San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemalan President Laments Growing Violence

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) –Guatemalan President Oscar Berger thisweek admitted his government is havingdifficulty curbing the recent wave of violentcrime that has left more than 700dead – including 250 women – during thefirst six months of his presidency.“I didn’t realize the problem was soserious (before taking office Jan. 14),” Bergersaid in an interview with the local press.Berger compared his role thus far ashead of state to that of “fireman,” ratherthan “President.”“We have had to put out fires anddetain them from spreading through thecountry. We have only been closing upwounds and tying veins to cut off thebleeding,” the President said. “We arevery worried about violence. In this countrywe have 250,000 youth who belong togangs.“Without trying to sound like adefeatist, I can say that it is very difficultto control the situation of security,”Berger lamented.The President, who campaigned onpromises to crack down on gangs andstrengthen citizen security, insisted it isstill too soon to judge if his administration’srecently implemented heavy-handedsecurity policies are working or not.“This is a problem you cannot resolveovernight,” Berger said.

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