Monday, February 23, 2009

IGSS to Build New Hospital

The IGSS (Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social) build new hospital in Quetzaltenango. Construction will begin in November.

The project will cost Q500 million and the funds will come from the surplus of Q1.5 billion reported by IGSS

Just the plans for the hospital cost US $1 million. Q350 million will go for construction and the remainder for equipment.

A similar hospital is planned for Zacapa.

Guatel Seeks Revival as an Efficient Service Provider

At 10 years of privatization, the Guatemalan Telecommunications Company (GUATEL) seeks to re-emerge and offer its services to state agencies. They are seeking funding of U.S. $5 million to be used for renovation of equipment.

Guatel's properties and goods were sold in November 2008 under the name Telecomunicaciones de Guatemala (Telgua).

Amílcar Barrera, manager of Guatel, explained that the strategy is to sell telecommunications services to the state and to get a slice of the Q400 million that the Government pays for Internet services, data transmission and telephony.

He added that Guatel would be happy with half of that business and would operate successfully because it has the technical capability.

Since August of last year, Guatel has installed 50 kilometers of fiber optics that connect the various ministries of the state. Previously there were only 21 kilometers installed.

The vision is that the 38 institutions that already use the services of Guatel join with other government and municipal entities.

Barrera indicated that the goal is to unify the 333 municipalities of the country by a series of fiber optic rings, which receive and transmit data, voice, and Internet, and which would make use of the 38 microwave towers owned by companies that are spread throughout the national territory.

Another project is that all public schools in the country have access to the Internet.

In the area of data transmission is a health project under the vice president of the Republic. The plan calls for videoconferencing for remote consultation between medical experts and colleagues from the capital.

However, one of the greatest obstacles is economic resources. Each kilometer of optical fiber costs approximately Q5,000 and an annual budget of barely Q23 million barely covers operating expenses, according to Barrera.

Lisardo Bolaños, analyst with the National Center for Economic Research (Cien), thinks that Guatel would not be a good business. "If the concern is rural telephony, it is best to make concessions to private companies and not invest in a white elephant that has never been efficient," he said.

In his view, the fact that it's a government entity does not guarantee that the service will be cheaper or more efficient. He added that "the Government should build its demand for telecommunications services into a single package that could be bid by Guatecompras and get better prices."

Campesinos Organize in Opposition to Economic Plan

Workers in the farming sector have organized to protest the government's economic recovery plan.

The campesinos argue that funds from the plan are aimed at megaprojects to build roads, bridges, and other major infrastructure, and as a result does not benefit the campesinos and only a few of the poor who find jobs on those megaprojects.

"The government plan, in the case of agriculture, will not have a real impact on rural economies," said Juracán Leocadio, of the Consejo Nacional Indígena y Campesino, at a press conference.

Instead, the farm workers say the funding for those megaprojects will end up in the pockets of the rich and foreigners who own the big construction companies, and will not benefit the campesinos at all.

The peasant leaders also complained that the president has failed to submit the Ley del Sistema de Desarrollo Rural (Act of the System of Rural Development), which was promised for January. Furthermore, they threatened to withdraw from the discussions in June if not the promises are not fulfilled.

Court Strips Mayor of Immunity

The Criminal Court of First Instance in Retalhuleu decided that there is sufficient evidence to remove the immunity Edilma Elizabeth Navarijo, mayor of Ocós in San Marcos.

Navarijo is accused by the Ministerio Publico of a cover up after she allegedly concealed information about an attack in Ocós, San Marcos, last July 5th, that killed her son and her ex-husband. Other relatives of Navarijo were also injured in the attack.

Israel Ramos Noyola, judge in Retalhuleu sent the case to the Regional Court in that department to make the final decision regarding the immunity of the mayor.

The mayor and her legal counsel are not answering calls.

Police officer Carlos Costop and police detectives Manuel Alvarado and Nicolas Camajá Bach all face criminal prosecution because they are accused of having participated in the extrajudicial execution of Navarijo's family members.

The involvement of former Chief of Detectives, Victor Soto, who was also injured on the day of the incident, has not yet been determined.