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Soldiers Deployed to Fight Guatemala Crime

July 30, 2004

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) –Thousands of soldiers and police took tothe streets of the capital city Monday aspart of President Oscar Berger’s increasinglydesperate measures to end the violencethat claimed more than 2,000 livesduring the first six months of this year.“At this moment in our history it isurgent to attack with vigor crime in all ofits manifestations. Otherwise we will beaccomplices in the progressive destructionof our country,” the President said,addressing a group of 4,000 police andelite soldiers Monday morning.The campaign will patrol 24 sectors ofGuatemala City that are considered themost dangerous.LAST week, Berger fired his Ministerof the Interior, replaced his chief of policeof announced creation of a new military dependentelite police force to combat risingcrime and gang activity (TT, July 23).Though criticized for his use of themilitary to fight domestic crime, Bergerinsists it is his duty as President to use allresources available to fight what he callsthe “terrible cancer” of crime.On Saturday, a group of 500 maskedpolice agents rebelled against thePresident’s new security plan and treatmentof officers. The group alleges thatrural police commissioners are chargingpolice agents bribes of $150 -$200 to keepthem off the list of officers to be sent to thecapital to participate in the new elite force.THE protesting agents took control ofGuatemala’s National Police Academy forseveral hours, clashing with other policesent in to restore order. One officer waskilled and several others were affected bytear gas before the uprising ended.The government has agreed to investigatethe police agents’ claims of corruption,and study ways to improve treatmentof officers.

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