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Guatemala This Month

Take a deep breath – this stuff actually happened. By Elena Alvarado

August was such a depressing month to be following the news that my doctor prescribed a variety of pills to take before opening the Prensa Libre. Seemingly, each sector of the country was seeking to produce the most sigh-worthy news.  What was worst? We report; you decide:

Political assassination was in the news this month as both the mayor of Coatepeque and the police chief of Xela were assassinated within a week of each other. As per usual: suspects, motivation and alibis are in short supply.

Former presidential candidate Alejandro Giammattei began acting erratically during mid-August when he entered the Honduran embassy and tried to claim political asylum because unknown individuals were threatening his life. Shortly after emerging from the embassy he was arrested and charged with carrying out extrajudicial killings of prisoners. Giammattei, claiming innocence, has since begun a hunger strike.

Critics are blasting the Partido Unionista for its new slogan “Dios. Patria. Libertad” which was the same one used by the ultra-right wing and anti-communist groups of the 1950’s that carried out massive human rights abuses. The party says that it is a coincidence and that critics shouldn’t look to deeply into the new slogan.

The Colom Administration’s Mi Comunidad Produce agriculture program is under fire for a lack of accountability and clear structure. The program, which is responsible for distributing over Q35 million is apparently receives no formal government oversight.

On the good news side of things 2,000 cows which had been illegally grazing in protected areas around Tikal have been removed. President Alvaro Colom recently issued a plea for ranchers to remove cows from public land.

Thinly veiled political advertisements continue to populate the roadsides and major cities. Political parties are forbidden to campaign in non-election years (next election is in 2011), but parties have been getting exceedingly creative in holding “forums” that look suspiciously like rallies as well as using official party colors.

Finally, in depressing news round-up, it is still raining and will continue to do so for yet another month.

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