Friday, May 8, 2009

Payments and Apologies for Victims of Guatemala's Civil War

GUATEMALA CITY -- When army helicopters landed in his village in August 1982, Francisco Velasco was away in the cornfields with the men. Then they heard the screams. Velasco rushed back home and found his wife and two baby daughters dead.

Velasco lost 16 relatives, including his mother and father, in the army's scorched-earth campaign against leftist guerrillas. Five years after applying for compensation, his family received $5,400 from the state a few months ago and an official apology.

"You can't pay for a life," Velasco said. "But it is a gesture of support."

Since President Álvaro Colom took office in January 2008, Guatemala has stepped up payments to survivors of the estimated 200,000 people who died in the 36-year civil war. Begun in 2003, the program had compensated 3,000 survivors by 2007, according to its directors. But under Colom, whose family suffered a high-profile death during the war, the state has handed out 10,477 checks -- many for claims ignored for years, according to Cesar Davila, president of the National Compensation Program.

Survivors also get a letter from Colom asking for forgiveness for the losses they suffered as a result of the abuses committed by the state during the war, which ended in 1996. "The fact that the president signs it is very important," said Orlando Blanco, Guatemala's secretary of peace. "It is an official document that says, 'Here is the truth: My son was not a subversive or a delinquent. It was the state that killed him.' "

See the rest of the story in the Washington Post

15 Million Cell Phone Users in Guatemala

Reports from the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SIT) show that the number of cell phone users in Guatemala rose by 3 million during 2008.

As of December 31, 2008 the total was 14,948,640 users, representing an annualized growth rate of 25.6 percent during 2008.

2007 was the year that saw the greatest percentage growth rate, 65 percent. The rate is slowing because of market saturation.

The long term growth rate, from 1997 to 2008 was 2,000 percent. This growth rate and user count makes Guatemala the number one cellular telephone market in the region.

Breakdown by Provider as of December 31

Claro: 5,906,000 users, 39 percent

Tigo: 3,871,000 users, 34 percent

Movistar: 3,871,000 users 25.9 percent

The majority of users pay by purchasing cards rather than plans.

The global economic crisis and the drop in remittances from abroad is expected to reduce the growth in gross income in the cellular sector from 27 percent (annualized) to 5.4 percent during 2009 as users are expected to buy fewer minutes.