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Guatemala This Month: A Summary of Stuff That Actually Happened

By Lucas Vidgen

The biggest news this month – if not this decade – was that the New York District Attorney issued a warrant for the arrest of ex-Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo on money laundering charges…

Portillo has been evading justice since the 80s when he was implicated in the murder of two Mexican students, and later when he was accused of diverting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to his personal accounts during his presidency. Two days after the warrant was issued, Portillo was in jail. Let the extradition battle commence.

More good news for fans of Guatemalan democracy when Congress passed a long-overdue bill meting out tough penalties for electoral fraud.

Environmentalists were pleased to see the Canadian Supreme court demand that Canadian mining companies operating in Guatemala present serious environmental impact studies.

And some heartbreaking pictures as smiling, enthusiastic school kids lined up for their first day at school, which for many meant a tin shack with plastic sheeting walls.

Bad news for Guatemala’s roads – this time in the Petén, where it was revealed that six months after Q123 million was spent on improvements the roads were as bad as they were before. Equally bad PR for the Guatemalan army, as investigations revealed that organized crime groups who had stolen weapons from the army (twice!) have links to the institution.

The Caravana del Zorro made the news, too, as thousands of motorcyclists made the pilgrimage to Esquipulas, as they’ve done for the past 49 years.

The Presidential couple remains under fire. Critics of their Mi Familia Progresa program (designed to encourage families to send their kids to school) claim that recipients were chosen to repay political favors. The constitutional court overruled the government’s efforts to keep a list of beneficiaries secret. Another blow for the president as the ministry of environment denied a Mexican gas company’s application to start drilling in the Punta de Manabique protected area in the country’s southeast. Critics say the president granted the initial license as payback for campaign funding.

San Carlos University students in hoods and gowns took to the streets across the country this month, collecting money for the controversial Huelga de Dolores, a tradition that goes back some 112 years.

And if you’re going to the supermarket, better stock up on sugar. A shortage in Mexico of everybody’s favorite coffee ingredient has seen panic buying and rationing here as wily operators smuggle the good stuff north where they get a better price.

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