Guatemala News Wrap Up

February wrapped with pre-Easter festivities taking over the country, including the famous (but not Rio-famous) Carnaval in Mazatenango. Elsewhere, decorative carpets made a reappearance on Antigua streets and various Christ-like statues were seen being carried around towns, cities and villages in Guatemala. Speaking of Antigua, there were grumblings amongst motorists who had to pay Q10 to take their cars into the city to witness Easter celebrations even though none of the money was used to increase police presence or attempt to guarantee vehicle security. And there were some troubling signs on the border as reports of Belizean aggression and invasion of Guatemalan territory appeared in the press.

Indigenous rights groups (some of them, anyway) celebrated as parliamentary deputy Rosalina Tuyuc was honored by Japanese foundation Niwano for her work in indigenous affairs and human rights activism. And a general raising of eyebrows as employees of the Titles Office began a campaign against moves that would see transparency and accountability brought to the office. Things improved slightly as it was announced that ex-president Efraín Ríos Montt (widely credited as author of some of Guatemala’s worst civil war atrocities) would not be immune from prosecution.

Paca fans got a fright as some of Guatemala’s leading manufacturers began a campaign to decrease the amount of secondhand merchandise allowed to be imported into the country, and health scares started as isolated outbreaks of H1N1 (swine flu) were reported around the country. Long-needed tax reform took another begrudging step forward, with politicians promising to “look at” taxes on trust funds, a classic tax-avoidance instrument in Guatemala. The mining debate heated up – literally – as residents of Santa Cruz Barillas (Huehuetenango) set fire to construction equipment and took five hostages in an effort to voice their opposition to plans to build a hydroelectric plant near the town.

Quetzaltenango hit the national headlines as students vandalized three local businesses as retribution for not contributing to the fund to support the Huelga de Dolores. And even more dissatisfaction with Guatemala City’s beleaguered public transport system the TransUrbano. Reports indicate that safety measures have proven ineffective in stopping crime on buses. And some slightly heartening news as it was reported that the man widely believed to be responsible for the killing of singer/activist Facundo Cabral would be deported to Guatemala to face charges.

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