Friday, January 30, 2009

Discussion in Guatemala About Reducing Ecological Footprint

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) held a meeting in Guatemala City called Transformación de Mercados y Reducción de Huella Ecológica (Transformation of Markets and Reduction of Ecological Footprint) with agricultural and industrial companies of Guatemala. The purpose of the meeting was to spend two days sharing experiences on the topic of cleaner production.

On the first day of the meeting, Minister of Environment, Luis Ferraté, special guest, shared that Guatemala is going through problems because pollution is a latent risk in the resources. He expressed regret that Lake Atitlan, Guatemala's tourism icon, is contaminated by the communities and businesses located in the basin. Virginia Reyes of the WWF in Guatemala, said the meeting will ensure that businesses can learn new ways of production to avoid the overuse of natural resources and processing of industrial wastes such that they are not a burden on the planet.

Environmental groups have adopted a methodology called ecological footprint, which accounts for the impact of each human based on their customs and lifestyle. WWF maintains that humanity is consuming more resources than have the ability to renew themselves, which creates and will create serious problems for the population.

New Import Tax on Used Vehicles

The union of importers of used vehicles (Gremial de Importadores de Vehículos Usados) warned that buying a car would become more expensive if Congress approves a new "primera matricula" tax. The tax is included in the tax modernization package sent to Congress by the executive branch. In a document sent to various legislative caucuses, the union warned that approval of this initiative, which is facing its second reading in the legislature, affects not only the importers of vehicles but also consumers by raising costs. The union advises Congress to consider the proposal carefully and to reject it.

The secretary of the union says that vehicles are no longer a luxury but a necessity, since many people drive to work

The secretary cited an example of a collision damaged 2006 Honda with damage to the engine. Importation of this vehicle costs Q22,497.73, including freight and insurance. For this vehicle the import duty and VAT (Value Added Tax) paid was Q7,739.22. With the new charges and reforms in the proposed tax package, that same car would cost Q23,656.62 not including the VAT.

The basis for the tax will no longer be the invoice price but a price obtained from a table by the Superintendency of Tax Administration (SAT). The fee for the first registration of a vehicle would be 26 percent of the value of the vehicle, as determined by SAT, not the invoice. The executive branch proposes 30 per cent.

The proposed tax package for 2011 would double the road tax on vehicles, among other reforms. With this revenue, the government intends to finance part of the state budget this year so the government is urging its approval.

Children of Casa Alianza will be Safe

The closure of Casa Alianza was a blow to 99 children who were under their protection. 13 have been returned to their families but 86 others are still awaiting an uncertain fate.

Claudia Rivera, director of Casa Alianza, reported that they are seeking to place at least 50 of the 86 youths who are still in their care. Rivera said he does not know what will happen to the children but said that they are seeking an agreement with another organization, such as Remar, to take care of them. They cannot be sent home because that's where they were abused.

Some children prefer to go with family members who are not their parents, and others, especially children who are already mothers, seek to be independent, having learned a trade. In addition, there are about 4,000 children who were beneficiaries of the street and prevention projects, which could be served by a Spanish organization, according to Rivera. Before transfers can take place a court order must be obtained because the children are under protection by court order but as of yet no organization has stepped up to take responsibility.

Abraham Baca, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office (PGN), said it can not intervene because they are involved only when an adoption process takes place.

Guillermo Melgar, a spokesman for the Supreme Court said that the children were placed in Casa Alianza by court order and now it is up to the National Council for Adoptions (CNA) to send each case to a family court. Rudy Zepeda, a spokesman for the CNA, refrained from making comments.