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Guatemala News Wrap-up

In a saga out of a movie, the details of Cristina Siekavizza’s disappearance continued to come out last month. Many may recall that she is the housewife and mother of two who disappeared last July 7. After her disappearance, her husband (Roberto Barreda de Leon), her family, and friends held vigils in her honor and urged police to find her quickly. Then in early August, Roberto and the couple’s two children disappeared. After his disappearance, the family’s maid was arrested and later revealed under questioning that Barreda had murdered his wife on July 6.

Then in October, in a turn likely to appeal to conspiracy theorists, Barreda’s mother (who just happens to be the former head of the Supreme Court) was arrested, charged with obstructing the investigation. Last month, furthering the conspiracy idea, allegations arose that the SAAS (essentially the Guatemalan Secret Service) may have been involved in helping Barreda flee Guatemala. This came conveniently after the SAAS declared that all of their archives were now going to be held secret for a period of 7 years. Undoubtedly, this will be more come on this case, so stay tuned….

The National Commission on Minimum Wage, made up of representatives from business, labor and the government, has recommended an increase in the minimum wage. Thus proposed raise would take the floor for most workers to Q66.80 (about $8.25) daily. The recommendation must be approved the President before it can take effect. Relatedly, the minimum wage in Mexico minimum just went up to about $4.50 daily. The minimum wage in the US is $7.25, per hour.

For you smart phone game players, now you can support the Guatemalan economy while you slack off. Full Boogie Space War, designed in Guatemala, will be released in early 2012. Costing $2.99, it has been in the works for 2 years and is recommended for users 12 and over.

Chicken bus drivers undertook various strikes last month to protest a law requiring new technology onboard in 2012. The plan calls for buses to have a GPS unit and to collect payments using pre-paid cards. While this would seemingly reduce theft (since there would be no cash on hand and the vehicle’s location could be tracked), companies and drivers are against this technology, which they maintain would be too expense to buy and maintain. In unrelated news, allegations of dangerous speeding, not completing planned routes, and tax evasion are common in the bus industry…

Otto Perez Molina spent last month filling his cabinet posts and preparing for his transition to the presidency. He has said that his new ministers will scour the books of their predecessors looking for budgetary anomalies. President Colom responded that this is a time of leadership transition, not an occasion for auditing spending, which is meant to be monitored by the country’s Comptroller General.

Finally, in environmental news, Caña Real sugar company’s new bags for its product biodegrade in 2 years, as opposed to over 100 for standard plastic bags. The average Guatemalan consumes 55 pounds of sugar per year, or almost 5 pounds per month. That’s a lot of plastic bags…

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