attack was an isolated incident.
St. Mary's College
Lamport said he does not worry when his son, an agriculture
student at Purdue University in Indiana, travels in rural
areas of Guatemala on school research projects.
"He goes alone in his car and he goes about freely. If I had
any concern, I would not allow my child to go."
However, the attack worried James Chapman, president of
Spring Arbor College in Michigan, who ordered 16 students and
two faculty members in Guatemala on a study tour to come home
early as a precaution.
Correspondent Carl Rochelle contributed to this report.