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Guatemala: Ending the most violent year in the country’s history, leaders pledge a fresh start in the New Year

By Mayra Beltran de Daetz


GUATEMALA: On January 14, 2009, Guatemala received a report by President Alvaro Colom pertaining to his first year in office. The report came after one of the country’s newspapers released the results of a national survey, conducted by a prestigious survey company, on the President’s performance. Survey respondents gave the president a 5.1 on a scale from 1 to 10.

The President’s report was delivered in a ceremony carried out in the building of the Congress of the Republic, but it did not have the approval of many of the congresspersons and so those against it protested by not attending it.
According to an article published by the media, the year 2008 was one of the most violent years in the history of Guatemala. There were 17 out-of-court executions, 65 judges threatened, 182 families targeted for kidnappings, 42 clashes between drug-traffickers and, according to the statistics, there were 6,338 murders.
In spite of the fact that the state of affairs in Guatemala are very clear, Colom was defensive and, as usual, blamed the previous government for the lack of security and the economic situation — two of the most sensitive points for his government.

Another issue people have with the government is that some believe the First Lady exercises too much control over the executive government. In the previously mentioned survey, people were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement that the First Lady controls government institutions. The overwhelming majority, 49.5 percent believed she did not, while 18 percent of those polled believed that she did.
The scene from Congress, while Colon was giving his report, was marked by protests by people who live in the rural areas of the country. They were mad because the president had not fulfilled his promise of giving them land, among other petitions. The demonstration, which happened outside of the Congress of the Republic, resulted in demonstrators clashing with the police’s riot team who launched tear gas canisters at the protesters.
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Guatemalan farmers clash with riot police during street protest.
In addition to the protests in the country’s capital, demonstrators also blocked major highways around the country in such places as Quetzaltenango, Santa Rosa, Zacapa, San Marcos and Chiquimula.
At the end of his speech, the President expressed determination that the current crisis will surpass with everyone working together to make it happen. Yet, while he tried to convince people this would be the case, it was the swearing-in of the new President of the Congress of the Republic, Roberto Alejos, who offered more hope.

President of the Guatemala Congress of the Republic, Roberto Alejos.
Alejos won the election in December of last year and will occupy his position from 2009 to 2010. In accepting his new responsibilities, he pledged that Guatemala’s government will transform into one that will be transparent and have zero corruption.
It is a positive start to the New Year but like with all New Year’s resolutions may be hard to keep.
Learn more about Mayra:
Mayra Etna Beltrán Molina de Daetz is a native-born Guatemalan who lives in Guatemala City with her husband and teenage son. After attending one of the most noted secretarial schools in the country, Mayra graduated with a secretarial certification — and the ability to speak and write English, as well as, know French.
Yet, she wanted more of a career and so she took architect and graphic design classes at a local university in Guatemala City. Unable to finish her university studies due to finances, Mayra became a stewardess and has over 100 hours in the air.
Yet, she always wanted to be involved with the media and so she returned to school and was able to get a degree in sales and marketing.
As a result, she has worked for a weekly magazine and a newspaper.

I have had opportunity to attend International congresses, in which I have known very important people at the more important international newspapers, which has been a very gratifying experience and has allowed me to have friendships outside of my country.

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