Sunday, March 8, 2009

Temblor Felt Across Guatemala

An earthquake centered about 80 kilometers southwest of Quetzaltenango struck today at 4:15 PM local time. The quake was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at magnitude 4.9 on the Richter scale and was felt in all parts of Guatemala.

Observers close to the epicenter reported the quake as short but intense.

Southern Peten Tourist Attractions Promoted

The Comité de Autogestión Turística (Self-Tourism Committee or CAT) in southern Petén, comprising the municipalities Poptún, Dolores and San Luis, is promoting tourism sites, water spas, and archaeological attractions as a new option for tourists.

Pedro Hernandez Bailón, of CAT, explained that the resorts and the spas at Las Monjas y Las Pozas have been improved to attract visitors. Both are accessible via a marked detour on the road from Rio Dulce to Flores, in the village of Machaquilá-seven kilometers north of Poptún. According to local stories the site got it's name over half a century ago when a group of nuns from Mexico visited the river and chose Machaquilá as a discreet place to bathe. In the case of Las Pozas, the name derives from natural lakes of the area.

During a tour, tourists can appreciate a complex of caves, most notably in The Cave of a Thousand Skulls, which has triangular entrances. Tourists can also observe unexcavated mounds, where it is suspected that there are remains of the Mayan culture. According to archaeologists, these caves were used as warehouses for food.

Korina Soza Castellanos, of the Alianza para el Turismo Comunitario (Alliance for Community Tourism), said that southern Petén has a lot of tourist attractons which are visited very little such as the caves of Naj Tunich, discovered in 1979, where there are unique paintings on the walls that amaze visitors.

There is also a tour of the River Caves, an exploration of which offers walking and some swimming because one travels between caves by swimming an underground river of crystal clear water.

The town of Dolores Ixcún is another archaeological site, with the second largest Mayan stela in Guatemala and the Regional Museum of Southeast Guatemala, which displays archeological finds collected during research and exploration of other sites.

Yanira Quiñónez, manager of the national park Las Cataratas (The Falls), said that her parents purchased the land more than 30 years ago for agriculture and livestock but some 10 years ago found that forests were disappearing and instead turned property into a park. Quiñónez says that the biggest attraction is the waterfall, 12 meters in height which is along the river Santo Domingo, Sabaneta.

The time is right to visit those places because the weather at this time of year invites a walk through the forest.

DDT Residue Continues to Present Risk in Guatemala

Environmental Minister, Luis Ferraté urged a study to determine the level of contamination by DDT that still remains in the soil and water sources in Guatemala.

Ferraté pointed out that even though its usage was stopped almost 50 years ago, DDT degrades very slowly, the chemical has not yet degraded, and remains active in Guatemala. As a result, communities that use water and land where DDT is concentrated are at risk.

The minister noted that in the 1960s a study was done in Guatemala which found that the milk was contaminated with DDT and Mr. Ferraté feels that now is the time to make a new database to see if the agrochemical contamination still is a threat.

He stressed that after 50 years in the environment DDT only loses half of its capacity. It will take another 50 years to degrade completely.

The insecticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) is an organochlorine compound, colorless, crystalline, soluble in fats and organic solvents and practically insoluble in water. DDT was created in the first half of the twentieth century and up to the 1970s was used intensively, by the million of tons, in all countries of the world to combat the insects that transmit malaria and typhoid. In the early 70s it was discovered that DDT had an impact on human health and on biodiversity in general, so its use was banned in developed countries.

Guatemala also prohibited its use at that time, but the hundreds of tons that were used are still active.

Plane Wreckage Found in Izabal

A group of campesinos met with the press today and showed the wreckage of an airplane that apparently fell and was destroyed in September of 2008 in an area of virgin forest of Izabal.

To reach the place, the journalists had to travel in cars for two hours plus three hours of walking in the forest to reach hill Mil Diecinueve, in the Sierra Santa Cruz, in Livingston.

The place was a Cessna type aircraft, two engines, with white lines, and registration number C 404-676 C/P and 25 KRGL / 4. Inside the aircraft were the remains of two unidentified occupants.

A fire that was set off after the crash destroyed about 800 meters of forest and pieces of the aircraft were scattered across an area 3 kilometers in diameter.

In addition, a pump for pumping fuel was found and caps for fuel cans used to store fuel. No evidence was found to prove it was a narco-aircraft.

Campesinos who led the expedition explained that they reported the crash in September but the authorities did not react to the report.

Mexican Drug Gang Threatens to Kill President of Guatemala

One of Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking gangs has threatened to kill the President of Guatemala in the latest sign the cartels are extending their influence.

After receiving assassination threats to officials including the national head of police, the Guatemalan authorities warned President Alvaro Colom he too was now the subject of threats.

"We have received credible threats that the group the Zetas are planning an attempt on the life of President Alvaro Colom," said Jesus Galeano of Guatemala's Secretariat of Strategic Intelligence.

The Zetas were founded in 1999 by 40 former soldiers who deserted from Mexican special forces, and began as a death squad employed by the Gulf Cartel. They have since become a cocaine trafficking cartel in their own right, and their threat to Mr Colom suggests they have ambitions to consolidate their control of trafficking in neighbouring Guatemala.

Read the rest of the story here.

Guatemala Creates US-Trained Force to Fight Drugs

Guatemala has a new, U.S.-trained elite force to combat drug trafficking.

The force consists of 24 members of the Guatemalan navy and 25 police. All received tactical training from the U.S. Border Patrol, and will be deployed on major drug raids.

See the rest of the AP story here.