Saturday, April 12, 2008

Guatemalan Government Intervenes to Ease Rising Prices

April 11, 2008

President Álvaro Colom decided to go ahead with an economic package to help ease the effects of rising prices. The measures will include subsidies and capping certain prices. Details will be announced on national radio and television Sunday night. There are 32 specific measures in the plan with a couple of them quite drastic. Vice-President Rafael Espada said that everything is on the table, details are still being worked out, and some decisions are still to be made.

None of the officials were willing discuss exactly which products would be affected but government sources say that subsidies on diesel and propane are being discussed as well as price caps on basic products such as sugar, beans, maíz, rice, and flour. Also among the measures are special consideration for the elderly and other at-risk members of society and increased taxes on cellular phone service and utilities to encourage conservation.

A presidential spokesman said that Colom will speak on television and radio because he wants to speak directly to the people about the current economic crisis, the external causes of the problem, and that these measures are in keeping with the gravity of the crisis that is expected.

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Puerto Barrios Sewers in Disrepair

April 11, 2008

Ninety-five percent of the sewers / storm drains in the city of Puerto Barrios are uncovered and sewage sometimes floods across the ground and into Rio Escondido. Local residents complain that the river has been polluted for about 30 years and instead of pure water is more like a swamp which increases the risk of disease. About 250 homes suffer flooding from the collapse of the sewage system. Residents in the area bounded by 18th through 25th Calle and 1st through 8th Avenidas dread the coming of the rainy season. Sea level geography, poor construction, failure of government leadership, and irresponsible residents clogging the sewer system with trash results in a nightmare during the rainy season. When very heavy rains come, the flooding creates a drowning hazard for children. The local health director acknowledges that there is widespread pollution and the uncovered drainage ditches result in a plague of mosquitos that can spread dengue, malaria, and other diseases, not to mention the foul odors.

The Alcalde, David Pineda is aware of the situation and said the city will invest Q300,000 to clean out the system. To rebuild the whole system of storm drains and sewers will carry a price tag of Q100 million, which the city cannot afford, but the alcalde says that the government and foreign sources have promised to help.

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