Not So Magic Formula

Frequent readers of XelaWho (we´re hoping you guys still exist) will remember our cover story of April this year about the “magic formula” that was touted to miraculously clean the grotesquely polluted Lake Amatitlán within a mere 10 months.

In case you missed it, a quick recap: in March AMSA and the now ex vice-president Roxana Baldetti decided to take it upon themselves to clean up Lake Amatitlán near Guatemala city, a lake so polluted that it wouldn´t be far stretched to imagine Godzilla rising up out of its radioactive-looking waters. Their ingenious plan was to spend Q137 million on 93,000 litres of a “fórmula mágica” (yes, they actually used those words) which would then be dumped into the lake in order to magically clean it of all its pollutants.

If you´re thinking that there must be more to it than that because this sounds like a really dumb idea, you´d unfortunately be mistaken: the project caused an uproar because it quickly became apparent that no-one actually knew what was in this magic formula, nor anything about the sketchy Israeli company that was paid so much money to manufacture and apply it, nor about any potential impact the project may, or may not, have. The project was only about 3 days into implementation when it was suspended in order to carry out all of the assessments that should have been carried out before it was approved and paid for.

Well, surprise surprise, the assessments revealed that the project was actually a scam. The National Health Laboratory analysed 4 samples of the formula: two of the samples were 98% salt water and one of the other samples had such a high level of acidity that the scientists deemed it to be toxic both to the environment and to human health. So it was beginning to look like  the Guatemalan taxpayer was going to on the hook to foot a Q137 million bill that basically involved throwing sea water and even more pollutants into an already over-polluted lake.

Fortunately, the Guatemalan government had the sense to terminate the contract in time to be able to claw back Q115 million from M Tarcic Engineering Ltd. But that still leaves Q22 million that it seems is increasingly unlikely to see the light of day again: although the Ministerio Público has launched legal proceedings against the company for breach of contract, journalists recently went to visit what is supposed to be the Guatemalan branch of M Tarcic to find that they had completely cleared out the place and disappeared without a trace.

If there can be one certainty about this absolute debacle of a project it is that we can safely count on not seeing Roxana Baldetti going through with her promise to eat mojarra frita straight out of the lake by the end of the year. Which is a shame as that’s the least she deserves. But we can live and hope.


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