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Guatemala this Month

Take a deep breath – this stuff actually happened.

September wrapped on a sour note, with a study finding that 11,000 Guatemalan children suffer from acute malnutrition.

Ex-president Portillo’s future is looking more and more grim as one of his old cronies has done a deal to testify against him on corruption charges.

RENAP, the widely criticized, newly-privatized version of the Civil Registry came under more fire as it was revealed that some higher-ups are collecting double salaries. The old identity card, the Cedula, which RENAP is supposed to be replacing with a modernized version, will be valid until at least 2013, being that only about 10% of the population has been issued a new ID.

USAC, Guatemala’s public University opened its gates after a 52-day blockade by students demanding reforms in the institution’s constitution.

A legal precedent was set as Brenda Solis was sentenced to prison time for using discriminatory insults against a coworker in her office at the Organismo Judicial.

Some rather disturbing news surfaced about US government experiments carried out during 1945-51, where 696 Guatemalan soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients were infected with venereal diseases.

The political scene is heating up – elections are to be held in September of next year and the Electoral Tribunal has already seen the need to reform laws to provide tougher scrutiny of campaigning practices and funding sources. Opposition from political parties has been predictably vocal.

The Guatemalan prison scene is as glum as ever – Carlos Viedmann, the ex government minister widely held to be responsible for extrajudicial assassinations in El Pavón prison in 2006 was captured by Spanish authorities, while 125 currently employed guards face charges for smuggling contraband into jails. Among the most popular smuggled items were cell phones, which prisoners then use to operate kidnapping and extortion rackets.

But that’s not the only thing they use – it also surfaced that extortionists are using websites like facebook to gather personal information and target victims.

Guatemala City’s gun violence problem deepened, as a drive by shooting in the normally tranquilo Zona 10 shocked even hardened residents.

And things got decidedly weird on the 20th, with violent confrontations between groups marching to celebrate Revolution Day. Apparently some politicians at the march were trying identify themselves as part of the working class, which made tempers flare in the crowd.

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