Thousands of Guatemalans To March against Violence

August 13, 2004

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) –Thousands of Guatemalans representing600 civil organizations are expected toparticipate in a march Aug. 20 to protestthe wave of violence and assassinations inthe country.State workers are expected to join themarch, organized by the Front AgainstViolence, after President Oscar Bergergave permission to government employeesto leave work before 4 p.m., when themarch is set to begin in the southern areaof Guatemala City.“Of course we’re going to support thismarch,” the President told journalists.Berger said Vice-President EduardoStein would represent him in the march,since that day he is scheduled to be in theDominican Republic.“I think it is a very noble movement,one that is very important. Violence haslessened some, but it is still a very seriousproblem for Guatemalans,” Berger said.The initiative to create the FrontAgainst Violence came in July after awave of violence that in the first sevenmonths of this year has left 2,000 dead,including 290 women, according to statisticsfrom the Minister of the Interior.Almost half of the murders occurred inGuatemala City (TT, July 23).On Tuesday, hundreds of bus driversprotested in the streets after supposedgang members killed a fellow driverMonday night.The drivers used their buses to blockthe Atlantic highway to pressure authoritiesinto doing more to fight violence.Thousands of people were forced to walkto work because of the road blockage.Berger recently launched a new securityplan, called “Crusade AgainstViolence,” which began July 24 with2,376 members of the National CivilPolice and 1,632 soldiers supported by 72police cars and 174 motorcycles.On Aug. 3, the government expandedby three hours the Dry Law, which prohibitsthe consumption of alcoholic drinksin public places between the hours of 1a.m. and 7 a.m.In July, the top authorities of theExecutive, Judicial and Legislativebranches began a disarmament campaignto fight violence.The collection/amnesty program offersincentives for people who turn in multipleillegal weapons, including items such asbicycles, sewing machines, bags of cementand zinc sheeting. The country has an estimated1.8 million unregistered weapons inaddition to the 250,000 guns registeredwith the government (TT, July 16).

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