Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spain to Send $45 Million in Aid

In 2009 Spain will send about U.S. $45 million in aid to Guatemala to fight poverty and increase security. Spanish Secretary of State for Iberoamerica, Trinidad Jimenez, announced the aid package on Wednesday. He said that while the international economic crisis is affecting Spain, this not affect in any way affect Spain's commitment to developmental cooperation. In fact, it will increase.

Jimenez said that since 2005, Spanish cooperative aid to Guatemala has totaled $146 million for programs to reduce poverty, strengthen democracy, institutions, and to prevent crime. Jimenez also announced Q82 million or about 8 million Euros for various aid programs to Central America, spread over four years, aimed at treatment and rehabilitation of young people. Moreover, resources can be put in place for increased tourist security, reduction of violence against women, to harmonize the legal systems of Central America, and towards the control of small arms and light weapons. The cooperative effort will also serve to "strengthen policies to protect children at risk or in conflict with the law."

The agreement seeks to strengthen the Observatorio Centroamericano de Violencia (OCAVI) and create a Unidad de Seguridad Democrática del Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA), consisting of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

Parents Struggle to Afford School Materials

So far this January, pawnshop business in Guatemala City has increased between 20 and 30 percent. January is one of the biggest times of the year for pawn shops because this is when people need money to enroll their children in school, purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and medicines.

Pawn shops make loans on collateral unacceptable to banks and will take jewelry, household appliances, even cars. Interest rates vary from 3.5 to 4.5 percent per month. Pawn shops are not regulated by the Superintendencia de Bancos but they are regulated under the Código de Comercio y Registro Mercantil.

Spain Confirms Police Assistance

Secretary of State for Iberomérica of Spain, Trinidad Jimenez, this morning confirmed Spain's support to public security forces, mainly in regard to staff training on the prevention and prosecution of crime.

Jimenez confirmed the cooperation between Spain and Guatemala, one of the most sensitive issues for the Guatemalan people, this morning during a meeting with Interior Minister, Salvador Gándara, conducted at the residence of the embassy, located in Zone 14. Gandara said the professional staff will allow the police more effective in crime prevention and actions in the street, and also increased investigative skills. He said that the support is not in the form of financial aid but in training.

According to Gandara, the Spanish secretary shares the same concerns as other consuls stations in Guatemala, in terms of insecurity, mainly with respect to foreigners.

In this regard, he said that sharing information with the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (Inguat) to involve them in plans to attract tourists and tha the police can provide adequate security. During his tenure in Guatemala, Jimenez has secured the support of Spain for social programs, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and now for the security forces. In 2008, Spain awarded about U.S. $5.6 million for security.

See previous story on this topic:

Junta Monetaria Drops Prime Rate .25 Percent

The Monetary Board (JM) today announced that it lowered the seven day prime interest rate by 0.25 percentage points. This move puts the anti-inflationary control at 7 percent.

According to the chairperson of the Junta Monetaria, Banguat, and Maria Antonieta del Cid de Bonilla, this is in response to the recent reduction in prices, mainly fuel and food. These prices continue to decline and further downward movements in the interest rate are possible in the future.

This is the first time that the prime rate has been lowered since it was first introduced in 2005. Last year, the prime rate was increased twice, in March and July, up to 7.25 percent. The prime interest rate is the main tool used by the Banguat to control price levels and that motivates banks to invest in securities issued by Banguat rather than loans.

At the end of last year the inflation rate was 9.4 percent. It is expected that due to the global economic slowdown the rate of inflation will slow further in coming months.