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Guatemala News Wrap Up

May ended with another poor score for Guatemala – the country was ranked number 125 out of 153 countries on the Peace Index by the Institute for Economy and Peace. Among the criteria were citizen safety, impunity and conditions that facilitate criminals. Social activists took to the streets to protest ex-President Portillo being absolved of charges relating to the diversion of millions of dollars during his presidency. And some international props as Guatemalan Luis von Ahn (inventor of CAPTCHA technology, amongst other things) is named “the most influential mind in Latin America” by Foreign Policy magazine.

June started badly for whistleblowers, as Hector Fong, director of the Hospital General San Juan de Dios was fired after making public statements regarding the lack of resources available to the hospital. But the hospital got a bit of Hollywood lovin’ as Mel Gibson paid it a surprise visit and announced plans to supply funding through the organization Mending Kids. A little healing of old wounds, as ex-director of the now-defunct National Police Héctor Bol De la Cruz is arrested on charges relating to the disappearance of Fernando García, in 1984. Later in the month retired Army general Héctor Mario López Fuentes was also arrested, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Some external pressure, as the United States asks for confirmation that oil-drilling contracts granted to US companies operating in Guatemala do in fact comply with environmental protection protocols. And a somewhat predictable last-minute rush as hundreds of people attempt to enroll to vote in the upcoming September elections. Guatemala City’s VII Festival de Junio had another excellent season, showcasing 40 separate cultural and artistic works on various stages in the city’s Centro Cultural Miguel Ángel Asturias.

Momentary football hopes as Guatemala beat Granada 4-0 to enter the quarter finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup (a World Cup qualifying competition). Guatemala was knocked out in the next round, losing 2-1 to Mexico. The state of siege in the Petén was extended for another 30 days, prohibiting the carrying of guns and giving police the right to search without warrants. Other constitutional rights have been guaranteed and reports state that tourists visiting the region have not encountered significant setbacks. And an ugly specter from the past reared its ugly head, as political violence left two mayoral candidates dead and another in hospital in the tiny municipality of San José Pinula. And a little bit of support for Guatemala City’s beleaguered TransMetro initiative, as women-and-children-only buses get the thumbs up from… well, women and children only.

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