Saturday, February 21, 2009

Smoke Where You Please in Guatemala? Not Anymore

Decree 74-2008 went into force on February 20th. The new law prohibits smoking in enclosed spaces, which is defined as any space that is enclosed by walls or covered by a roof. It is only legal to smoke in unenclosed and uncovered spaces.

"All the ashtrays must be removed from tables because smoking areas go down in history," according to Brenda Aquino, of the Ministerial Anti-Tobacco Commission.

Shop owners and managers are in charge of enforcing the new law.

"Do not allow smoking in your establishments," said Marta Maria Tuna, chairman of the committee.

The call is especially aimed at owners and managers of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and public transport, where fun or conversation between people encourages smoking.

Peter Meng, of the Union of Restauranteurs, explained that they are prepared to verify that no one smokes in their businesses but felt that compliance ambiguous because there is no regulation that explains how to implement the new act.

According to Celso Cerezo, Minister of Health, the rule goes into effect on the 20th but the regulation will be published in about 20 days.

Meng said that the lack of regulation is a problem because many entrepreneurs do not know how to implement the new rules.

After the issuance of regulations, the Ministry of Health will give a grace period of 60 days during which time there will be awareness campaigns and training of 570 inspectors and their managers before imposing sanctions.

Testimony Before the Minimum Wage Commission

The Labor Ministry yesterday gave testimony before the Tripartite Commission on the Minimum Wage, to establish a formal dialogue and discuss improvements to the minimum wage for workers.

"We want the employers, labor, and government to make proposals to improve the minimum wage," said Edgar Rodriguez, Minister of Labor. The official admitted that the past year did not achieve any breakthrough on this issue, but expects that with the testimony the committee can begin work. He went on to say "Unfortunately, 2008 only served to get the house in order. But this is a big proactive step that we are making now."

Adolfo Lacs, of the Federation of Bank Employees, said that they will fight for increasing the minimum wage. "When people have a better income, they improve their living conditions and consume more goods, like vegetables, meat, foods that are produced in Guatemala. The increased consumption will generate more jobs. It is a virtuous cycle that's driven by the consumer, "analyzed Lacs.

India to Buy Sugar From Brazil, Guatemala

India, the world’s biggest consumer of sugar, may import as much as 1.2 million metric tons from suppliers in Brazil and Guatemala to overcome a shortfall in output and cool rising domestic prices.

India’s government yesterday notified rules allowing duty- free imports of raw sugar until Sept. 30 for processing and sale domestically. Buyers must export a similar quantity of white sugar within two years, according to the trade ministry.

“There’s definitely a shortfall in production and this can only be met with raw sugar imports,” Narendra Murkumbi, managing director of Sree Renuka Sugars Ltd., India’s biggest processor, said in an telephone interview in Mumbai today.

See the rest of the story here:

Colom Criticized for not Obtaining Agreements with Cuba

Critics complain that President Alvaro Colom failed to make any formal signed agreements with Cuba during his recent visit there.

The Foreign Minister, Haroldo Rodas, argued that the absence of firm agreements during the recent official visit of President Alvaro Colom to Cuba was because the island does not normally enter into agreements.

Rodas, like Colom, explained that "Cuba does not normally enter into agreements not dealing with specific aspects of cooperation previously agreed upon." He said that in this case the signatures on cooperation agreements between two countries "often occur in other bilateral meetings."

However, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez, during her official visit to the island, signed 11 bilateral agreements. Among them were agreements about the production of vaccines, antiretroviral drugs, and anti-cancer drugs.

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, also made an official visit to Cuba which resulted in the signing of two agreements in the areas of health and science, and technology and innovation.

Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, President of Namibia, signed agreements with Cuba to support education and health.

The Guatemalan foreign minister said that in the coming weeks a binational commission will meet in Guatemala to discuss follow-up or new treaties will be signed to implement new technologies, purchase of medicines or vaccines, and cooperation in housing construction, where the Guatemalan government has expressed interest in being assisted by Cuba.

Attorney Giovanni Fratti commented that the foreign minister "tries to hide the incompetence and improvisation in external relations of this [Alvaro Colom's] government." He went on to say "the Government must prove with facts the results that he claimed to have obtained with this visit."

Last Wednesday, upon his return from Cuba, President Alvaro Colom explained: "In Cuba there is no tradition of signing agreements. Things are just done and implemented."