Weekly News Roundup Oct 26th-Nov 1st

Totonicapán authorities continue to reject reforms
On October 28th the 48 cantones of Totonicapán met with government representatives that shared the objectives of the constitutional reform initiative; however, the local leaders are firm in their “total rejection” to the proposed modifications. The communal authorities claim that although they received and listened to the Government’s representatives, the leaders have reaffirmed their position to reject whatever proposed change to the Constitution. The president of the Board, Juana del Carmen Tacam, has assured that the meeting “is not the beginning of a process of dialogue” or debate about the reforms.

Body of Domingo Puac, Totonicapán protestor, appears
Domingo Pablo Puac Vasquez, 49 year old and native of Chipuac, Totonicapán, disappeared October 4 after the tragic incident at the Cumbre de Alaska, on the Inter-American Highway. His body, in an advanced state of decomposition, was discovered in a river on Saturday. A preliminary autopsy reports that Puac died of hemorrhage and brain trauma. According to National Institute of Forensic Science, he died 7-15 days ago, between Oct. 13th and 21st. His body’s advanced state of decomposition was not an obstacle in determining that he was not tortured, and nor did he have any bullet wounds.

Seven hostages released in Tajumulco
Five members of the National Civil Police and two employees of Energuate were released on October 30th after being held for six days by a group in San Marcos. The prisoners were released when their captors saw the arrival of 600 members of the PNC.  The hostages were taken in order to demand the release of Froilán Juárez Orozco, a community leader that had been arrested in September accused of leading a gang dedicated to stealing electricity. Officials have not yet found the weapons of the police officers, nor the pickup that belongs to Energuate.

Authorities investigate the death of two immigrants in Texas
On October 25th two Guatemalan immigrants were killed in La Joya, Texas. The undocumented immigrants were said to be traveling in a truck carrying 11 Guatemalans, when an agent opened fire from a helicopter. Guatemala’s consul in McAllen, Texas, Alba Caceres expressed his skepticism that the agent was not able to see the people traveling in the truck. The spokesperson for the Department of Public Security in Texas, Katherine Cesinger, stated that the agent believed the canvas covering the back of the truck was hiding a drug shipment, and fired to disable the vehicle. She also said that it is unusual for an agent to open fire from a helicopter when a vehicle flees. The use of deadly force in such an incident has prompted a Guatemalan official to demand answers, claiming that even drug smugglers are not usually pursued in this manner.

Congress approves anti-corruption law
After 10 years Congress approved on Tuesday the Law Against Illicit Self-Enrichment, or the so-called “law against corruption.” The law incorporates the crimes into the Penal Code to combat corruption en public offices, and also criminalizes the “frontman,” the collection of fees, the peddling of influence, illegal appointments and bribery, both active and passive. The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala believes the new law is a step in the right direction in the battle against corruption.  In a statement the commission notes “CICIG believes that this instrument will help overcome a complex social and criminal phenomenon that causes inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the state apparatus.”

Letter to the Editor, re: “Guatemala shooting raises concerns about military’s expanding role”
In response to an October 21st NY Times article, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros takes to the defense of his administration, saying that President Otto Perez Molina’s actions fully demonstrate his intent to carry through on his promise for a better future; and that, moreover, his government will accept the conclusions of the investigation of the Totonicapán incident and the determinations of the judicial system.

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