Guatemala Defends Tourists

March 5, 2004

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) – The Guatemalan government launched a security plan Tuesday that aims to protect the safety of the thousands of tourists who visit the country and promote a positive image of the Central American nation.

As part of the plan, the government will add 800 new officers to the National Civil Police (PNC) and the Tourism Police (POLITUR), and increase vigilance on the highways bordering El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico, said Minister of the Interior Arturo Soto.

“We hope to develop the human capacities of POLITUR, in order to intensify the presence of police on borders with El Salvador and Honduras, so that Guatemala is a good recipient of visitors in the region, and starting March 12, the border with El Salvador will be open,” he said.

THE Presidential Commissioner of Security and Defense, General Otto Pérez, said investigations have detected at least four delinquent gangs that operate against tourists in Guatemala.

“Each gang has some 25 members, who rotate in various regions, but what interests us is speeding up the diligence to make captures a reality, and minimize the number of crimes committed,” he said.

According to Pérez, the national plan for tourist safety “is a way in which the government of President Oscar Berger – in power since January 10 – is declaring the safety of visitors a priority.”

Alejandro Sinibaldi, the director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT) and Sandra Muralles, president of the Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR) said they were pleased with the announcement.

They said the tourism sector has become the country’s number one generator of income, after the foreign remittances sent from Guatemalans outside of the country.

“TOURISM is an important source of direct and indirect employment, and the investment of capital in the sector has caused a positive effect on industries like communications, the bank system, construction, agriculture, food processing and artisans, among others,” Sinibaldi said.

Aggressions against tourists have become more frequent in Guatemala. One of the most recent was Jan. 7, when Brett Richards, from the United States, died after being attacked by a gang.

 

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