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Protesters Set Fire To Oil Pipeline

GUATEMALA CITY – A mob of enraged residents burned one stretch of an oil pipeline in the northern Guatemalan province of Alta Verapaz to press their demand for the paving of a regional thoroughfare, authorities said.

Some 2,500 peasants from several different communities reportedly approached the pipeline the night of Nov. 28 near the town of La Peñita, opened a valve and set fire to the escaping fuel.

The townspeople are demanding that the government pave the Franja Transversal del Norte, a dirt roadway through the region.

Authorities have yet to put a monetary figure on the damage done to the pipeline, which transports about 5,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Alta Verapaz to the Atlantic port of Santo Tomás de Castilla.

The campesinos, at whom police fired tear gas, also burned three houses that were near the conduit.

Local residents have been protesting since early last week in the community of La Peñita to demand that the government of President Oscar Berger fulfill its promise to pave the road.

The paving of the 363-kilometer stretch was approved by Congress in 2005, but the $200 million project is still in the process of being bid upon.



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