Guatemala News Wrap Up

November wrapped with more security concerns as prisoners in Guatemala City’s Fraijanes prison took over the installation, causing experts to comment that the country’s prisons were effectively run by the prisoners. At the same time it was revealed that there are now 150,000 private security guards working in Guatemala.

In an effort to improve an obviously ineffective administration, RENAP (the new private body overseeing the botched attempt to issue identity cards to replace Guatemalan cedulas) sacked some key administrators, calling the changes “a normal procedural change”.

December started badly for ex-parliamentary deputy Manuel Castillo who was sentenced to 203 years prison for his involvement in the assassination of three Salvadorean politicians in 2007. Things brightened a little as the OEA (Organization of America States) gave the thumbs-up to Guatemala’s electoral system, declaring it “basically healthy”. 1500 pilgrims made the annual  pilgrimmage to Esquipulas’ famous Cristo Negro and the high hopes for Guatemala City’s new TransMetro bus system faltered a little as buses were subject to armed attacks, just like the old red clunkers. Guatemala’s Vice President drew criticism as he declared “Secret” documents relating to syphilis experiments carried out on soldiers and mental patients during the  1940’s and 50’s.

The Quema del Diablo (a tradition that includes hauling your trash out onto the street then burning it) went ahead, despite protests from environmental groups. Guatemala got a bit of WikiLeaks loving as it was revealed that the country is named in 1488 classified US documents and that Spanish politicians are questioning President Colom’s resolve in tackling organized crime – the foreign affairs minister asked Spain for more detail but was met with a stony silence. The small town of San Juan Comalapa, near Antigua, gained worldwide fame as its recycling project won second place in an international environmental competition sponsored by the BBC and Newsweek. And not a whole lot of surprises as Guatemalan Congress shut down for the year with various important issues still unresolved.

Frustration from groups trying to reconstruct exactly what happened during the civil war era as it was revealed that various important documents from the Romero Lucas, Rios Montt and Oscar Mejia administrations are “missing”. A little slap on the wrist for five political parties who started campaigning for this year’s elections before the specified period: the electoral commission fined them the hefty sum of US$125 each. Another 222 Guatemalans returned home, deported from the US for not having sufficient documentation. That brought the year’s total to 28,160.

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