A bad start to the year for Guatemalan kids as a report found that, in all of Latin America, Guatemala invested the least in early childhood development. Things looked like they were getting under control in Alta Verapaz as it was announced that the State of Emergency may be downgraded and another police station installed. Bad news for retirees, as IGSS, the Social Security institute raised the retirement age to 62 and the number of monthly payments required to receive a pension to 240. A small cause for worker celebration as the minimum daily wage was increased to Q64 in the city and Q60 in rural areas. Critics say the increase does not keep pace with inflation.
President Colom fuelled speculation about his wife’s possible presidential run, stating that he’d talked to a “mountain of lawyers” and there was no legal impediment to her candidature. Thousands of Guatemalans and foreign pilgrims made the trek to Esquipulas in Guatemala’s south to visit the famous Cristo Negro. Kids went back to school, only to find the same grim scene they’d left last year, including shortages of everything from teachers to materials, furniture and properly constructed buildings. And an interesting revelation about RENAP, the private agency in charge of issuing the new Guatemalan ID cards – they’d always explained delays in the process as being due to lack of resources, but an audit shows they’ve only spent 67% of their budget.
Rigoberta Menchu made a rather odd plea for respect after WikiLeaks revealed that president Colom had denigrated her in conversations with a former US ambassador to Guatemala. The process in Alta Verapaz took a disappointing turn as the president announced that the State of Emergency would continue for another month in the hope of further diminishing drug gangs’ stranglehold on the region. Guatemalan immigrants to the United States began protesting, fearing that they would be discriminated against as tough new immigration laws were enacted in the US. More than 50 NGOs gathered to demand publically that the election of the new Supreme Court be transparent and free of political interests.
It wasn’t all bad news, though – a Guatemalan with the unlikely name of Mario Chang won an opera contest in Barcelona for his dulcet tenor tones.