San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Embattled Guatemalan President Touts Economic Gains

GUATEMALA CITY (EFE) – Amid calls for his resignation, beleaguered President Oscar Berger on Saturday delivered his second state-of-the-nation address to Congress, touting the nation’s economic performance while acknowledging his administration’s shortcomings in battling the nation’s severe crime problems.


Berger said in his speech that his government has brought efficiency and transparency back to the Executive Branch and made significant strides in terms of promoting economic growth, democratic governability and bolstering security.


The President said that, despite the damage caused by tropical storm Stan and high oil prices last year, Guatemala still managed to achieve a modest economic growth rate in 2005.


The nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 3.2% last year, up from 2.7% in 2004, while inflation came in at 8.57% in 2005, down from 9.23% the previous year.


Despite modest growth indicators, poverty remains a “critical” problem, Berger admitted; more than 60% of Guatemala’s 12 million citizens live in poverty.


“We have to be clear: To solve Guatemala’s problems, there’s no ‘Superman’ who will come and solve them from one day to the next, there isn’t; but the groundwork can be laid for sustainable development and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.


Soaring crime continues to be one of the major problems in Guatemala. During 2005, according to official figures, some 5,500 people were killed in Guatemala, which has only 22,000 police officers.


According to a survey published Saturday, some 75% of Guatemalans give a low job approval rating to President Berger.


The poll, prepared by private research company Vox Latina with a sample of 1,260 Guatemalans, and published in the local daily Prensa Libre, also showed that 77.9% of interviewees do not believe that Berger is fulfilling his campaign promises. A growing group is asking for his resignation.


According to the study, 82.5% think that Guatemala is headed down the wrong road.


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