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Monday, November 22, 2004

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 Republican values in action

What is it they say about the company you keep?

A US congressman Jerry Weller (R-IL) married the daughter of Guatemala's most notorious former dictator on Saturday in a controversial wedding that took place in a high-walled compound ringed with razor wire.

He serves on the US House of Representatives sub-committee for Western Hemisphere Affairs that sometimes sees legislation concerning Guatemala.

"At the very least he should resign from the committee, it's a potentially compromising relationship, in terms of his foreign affairs activity," said Patricia Davis, of the Washington based rights group, the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission.

Weller's new father-in-law is Efrain Rios Montt, who took power in a 1982 coup at the peak of Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which pitted the army against leftist insurgents. Weller's wife is a high ranking member of her father's Guatemalan Republican Front party, which held the presidency between 2000-2004, and is seen as a possible future presidential candidate herself.

The retired general's de facto presidency is remembered for his weekly sermons broadcast live on television and for a "scorched earth" campaign that killed thousands of mostly civilian Mayan Indians.

The State Department has described Rios Montt's rule as "probably the most violent period" of the war, in which around 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. Rios Montt is under investigation for genocide charges. He is legally barred from leaving Guatemala City while he is investigated for his role in violent protests held to support his candidacy during 2003 presidential elections.

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