Monday, January 19, 2009

Politicians Demand that Portillo be Brought to Justice

Bank accounts belonging to ex-president Alfonso Portillo's daughter and ex-wife were frozen. Authorities in Paris and Luxembourg confirmed that the accounts have been frozen until Portillo's legal situation in Guatemala has been cleared up. The Prensa Libre brought to light the fact that banks in Luxemburg and Paris froze the accounts of María Eugenia Padua, first wife of ex-president Portillo, and Otilia Portillo Pauda, his daughter. It is believed that the 2 million Euros in those accounts were donations from Taiwan to Guatemala intended to fund public libraries and for school snack programs while Portillo was head of state.

Portillo was extradited and is now free on a Q1 million bond. He stands accused of diverting Q120 million of defense funds by means of his signature. The European banks decided to act even though there is no direct proof as of yet that the funds in those two accounts were ill-gotten. One politician is quoted as saying that the actions of the European banks demonstrates that justice at the international level functions more efficiently than within Guatemala. He urged the authorities to step up the investigations in order to link those two accounts with the diverted funds. He added that the fact that Portillo is free on bond demonstrates that criminals still operate with impunity and with no worries in Guatemala.

However Nineth Montenegro of Encuentro por Guatemala said that this revelation might prove to be a reversal for Portillo, who returned to Guatemala practically as a victorious hero without any apparent concern about the serious accusations levels at him for his actions while in office. The existence of these personal accounts in the names of Portillo's relatives might prove to be the key fact that gives creedence to the accusations that have been made for many years. The most important thing, however, is that since those funds were intended to aid children by means of public libraries, all efforts should be made to repatriate those funds as quickly possible so that they can be used for their original purpose.

Doctors End Strike

Primary care doctors at the two largest hospitals in Guatemala restored service today after a work stoppage over labor contracts. The two hospitals affected were the Roosevelt Hospital and San Juan de Dios Hospital where more than 300 health care workers came to work but refused to work for the past two days. Negotiations took place between worker leaders and the Ministry of Health, and mediated by personnel from the justice system. Agreement was reached to give labor contracts to the 360 workers who have been working without one and to begin payment of salaries under the new contract in February. The work stoppage was canceled immediately once the agreement was reached and services returned to normal.

The labor dispute began when the Ministry of Health introduced a new system of labor contracts designed to facilitate the specialization of resident doctors but admitted that the new system turned out to be in violation of laws regulating workers rights such as social security, workers liability, and others.

Hundreds Sleep Outdoors to Enroll Kids in School

Hundreds of persons gathered outside the Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica de Amatitlán (Ineba) and spent the night in the street in order to obtain a number enabling them to enroll their child in school. Some came equipped with tents, ponchos, food, and hot coffee. Some spent 48 hours waiting outside the school in the cold rainy weather. Enrollment day arrived, the process began at 7 AM and by 11 AM all had been processed.

It is not uncommon for this to happen. Enrollment occurs a week before classes begin and the lines are always longer at that time. Since the Ministry of Education has increased the capacity for free public schooling, more people want their kids to get an education and the lines have become much worse than usual.