Monday, March 9, 2009

Thousands March in Streets of Guatemala City

Thousands of women marched yesterday in the streets of Guatemala City to demand the cessation of violence against women, which so far this year has killed at least 72 women.

Activists, students, professionals, feminists, working women, and housewives, were involved in a massive demonstration on International Women's Day. They marched from the Plaza Italia in the City Civic Center to the Plaza de la Constitution.

"No more violence", "No more femicide," "Equality, justice and peace" read the slogans on the banners carried by the protesters.

Gabriela Hernandez, a student of political science at a private university, said that "the terror I feel every day as a result of violence" was the main reason I participate in this march. "It used to be believed that women were murdered because they were involved in something bad but I do not believe these arguments. All women of all ages and social strata are vulnerable. So we must protest and demand a stop to all violence against the Guatemalans, but especially against women and children," said the 23 year old student.

Sandra Moran, leader of the Women's Sector, a coalition that brings together a dozen organizations working for the rights of women, said that "the State has become the principal accomplice of the murderers of women" by not prosecuting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

The macho culture that prevails in Guatemalan society, according to experts, is the main source of male violence towards women.

In February of last year, Congress passed the Law Against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women, which provides for heavy penalties against those found guilty of violence.

Over the past five years the number of women murdered in Guatemala has steadily increased, totaling more than 7 thousand cases.

Although most of these crimes are attributed to the "violence", the authorities also claim that many of these cases are caused by organized crime gangs, local gangs, and drug trafficking.

Just in the last week, according to reports compiled by the National Civil Police (PNC), a dozen women were killed, four of them with signs of extreme violence including torture and dismemberment of their bodies.

The impunity in Guatemala and the increasing rate of attacks against women has placed this country as one of the most violent against women worldwide.

The demonstrators also demanded that the state institute policies to end discrimination and inequality, and to promote greater development opportunities for women.

For the rest of the week, women's, social organizations, and the government have planned activities to continue the commemoration of International Women's Day.

Boom in Bird-Watching

Tourists interested in bird-watching is booming worldwide and Guatemala seeks to become a destination for this type of tourism. For this reason, World Vision, Inguat, and the Centro de Capacitación Comunitaria Tule have decided on a program to train 15 youths to serve as bird-watching guides in Chiquimula y Jutiapa.

It's estimated that 30 percent of tourists arriving in Guatemala are interested in bird-watching and these visitors not only seek to see certain species but also to learn about the species' environment and interaction with other birds.

Guatemala has many places to observe birds and what is needed now are competent guides who know the bird species and know how to work with tourists.

In just one week in Guatemala, a bird-watcher can observe as many as 400 different species. Guatemala has least 720 bird species.

This pilot program is aimed at young people from remote communities, not only to create specialist guides but also to contribute to the conservation of natural resources in the country.

JM Authorizes Printing of Q200 Notes

According to an official from the Junta Monetaria, the authorizing is for the printing of one million of the new Q200 notes. The new notes contain numerous high-tech security features to prevent forgery.

The authorization is the first step in creating the new notes which should enter circulation around October or December.

Banguat has put out the RFQs to the varous international printers of paper currency and will finalize a contract in June.

Congress approved the designs for new Q200, Q500, and Q1000 notes last April but the Q200 is the most important to get into circulation.

Colom Announces Presidential Commission Against Impunity

President Alvaro Colom announced the creation of the Presidential Commission Against Impunity. The new commission will be the Guatemalan government's counterpart to the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which directs the special prosecutor, Carlos Castresana.

Colom made the announcement during the graduation of the first class of police officers trained by U.S. Army. to combat drug trafficking. The graduating class consisted of 24 officers from the PNC and 20 members of the army.

The Minister of National Defense, Abraham Valenzuela, indicated that this support will make the war against the narcotraffickers more efficient and more effective. The Director of the PNC, Marlene Blanco Lapola, said that it's a "great compromise" that allows the coverage of areas that were previously neglected.

Confidence in the Economy Remains Low

Pessimism about the future of the Guatemalan economy continues, as evidenced by the Índice de Confianza de la Actividad Económica (Index of Confidence in Economic Activity) produced by the panel of analysts from the Bank of Guatemala (Banguat). The index fell 60 percent in one year.

The monthly index (preliminary data) last February was at 14.29, implying a decrease of 21.40 percent over the previous month and 60 percent over the same month last year.

85.7 percent of the analysts felt that the economy will not improve within in six months. In January this parameter was at 100 percent.

Similarly, 57.1 percent believe it is a bad time to invest in the country and an equal percentage believe that the business climate will worsen over the next six months. In both cases the response was slightly more positive in January.

The index for February is the second lowest since December 2003.

Regarding inflation, the panel of analysts expected to fall by next February to 7.37 percent and that for March and April reaching, 7.06 percent and 6.70 percent, respectively, and 2009 ending with the cost of living increase at 6.74 percent for 2009. The increase in cost of living for 2010 is predicted to be 5.97 percent.

The panel of analysts puts economic growth for this year at 2.6 percent. In January, the estimate was 2.9 percent, which is below the margin provided by Banguat which is between 3 and 3.5 percent.