Monday, March 2, 2009

Deforestation Workshop

Delegates from government institutions and national and international organizations participated in a workshop on deforestation in Panajachel.

The objective of the workshop was to discuss reducing carbon dioxide emissions due to deforestation.

Carlos Mansilla, coordinator of Cambio Climático, del Ministerio de Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), reported that the course was attended by representatives from 12 countries.

The workshop was carried out by the efforts of Alianza Clima, Comunidad y Biodiversidad, Conservación Internacional, The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund, the Environment Ministry and the National Council of Protected Areas.

"Everyone has a responsibility for the future of the planet," said Mansilla.

He explained that climate change is imminent and that it should act quickly to mitigate its impact. "And that is where lies the importance of forests, because they are regulators of greenhouse gases," he said.

Omar Samayoa, coordinator of Rainforest Alliance, said that climate change has led to natural phenomena which have affected several countries.

The first workshop on deforestation was held in Peru past year.

Congress Stiffens Penalties for Illegal Weapons

The Guatemalan congress gave a green light and came to an agreement on the penalties to be associated with illegal weapons. Now there is a consensus to adopt more severe punishments in the reform of the Arms and Ammunition Act. The legislators met to discuss, amend, and agree on changes to the law, to be approved in plenary session quickly as a national priority.

Thus, the illegal carrying of sporting weapons shall be punished with from 8 to 10 years in prison. Assault weapons, from 10 to 15 years. The carrying of firearms that are restricted to the armed forces, 10 to 15 years.

Displaying a gun in public, even though licensed, will bring a punishment from Q1,000 to Q15,000 and the suspension of the license for six months.

Firing of a firearm without any justification, one to three years imprisonment.

Persons who repair or modify weapons without being licensed and registered to do so, six to eight years in prison.

There is also agreement in congress that there will be a 6 month grace period so that citizens can comply with the new law ahd legalize their weapons, once the law is published. Agreement continues in congress that no person shall be allowed to own more than three guns.

Discussions continue over the future of the Department of Arms and Ammunition, which is currently responsible for issuing licenses, whether government officials, on account of their position, will be allowed to own weapons outside of those normally permitted, and the limits on ammunition that may be purchased.

See previous article detailing the law.

U.S. Warns Guatemala about Threat of Mexican Drug Cartels

The Mexican cartels and the widespread corruption in the countries of the isthmus, especially in Guatemala, are harming efforts against drug trafficking and represent a growing threat to national security, warned the U.S. government as it submitted its report on the fight against drugs.

The study, published by the U.S. State Department, notes that "as the Mexican cartels penetrate more, the administration (of President Alvaro) Colom will face even greater challenges to security in Guatemala."

The study also noted that "the success of the anti-drug activities depends largely on the political will of the of Colom's administration to confront corruption and to make available the necessary resources to improve compliance with the law."

Washington acknowledged that the Guatemalan president has increased the budget for drug trafficking and security forces have launched a campaign against corruption, but pointed out that as Mexico has increased its fight against drugs, "the Mexican cartels have expanded into Guatemala. "

The report states that "widespread corruption and inadequate efforts of law enforcement contributed to the dismal numbers of arrests in recent years."

Guatemala Leader Apologizes To Civil War Victims

Guatemala City (AFP)--President Alvaro Colom Wednesday formally apologized to the victims of the country's 1960-1996 civil war, 10 years after a U.N.- sponsored report came out on the atrocities largely committed by the military.

"As president of the republic, head of government and commander in chief of the army, I ask for your forgiveness, because the system was at fault," Colom said at a ceremony on National Dignification Day, commemorating the estimated 200,000 civil war victims.

"How did (the system) go so far, I don't know. How could we as a society go that far, I don't know. But we went a long way," he said of the period the U.S.- backed government and military of Guatemala waged war against leftist insurgents.

Read the rest of the story here.