Saturday, January 31, 2009

Organized Crime Threatens the Press

CERIGUA in it's latest report announced that intimidation from drug trafficking and organized crime threaten journalists.

Participants at the Regional Meeting of Latin American Organization on Freedom of Expression expressed concern at the deterioration in the state of the law in Guatemala, where three journalists were killed, 13 were assaulted and 10 others received death threats in 2008.

The news agency, CERIGUA, also referred to cases of attacks on journalists by police. However, these records do not reflect the truth since most victims prefer to remain silent and are not reporting such incidents. This atmosphere of fear contributes to impunity in Guatemala, says the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Participants at the meeting confirmed the allegations through the testimony of several journalists. They described the difficulty of living under these conditions of widespread fear of covering violent events. Participants also complained about the lack of commitment by local authorities to protect journalists and the media. According to information gathered, the most problematic areas are Zacapa, Izabal, Huehuetenango, Alta Verapaz and San Marcos.

The organizations also met with the deputy governor, Arnold Villagran, who confirmed that the lack of security and the violence in Guatemala are the result of the growing scourge of drug trafficking and the war between the cartels, coupled with a difficult economic situation.

In addition, the member organizations asked the government to establish an agenda for working towards a civil society that provides the some protective tools for journalists and media, to accelerate the investigation of crimes against journalists, and human rights training for police and officials.

Guatemala Pavillion in First Place at Madrid Fair

The Guatemala Pavillion at the International Tourism Fair (FITUR) in Madrid, Spain, was awarded as the most attractive among the 170 participating nations. This is the 29th time the tourism fair has been put on and is presided over by the Prince and Princess of Asturias. The Spanish royal family is a big supporter of the tourism fair.

The theme for the Guatemala Pavillion this year is "Guatemala, heart of the Mayan world," and describes an assortment of attractions, such as the square of the Grand Jaguar of Tikal National Park, crafts and customs.

Street Vendors Fight Police

Some 600 street vendors in Coatepeque clashed again on Thursday with members of the PNC (National Police) who tried to evict them from the street. The incident occurred at 7:30 AM when about 25 officers began to remove the vendors. The vendors verbally assaulted police and then began fighting. A police officer fired his 12 gauge shotgun to persuade those who resisted.

The Red Cross and the Fire Department stationed personnel to handle injuries but fortunately no one was injured.

Mario Mendez, representative of the traders, claimed that police agents are armed and shooting at people. An agent of the National Civil Police (PNC), identified only by his surname Tunay Cross, collected spent shells and ordered retailers to return them because they are evidence of abuse by the police. In addition, an officer of PNC, Areli Estrada, said that he was unaware of any eviction process. The MP (Ministerio Publico) collected evidence at the scene and refused to indicate what the official report might say.

Students of local schools left campuses for fear that the situation will worsen.