January wrapped on an odd note, with cell phone companies promising congress to do more to track the use of stolen cell phones and the US stepping up to say that its antiterrorist agency would investigate recent bombings of Guatemala City inner-city buses. Meanwhile the grandmother of the women accused of the most recent bombing was taken in for questioning by police. Neither the president nor the head of the Health Department turned up to a meeting set up to investigate why medicines prohibited for sale in the US were being resold in Guatemala and Lake Atitlán hit the news again, this time for an ugly floating red patch, supposedly caused from a spill of weaver’s dye that occurred in Panajachel.
Another politician joined his buddies in prison – this time it was ex-Finance Minister Manuel Maza, accused of diverting Q120 million from the army’s budget. Thousands of motorcycle riders converged on Esquipulas, as part of the annual “Caravana del Zorro“, a rally which recently gained status as an event of “Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
One of the country’s strongest foreign income earners – money sent home by migrants – recovered slightly, mirroring improvements in the world economy and politicians took part in a very symbolic ceremony where they promised to campaign for upcoming elections cleanly and without smear campaigns or dirty tricks.
Shock (not really) as the continuing trial against ex-President Alfonso Portillo revealed that senior members of the military were aware of dubious financial transactions during Portillo’s time as president.
Guatemala City’s transport system took another step in the right direction as the TransMetro extended out to zones 17 and 18. Local gangs (who make money extorting bus drivers under the old system) warned that there would be reprisals against the new vehicles. Later in the month the police managed to round up 19 people accused of being involved in such extortions.
The killing of a judge in El Petén lead to a repeat of calls for greater protection for judges. It seems likely we’ll be seeing a raise in gas prices as the Municipality of Puerto San José (home to the country’s largest working port) announced that it would levy a tax of 30 centavos for every gallon of gas that passed though its territory. The State of Emergency that was declared in the gang-ridden Alta Verapaz region came to an end with locals wondering exactly what had been achieved by the two-month crackdown.
The good news? Guatemala’s most famous musician, Ricardo Arjona, was again nominated for a Grammy in the best Latin Pop album category. Arjona won a Grammy in 2007 for his album “Inside”.