Friday, April 3, 2009

Gun Law Finally Approved

After months of discussions, lobbying, arguments, and negotiations between various factions of Congress, and many changes to the text that was originally submitted in October 2008, the law was passed.

The law contains several new features that are considered essential to address the violence in the country.

Among the most important as well as controversial is the creation of the Directorate General of Arms and Ammunition (Digecam) of the Ministry of Defense, but to be transferred within a period not exceeding two years after the legislation takes force, to the Interior Ministry. This was one of the major points and discussion, as some factions felt that the government cannot fulfill the responsibilities. But agreement was finally reached.

The new law establishes the filing requirements for purchasing a weapon, including a background check with law enforcement, certification of income, employment record, and personal identification documents, among others.

Despite the controversy, the portion of the text giving special consideration to government staff and former staff, chairs of agencies, the Vice President, deputies, ministers, attorney general, former officials, judges of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, among other officials.

The monthly limit of munitions that may be purchased is fixed 250 per gun license and 200 in possession at any one time.

One of the main novelties introduced by the law is the making of sentences for violations of this law incommutable. Violations of the new law will result in the confiscation of all weapons. Illegal carrying of weapons brings an 8 to 15 year prison sentence depending on the type of weapon (not commutable). The law criminalizes illegal exports and imports, 5 to 10 years in prison, selling of an illegal weapon or ammunition, 5 to 12 years, and explosives, 10 to 15 years. The law also makes illegal the firing of a weapon without just cause, a crime that will result in one to three years in prison.

During the same session, legislators removed a paragraph of Article 71 of the act which stipulated that legislators and officials would have the privilege to obtain, in a maximum of 30 days from the filing of an application, a license to carry offensive and defensive weapons. These are exclusively to be used used by the army and security forces.

The plenary session finally ended at 7:00 PM with members of Congress welcoming the adoption of the text, which is considered essential to stem the violence in Guatemala.

Volcan Pacaya Having an Episode

An increase in Pacaya's eruption prompted the Guatemala Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) to issue an orange alert in Pacaya National Park.

Authorities consider the increase in volcanic activity to be a danger to residents and tourists so the tours and hikes up the big mountain were suspended.

Residents near the volcano indicated that since they noticed the increase starting in the early hours of Thursday, April 2. According to a local tour guide, one could count up to 20 bursts per minute. The normal rate is about one every five minutes. He added that the volcano is emitting lava and hurling rocks.

Conred indicated that a new crater has formed in the southeastern part of the mountain, threatening the village of El Rodeo which is located near the slopes of the volcano. The agency is prepared with 10 vehicles and shelters if evacuations are necessary.

Guatemala Makes G-20 List of Tax Havens

PARIS- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced today the list of tax havens that are considered "less cooperative" in releasing banking information. The list includes Guatemala, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Guatemala, Switzerland, Chile, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Singapore and Luxembourg are a group described by the OECD as "other financial centers" that have pledged to respect international standards, but still substantially do not.

Costa Rica, Uruguay, Malaysia and the Philippines have not committed to respect the international standards, according to the OECD.

In the case of Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria, the OECD states that had withdrawn its reservation on article 26 of the OECD Convention on the lifting of banking secrecy in cases of fraud.

The organization had previously refused to publish lists of tax havens. Some countries like Switzerland say that such a list should be produced privately, in-house.

"The times of banking secrecy are over," said French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking from London. Sarkozy argued that it's time to begin the fight against such tax haven countries that do not cooperate and pledged to make it a priority of the summit of the G-20.

The Heads of state and government asked their finance ministers to adopt sanctions against countries that do not cooperate.

Sarkozy was satisfied that the G-20 agreed to publish the list of tax havens and it was revealed that China was the most reluctant member to agree.

Guatemalan Anthropologists speaking at CNC

Two anthropology experts from Guatemala will share horror stories of genocide, crime, mass disasters, child trauma and murder of pregnant women during a public forum at the College of New Caledonia.

Shirley Chacon and Alma Vasquez, forensic anthropologists and archaeologists, have worked on several high-profile cases around the world, including Guatemala’s 30-year civil war in which more than 200,000 people were killed in conflict between 1960 and 1996.

Chacon works on cases of genocide, contemporary crimes and mass disasters for the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, and will speak about children’s traumas during the civil war.

See rest of the story here.

Three Police Sentenced to 25 Years

The Seventh Court of Criminal Sentencing sentenced three policemen to serve 25 years in prison for the extra-judicial execution of a man identified as Jorge Eduardo Rivera-Cabezas Klussman.

The crime took place on April 25, 2008 in a field in Zone 11 of Guatemala City, where the victim was driving his car and did not stop when ordered to do so by police.

The police who were found guilty were Israel Barco Arana, Julio Roberto Aguirre Martinez and Juan Carlos Jalal Caal.

During the trial, four other policemen were acquitted on charges of covering up the crime but there was not enough evidence to convict.

Global Knowledge Exchange Network (GKEN) to Hold Leadership Conference in Guatemala

AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Global Knowledge Exchange Network (GKEN) will host its semi-annual conference today through April 3 with health executives, practitioners and policy experts from around the globe to explore and identify “better and best" practices in the healthcare field. The invitational conference, to be held in Antigua, Guatemala, is in keeping with GKEN's mission to search the globe for replicable practices to improve health and the quality of healthcare around the world.

The spring 2009 conference will focus on identifying better and best practices to help healthcare systems and individual providers better manage and control chronic disease, secure better health outcomes, and identify replicable and meaningful health promotion programs and practices that are yielding positive results. In Antigua, the participants will consider more than 50 better practice summaries and assess the appropriateness of their content. The overarching objective for the Antigua meeting is to develop a formal protocol that GKEN will use to determine better practices in multiple content areas and how to promote those practices globally in a variety of cultural and economic environments.

“GKEN, founded in the fall of 2007 through a generous grant from the CIGNA Foundation, convened with the recognition that healthcare, like the economy, is global. Additionally, medical research, the management and implementation of new medical technologies and drug therapies, and new ways of addressing problems, are taking place around the globe but there are few resources committed to bringing the new innovations and practices to the attention of the entire global healthcare community,” explained Jon Comola, CEO. “GKEN is attempting to meet that daunting challenge and serve as a catalyst for the global exchange of valuable healthcare information in real time. The concept is straight forward: advancing information to knowledge, then to action!”

See rest of the story here.