Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finally Some Thunderstorms Coming... Maybe

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week might bring slightly lower temperatures and thunderstorms.

Highs on those days are forecast at 28 to 29C.

Chance of thunderstorms is 40% on Wednesday, 50% on Thursday, and 40% on Friday.

Protest of Electric Rate Hike

On Friday, more than a hundred leaders from 11 municipalities came to together in Mazatenango to denounce the increase in electric rates imposed by Union Fenosa.

They also denounced the fees for public lighting that are charged in an area where there are no poles of the Municipality of Mazatenango.

The protestors marched through the town and then stopped in front of the Interior Department to press for actions by the president.

The approximately 150 protesters were members of the Departmental Association of Cocode (Asodecos) of Suchitepéquez.

They also added that electric bills include a fixed charge of Q13.20 where the Value Added Tax was not charged.

Villagers are unhappy that their bills have increased over 50 percent from what they paid per month a few months ago.

Calls were made for additional public support from the departments of San Marcos, Quiche, Huehuetenango and other regions.

Francisco Castro, of Asodecos, stated that according to the National Institute of Statistics, poverty affects 75 percent of the population. "Of this, 55 per cent suffer from extreme poverty, which shows that people have no ability to pay high fees," he said, and requested that the government withdraw the grant of power distribution rights from Union Fenosa.

Governor Werner Martinez undertook to report this request to the president and Congress.

Hector Salvatierra, a spokesman for Union Fenosa, said that the rate has fallen rather than risen. He added that the population is being manipulated by groups interested in destabilizing things.

Remittances from Abroad Fell 11.4% in February

The receipt of remittances from Guatemalans abroad fell 11.42 percent in February, adding to the 8 percent drop in January, according to data released today by the Bank of Guatemala (Banguat).

In January, Guatemalans abroad sent U.S. $290 million back home to Guatemala, 8 percent less than the same month of 2008. In February, remittances only reached U.S. $281.9 million, or 11.4 percent less than in the same period last year.

The drop is a result of the economic crisis of United States. 95 percent of the 1.3 million Guatemalans living abroad live in the United States. 60 per cent of those are illegal.

Remittances are the second-largest source of foreign exchange for Guatemala. Last year, remittances totaled $4.314 billion.

On a positive note, exports grew by 4.1 percent in the first quarter and tourism increased by 2 percent. However, imports in the same period fell 29.46 percent, which an indicator of the economic slowdown in Guatemala.

Guatemalan Military Recruiting 2,000 New Soldiers

Two thousand new soldiers will be recruited into the Guatemalan Army. The new soldiers will come from the jurisdictions in the north and western parts of the country, said the Defense Minister Abraham Valenzuela.

The minister explained that these areas have people who are interested in military service. The army is looking for new troops aging from 18 and 29 years.

New acquisitions will cover the gap that exists within the armed forces due to reductions effected by the previous government.

The actual call to enlist has not yet come, however. In the coming weeks an allocation of Q150 million will be released by the Ministry of Defense and then the call will come for interested parties to join the ranks of the Army.

The minister said that the amount approved will activate the army brigades in San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Playa Grande, and Quiche, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz and another unit in Izabal will be activated.

The present military strength is 15,500 total officers and troops.

Fungus Damaging Corn Crops

Corn crop losses in Guatemala due to a fungus called "black stain" or "asphalt stain" have reached Q25.9 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

According to an agency report, at an average price of Q110 per quintal in the field, the loss would be around 235,932 quintals.

The crop damage occurred on 5,500 hectares of corn. At least 6,500 families are affected.

Areas being monitored include Cobán, Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango; Puerto Barrios y Livingston, Izabal, and the municipality of Ixcán in Quiché. The last area is of greater concern because the bulk of the crop is for consumption by maize farming families.

The agency also announced the delivery of improved seeds for the next crop, the availability of corn for immediate consumption by the families affected, and that there may be a problem with food safety.