Monday, April 13, 2009

The Emerging Secrets of Guatemala's Disappeared

GUATEMALA CITY -- For years the national police dumped millions of old files in a onetime munitions depot inhabited by bats.

About two weeks ago, authorities opened the door to the warehouse, stacked floor to ceiling with musty papers. Now Guatemalans are using the documents to search for information about loved ones murdered or disappeared in the long dirty war against critics of security forces.

"For 25 years we knew absolutely nothing," said Alejandra García Montenegro, 26, who was a baby when her father, labor leader Fernando García, left for a meeting in February 1984 -- when Guatemala was under military rule -- and never came home.

"It was as if the earth had swallowed up my father and he had never existed," she said. "Then a paper turns up that confirms our suspicion that he had been captured by state security."

The files were hidden by the national police and their protectors until 2005, when civil authorities accidentally discovered the warehouse. Some of the logs date to the 1880s, but the most significant archives were amassed during Guatemala's civil war, when an estimated 200,000 people died and 40,000 disappeared between 1960 and 1996.

Guatemalan human rights advocates describe the files as the largest such archive ever released in Latin America. Archivists believe there are more than 80 million documents. Many pages are in chaotic, unsorted piles, green and yellow with mold. Others are stacked neatly.

See the full story with photos at The Washington Post

Road Repairs in Morales

After 12 years of receiving no maintenance from the government, the road from Morales to Playitas is finally receiving some attention.

The work is being done by Covial at a cost of Q40 million. The project includes 1.80 meters of road filling to serve as a bulwark and prevent flooding in the villages Hurón, Sioux, Shanne, Creek Zarco y Cerritos.

In addition, the project includes dredging a kilometer of the Motagua river and the construction of a breakwater to keep the river on course during flood season. During the last rainy season, flooding destroyed parts of the road leaving 60,000 people essentially isolated.

The president of the Community Development Council of Morales (Cocode) said that Bandegua used to maintain the road but have not done so in 12 years. "The road is deteriorating because of river flooding. And when the river is low there are deep holes that prevent the entry of light vehicles. Only heavy trucks can get through. This project will solve those problems."

The new road is being fitted with drains to minimize future problems and to also prevent damage to cattle grazing land and fields planted with maize, chile, ocra, plátano, and bananas.

Work is being carried out in two phases. The first is to construct the road fill and curbs along 3 km to get the road functional as soon as possible. Phase two will take care of the full 15 km and will include the river dredging and breakwaters.

Financial Group Executives Trade Bonuses For Service

Utah-based Beneficial Financial Group says it doesn't hand out giant bonuses to its executives. It sends them on community service instead. For a third year, the insurance and financial-services company says it will send its top agents to a tropical destination -- a poor village of 300 people in Guatemala -- to dig latrines.

Story from Utah's

Single-Rider Rule. Motorcycle Helmet and Vests Must Comply

The Deputy Minister of the Interior, José Donald González explained that the government agreement published on Wednesday in the Official Journal of Central America is not motivated by profit. Motorcyclists can purchase helmets and vests from any supplier as long as the equipment complies with regulations.

The rules require that helmets display the motorcycle's license plate number and that motorcyclists wear a fluorescent yellow vest bearing the license place number in letters visible from 5 meters away.

Fines for failure to wear properly marked helmets and vests will be imposed within 30 days.

One Rider Only

Hugo Mota, Director of Transit, also reminded the public to obey the new single-driver rule. Beginning on Thursday, more than one person traveling on a motorcycle will result in a fine. Only one person is allowed to ride a motorcycle, and no passengers.

Editor's note: Nothing that I have read says specifically, but I presume that this law will be enforced by the transit police in Guatemala City only and not in other parts of the country. Consult with your local police.